Uncompromising Woman #1 - Annie Auerbach
We all make compromises when we become a mother, so Sarka founder Jules set out to interview women from all walks of professional life, to talk to them about compromise. We know Sarka can't help reduce compromise beyond returning them to their stylish self, but what other compromises do we face, and which have women accepted or rejected?
In issue #1 of Uncompromising Women I interview Annie Auerbach from London, founder of Starling strategy agency and author of Flex: The Modern Woman's Handbook.
Annie your book Flex: The Modern Woman’s Handbook has a lot to tell us about compromise, don’t you think?
A: yes, because the word Flex can suggest bending over backwards and being soft. But when you decide to flex, there’s a lot you need to be uncompromising about. Because when you decide to flex, you have to be able to follow through and put hard edges in -to know when to say no to something.
When I first negotiated a three day week, I was so grateful to have been able to negotiate it, that I did everything I could to work seven days a week, ending up checking e mails around the kids, or at the sandpit and trying to be really engaged but someone’s always e mailing you, and it’s a nightmare.
S: So 'flex' has changed from what one might perceive it to mean to something a bit more structured?
A: yes, it needs to be a courageous decision to change your life and to really make it what you want it to be, so you need to do some real introspection about what you want it to be. Then you have to have the courage to ask for it, which can be really nerve-wracking because that’s not usually the status quo. And then you have to have conviction - and that’s the uncompromising bit.
There’s a lot of Flex-ism; when people negotiate it and start doing their flexible working that’s when the real battle begins. You are seen as uncommitted, seen as shirking, you’re seen as not senior - a senior person couldn’t possibly do it all in a few hours.
S: Do you think that Gen Z have a lot to show Gen X about their approach to working flexibly and portfolio careers?
A: Yes, completely. Previously it’s been mothers in Gen X who have had to push that, but now that’s happening for all sorts of Gen Z-ers who aren’t only doing it because of parenting.
There’s an entirely new way of looking at the world of work; it doesn’t need to be monolithic or about presenteeism. It can be consciously fitting with the way in which I live my life and what my priorities are. We at Starling - my consultancy - close the office for July and August every year, since Adam and I set it up, and that’s a deliberate move to preserve the space to think and explore, and come back with observations and thoughts about the world which make us better at work.