Where the problem starts
For some, it has already started and for others, it is soon to begin. The school Summer holidays are here again.
Firstly let me say I don’t have a problem with people taking a holiday or the amazing experiences that travelling can add to your life.
So why this post? Why do I have a problem with holidays, in particular, school holidays? As someone who is not a Mum this is not a decision I have to think about, but as a woman who works solely with women, I see the impact and am impacted by school holidays yearly.
On average in the UK there are between 13 weeks to 17 weeks of school holidays, depending on what type of school a child attends. That is a quarter, a quarter of the year that childcare needs to be provided. It doesn’t take into account sick days, inset days or anything else that may come up. That is a huge amount of time that predominately women need to factor in when it comes to running a business.
The number of times I see women talking about looking for jobs, stating the conditions, that the job must be in school hours and during term time. Also, the number of women I know who start businesses so they can work around the school holidays is beyond anything that a government would consider and take into account when it looks at entrepreneurship and self-employment.
Now let me get this straight, I understand that many women enjoy that they have this time with their children. However, growing a business is hard work, it takes time to reach a certain level of success and if you have to down tools every six weeks to deal with a holiday, especially the Summer holiday, that is a long time away from a business that then takes a long time to build back up.
The problem is worsened by what I call holiday psychology. The time prior to and post a holiday where it starts to wind down and wind again. For some reason that seems to get longer each year.
January seems to be a long and slow month, dependent on when News Year’s day falls many people now take their holidays until after the first week so some not starting to wind up until after 5th January.
We then move into half term in February, following on comes Easter so people wind down for that and because after Easter we have two bank holidays in May along with a half term, so they tend to be slow months and then we move towards Summer, where it now seems things come to a virtual stop at the beginning of July because people are planning for the end of the school term.
Once the Summer holiday is over the talk turns to Christmas and come December people can focus on nothing else so unless your business is Christmas related again this can have an impact.
So for anyone running a business the whole area of preparing for, having and winding up from school holidays can have a huge impact. And that is exponentially increased for female owned and run businesses, who seem to bear the brunt of the childcare.
Not only does this impact female-owned businesses directly but it has a knock on effect. Only last year a client opened a new yoga studio around April time and from the outset, it was doing well. She had a ton of yoga teachers to teach the sessions and the classes were filling up. Then the Summer holiday hit and the collision and business hit. The problem was all the yoga teachers couldn’t commit to teaching over the holidays because of child care. It completely threw her business plan and projected figures awry, put her business at risk and took her a long time to recover. She learnt her lesson and now any contract signed includes the provision that it includes school holiday periods.
Government intervention required
I have no clue what the impact of a quarter of a year is in figures because it is not even considered a problem. But I do know that the UK is lagging behind other countries to the tune of £1bn of income to the economy and this may be one factor that contributes to that problem.
Annabel Kaye of Koffee Klatch has written a great post about the same subject and has some great figures around how this hurts women and their business.
I both admire and get frustrated by how women are so willing to sacrifice their dreams. When I speak to women about it, they get excited about spending the holidays with their children, which is amazing, but for many, that is partly because there is a level of acceptance that few other options are available. I have yet to come across a man who has set up a business for the sole purpose of being able to work around the school holidays. I know male owned businesses who take a large chunk of time off but they have spent the time to build the business to enable them the luxury of taking this time away.
There needs to be a middle ground. There needs to a way for women to be able to enjoy this time with their children but also not have their businesses severely impacted so that they can create some thing for themselves, show their children what women are about and contribute financially to their families and to the economy.
So there are things that need to be done across the board.
1) Governments need to be aware of this issue and the women who are affected need to make people aware, so it is not just Mums who are left with the child care responsibilities or the option of expensive holiday clubs as their only options. But also women, such as myself and many of my clients who are affected by women who have to slow down or stop their businesses during the holiday period.
2) Corporations need to have a more flexible working infrastructure and hours so this constant holiday juggling that needs to be done can be eased.
3) Councils could step up and provide holiday school clubs where women could go and work and children could play. I mean all these schools are available during the holidays they could be used more effectively.
4) Female business owners can pull together and support one another. Annabel talks about this on her blog, where six other women in the same circumstances would share the care so that the others would have time to focus on their business.
5) As a female entrepreneur with a business, there may be a sacrifice for the first couple of years, where you may still have to work all hours but take the time to build that business. Implement not ‘time for money’ products so your business can earn whilst you holiday. Outsource so that your marketing and sales can still be carried out and get a VA so every thing can keep turning over.
The landscape of Great Britain is changing as a result of Brexit and as we become a more global economy it will be entrepreneurs that create change and growth, female owned business providing a large part of this so we need to be smarter about how we support these business and those impacted by them.