Calibre Dad's celebrate International Women Days
Perth, West Australia. “Choose to Challenge” is this year’s International Women’s Day theme. At Calibre, a growing number of male engineers and other staff are challenging gender stereotypes by working part-time in order to care for their young children.
It’s a move that has given them cherished time with their youngsters and enabled them to establish bonds and create memories they might not otherwise have enjoyed.
Haley Lee, Executive General Manager – People & Communications, said Calibre (and its construction brand, Diona) was proud of its flexible work approach.
“Our industry is undeniably male dominated. We originally introduced flexible work practices to encourage more female participation and support retention. And while this has happened, an unexpected consequence was the number of men who wanted this level of flexibility – primarily so they could take on more caregiving responsibilities,” said Haley.
According to Haley, things fell into place and it “made sense”.
And how do clients feel about staff working part time?
“Working part time is not for everyone, and part time schedules are developed in consultation with our clients as well as the staff member and their team leads. For the vast majority of our clients, they want to work with a progressive organisation who has engaged staff and empowered teams. Our team culture – and the client’s project − is better because of it.”
For Calibre, International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate and acknowledge the contribution of both women and men.
“Supporting part time and flexible working for men, often results in empowering women to develop their careers,” said Haley.
Sam Mackintosh has just resumed working a full week after four years spending one day a week with his children. He loved every minute.
“The whole concept was that I would have Fridays off until both our kids were at school full-time,” he said. “Our youngest is now in pre-primary five days a week.”
It all started with burnout.
“I was working for another company and things were not good,” Sam said.
“I hadn’t really seen my kids. My wife was having to do a lot to support me, putting a lot of her stuff on hold. So I approached Calibre and said ‘Have you got a job for me?’ and they said ‘Yes, sure” and I said ‘I just want to do four days a week until my kids are in full time school.” and George Nuich, who is the general manager of the mining and resources team, said ‘Fine, no problems.”
It was the start of four fulfilling years.
“We’ve got two kids, a seven-year-old boy and a four year old girl, and one of the big things was I that got to spend a lot of one-on-one time with my son growing up and we formed a great relationship. Then I realised I never got to see our daughter one-on-one, so Fridays became our one-on-one time and that was fantastic. That’s been the real win for me.”
What were the best takeaways from the experience?
“One of the primary things is that one-on-one time that I get with one of our kids,” Sam said. “Even if it was just that, it would be worth it. My daughter and I have a great relationship because of that. I’m actually involved in the school, where I never was before. I know both kids’ teachers, I know parents.
“We’ve formed relationships with school families now - and other dads. I’ve quite a good group of friends now who are dads at school now because of actually just turning up to school on a Friday doing the drop-offs and pickups and just being present. That’s been really special. And because of that I’m on the school boards and I participate in school things, which I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. That’s really great from a family perspective.
“Also, my wife works three days a week and I’ve been doing four days a week. So, me taking that day off has allowed her to go back to work. And that’s been a real game-changer for her. She loves her work. She works in mining as well. So that’s been great for her.
“I’ve actually found it to be a real blessing for me in the workplace, and it’s led me to encourage other people to realise that they can do it. My colleague, Pouya Bassari is a good example. He was getting really burnt out at his work – he also worked for a competitor. I said come join us. You can work four days a week, spend some time with your family. So, it’s allowed me to employ some real key talent that we would never have otherwise got.
“I’ve got five people on our team that do part-time work. I’d rather have five people working four days a week than four people working five. Because if you have five people working four days a week you have more divergent thinking and a lot more horsepower.”
The reaction from colleagues and other dads?
Sam did the interview for this article while sitting on the beach with his kids with two other dads and their families. “One is a stay-at-home dad whose wife is a senior mining executive and the other works in the police force and does night shift,” Sam said. “Not everyone works a nine to five job, so there’s a lot of dads at school who do part-time, some are stay at home dads and others do shift work. It’s quite interesting all the different people I’ve met through being home on a Friday.
The big smile factor
“My little one woke up this morning and said: ‘is it Daddy Day Care today?’,” Sam said. “We have our routines. We go and meet a bunch of other school mums and one dad on a Friday morning for coffee at the local café. Then we’ll clean the house, then we’ll go for a bike ride. She really loves our Daddy Day Care Friday routine.
“It’s what we needed to do to make our family work and get our balance. I think my wife loves the fact that she can work, and I love the fact that she can work from a mental perspective. Not having to be the only source of income really changes the way that I function at work and I think she feels the same.
