Marketing does not have a strong track record with regard to representing minority groups – either as members of the marketing profession or in brand communications.
In December 2016, Marketing Week reported on research from Lloyds Banking Group that found only 19% of people featured in advertising were from minority groups. Of that 19% just 0.29% were single parents.
Since around a quarter of UK families with dependent children are headed by a lone parent, according to the Office for National Statistics, marketing is excluding a massive demographic.
There is no hiding from the fact that being a single parent in a fast-paced industry such as marketing can be a challenge. Although it may be more open to flexible working than some professions, it can also be demanding and require long hours at times.
Vanessa Frances, director of marketing and fundraising at The Clink Charity and also a single mother, says: “I want to be monitored on the quality of work I do rather than by how many hours I sit at my desk.
“I’ve worked harder since having my son because I feel perhaps I have more to prove. In the past, someone has made a comment about me working fewer hours but [in reality I would] leave early, do the same amount of work but take a 25% pay cut. That’s what it boils down to.”
Employing single parents
Rowan Davies, head of policy and campaigns at Mumsnet, argues: “The single biggest thing employers can offer is the willingness to consider matters with an open mind; whether that’s regular working from home, job shares, core-hours working, compressed weeks or different working patterns for school term time and holiday time.”
Autonomy over their diary is another key thing employers can provide single parents, according to Dalia Ben-Galim, head of policy at single parent charity Gingerbread. “It becomes limiting if you’re an organisation constantly scheduling morning meetings at 8:30am. The single parent becomes the one who can never make it and so they are perceived as not being part of the team.”
Companies don’t do their homework. They don’t understand that the best way to market to single parents is to understand it yourself.
Davies says that although she has found Mumsnet to be a genuinely flexible and understanding employer, in the world of marketing and PR, evening events, client dinners and short-notice late working seem to be de rigeur. “Single parents with a lot of determination, family support and good careers will find workarounds but for others the obstacles could seem insurmountable,” she explains.
Ben-Galim believes the key to change will be an increase in fathers taking up parental leave. “Having men understand the pressures of having to break off to take kids to the doctors or school trips will normalise these things,” she suggests.
Revealing one’s personal circumstances and the need to arrange childcare in order to accommodate work responsibilities can also be a difficult decision, especially in a new role. The Clink Charity’s Frances claims doing so has cost her a job before.
“I went for a job interview and all the signs were that I had got it…