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Part-timer

July 31, 2012

For a year now, I’ve been leading a double life: Every morning I wake up, drop my son at daycare and steal away into the wonderful world of project management. I can make myself a cup of tea, sit in front of the computer  and go to the loo completely alone, safe in the knowledge that Philipp is having as much of a whale of a time as I am. 5 hours after arriving at work, I can leave. It sounds like Heaven, doesn’t it? And it is, only it comes at a price.

When I returned to work after a year of maternity leave I had a tough time proving that I was able to do exactly the same job I was doing prior to having a baby. (Afterall, a baby comes out of one’s vagina, not one’s brain, leaving all prior knowledge intact). I clearly didn’t do a very good job of proving this, since I was rewarded for my gift to the Human Race by being stripped of most of my previous responsibility.

I’ll never forget the day a customer brazenly suggested (in writing as well!) that I was unfit to manage their (piss easy) project on account of the fact I was working part time. Should I ever meet this individual in person, they may find themselves at the receiving end of a severe tongue-lashing.

Since then, I have managed several projects of varying complexity an proven myself to be a reliable, efficient and hardworking employee, who puts in the extra hours when needed. I even succumbed to the power of the ‘work mobile’ so that I can be contacted by mail or phone when I’m not in the office. So why is it that when it comes to the crunch, there’s still a certain unwillingness bestow on me the level of responsibility necessary to challenge me mentally?

According to Eurostat, Germany has the 5th largest number of part time workers in Europe, with almost a quarter of the workforce working part time. The majority of these are women (in 2010, 31.9% of all working females in the EU were part time, compared to 8.9% of working men). It goes then without saying that I’m not the only person in this situation. No wonder many German women wait until their late 30’s to have children, once they’re firmly established on the career ladder.

My main beef here is the prejudice against part time workers that appears to be prevalent amongst white collar workers. Part-time in their world seems to equal suboptimal, unavailable, inefficient. That is absolutely not the case in reality. If employers continue to think this way and don’t move with the times, they will lose valuable talent from their workforce.

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