Sam said flexible working was something other businesses should be open to.
“Especially in our white-collar industry it makes a lot of sense to be flexible and appreciate that you’ll actually get a better workforce,” he said. “Acknowledging that people need to juggle their families and raise their families in a good way will only benefit society.
“This year’s International Women’s Day theme choose to challenge definitely fits in with what Calibre is trying to achieve through offering a flexible workplace.
“Calibre’s flexible working arrangements for parents is the same for men as it is for women. It gives either parent the ability to balance their professional life with their family life.
“This kind of flexibility helps women as much as men. It’s probably a little less frequent for men to take it up, but I’d say that will increase in the future.”
Pouya Bassari and his wife have three children aged four, six and nine. His wife works full-time and Pouya four days a week.
Pouya is a Project Manager within the Mining & Resource team and has been working for Calibre for two years.
“I’ve always wanted to work part time,” he said. “I previously thought that the higher you climb up the corporate ladder the harder it was to actually do. I had a chat with my wife, and we made the decision for me to work four days a week and to stay home with our children one day a week.
“But to do that I stepped away from my previous role at a consultancy firm and had a chat with Sam Mackintosh (Operations Manager), who I’ve known for quite a few years. Over a cup of coffee and a few chats, I decided to take on a role with Calibre working four days a week.
And Pouya has never looked back.
Realising kids grow up too quickly
“The main reason that I wanted to do it was to spend more time with my kids. I recognised that they, especially our eldest, were growing up far too quickly and I realised that they’re pretty precious years and I wanted to spend more time with them through their younger years.
“When I was first doing four days a week with Wednesday off, I had my two youngest with me and we would drop my eldest off to school, go to a café and grab some babyccinos and some breakfast then spend the day hanging out with them and doing some daddy duties. Then I’d pick up our eldest later in the afternoon and prep dinner. It was just fantastic.”
Pouya’s message to other dads considering going part-time to spend more time with their kids is ‘do it’.
“If it’s something other dads are considering, then definitely do it,” he said. “There are different barriers why people might think about it and not do it. One is that they feel that their workload is too much and too demanding. They might fear how it might come across to their manager or their business by making such a request, or how it would look to other team members who might also make a similar request.
“But I think if you believe you want to do it and it’s for the reasons of trying to look after your children and spend time with them while they’re young, then it would be more important than those other things in some ways to be honest.
“Calibre understands work-life balance, especially in the context of managers and people who are looking after teams. It does work.”
Being present is a positive
Pouya said his four-day work week had resulted in numerous benefits to his family.
“Just being more present in their everyday lives,” he said. “Even the small task of being there for school drop-offs and spending time during school pickups, which is probably something really rare for dads to do. I’m probably one of the few dads during pickups, but in the mornings it’s a bit more diverse because mums and dads both do drop-offs and go to work. Just being more connected in what they do and spending that time. It’s been fantastic for us.
“It was a bit of a learning curve initially. All I’d known for 15 years before that was working five days a week. Then to have this day off in the middle of the week felt a little bit surreal but also a little bit daunting initially because I thought ‘How many emails am I going to come back to the next day? What issues and problems have I missed out on by not being there? My obligations to the project that I’m still running and the people that I look after.’
“But once you realise that the team that you surround yourself with and the people that you work with are pretty understanding and accommodating it becomes easier.
“The other impact is that it’s given my wife the opportunity to work five days a week.”
School gate welcome
Pouya said the reaction at the school gate has been welcoming.
“There is another dad at school who’s a GP who has Wednesdays off as well,” he said. “We share our experiences and discuss how wonderful it is to have that time with our kids. A lot of other dads that I speak to are probably in the boat that they would love to do it, but they just can’t see how they can.”
“One of the things that I give Calibre a lot of credit for is that there’s no prejudice or bias towards putting me forward as a project manager or to lead a team in a project by working four days, and that speaks volumes about them as a company,” Pouya said.
“Financially there is a bit of a sacrifice. But what it’s made me feel as an employee is that I can provide the service that I need to in terms of work but also being able to fulfil my duties and obligations as a father. It gives me comfort that I’m not missing out on one thing by focussing on the other.
Haley Lee, said that with the growth in resources, urban development and infrastructure sectors that Calibre, and its construction firm, Diona, currently have more than 50 positions vacant. “If you are the right fit for the business, don’t hesitate to apply. If part time or flexible options are what you are after – talk to us.”