A look at the obstacles to career progression for parents and carers – as shown in groundbreaking new research by PiPA
Indy Vidyalankara
Head of Strategic Communications, Help Musicians UK
19th October 2018
A look at the obstacles to career progression for parents and carers – as shown in groundbreaking new research by PiPA

As a parent in the music industry, I have struggled many times with the trade-off I continually am compelled to make.

Returning to a full time career after having my first child was difficult, I felt I had to work full time to cover my astronomical childcare costs.

But there was the constant feeling that I wasn’t handling either of my responsibilities well. Even when my employer at the time allowed me to work from home one day every week, I felt a certain amount of guilt for not giving enough, to either my child or my job. And every time I would get passed up for a promotion in favour of someone who didn’t have children, it ate into that feeling.

This feeling never left me, the guilt of having to trade off my family life and my career. Today I work part time at Help Musicians UK as Head of Strategic Communications, working part time suits me and now that my children are school age, the crippling childcare costs are reducing, but I have long wanted to see change in the sector to better support people like me. Thankfully I work at an organisation that supports my outlook.

This week, some research was revealed by PiPA (Parents in Performing Arts), the first national benchmarking survey of its kind, that went to the heart of the career challenges facing parents and carers, not just in the music industry, but the theatre and dance sectors.

It was conducted in partnership with Birkbeck University and funded by Help Musicians UK as well as BASCA, Sadler’s Wells and SOLT/ UK Theatre. The research team gathered data from over 2,500 people across dance, music and theatre, including over 1,000 respondents with caring responsibilities.

PiPA and Tracy Brabin MP revealed the results of this game-changing study of the working conditions of parents and carers in the performing arts at a parliamentary event and the turnout was great to discover some stark findings!

The performing arts sector is populated by freelancers in the main, this makes the sector so distinctive. As evidenced in the study, working in the performing arts disadvantages those with caring responsibilities. What has been called ‘caring penalties’ sees carers, women and freelancers finding it hard to make ends meet, fund childcare, fulfill caring responsibilities and struggle to access career opportunities. The findings show that caring hits earning ability, with carers earning overall £3,000 less a year than non-carers.

Here are some key findings:

  • Money struggles - Freelance workers in the arts are vulnerable as they rely on their own resources and support structures in order to continue their careers. They report that their low earnings reportedly do not cover unexpected expenses, their median annual earnings are £16,000, far less than the UK average wage.
  • Careers in the arts are sacrificed - 44% women had to change job roles due to childcare responsibilities, compared to 23% of male carers; 50% of female carers had to change job location because of childcare issues, compared to 36% of male carers. 43% of female carers would want to increase their working hours in the arts.
  • Gender roles at home - 79% of female respondents reported that they were the primary carer, but only 16% of male respondents would say the same. There is no notable difference between the employment structure of men, when comparing men with and without caring responsibilities. So it looks like equality at home still has some way to go.
  • Appetite for shared parental leave. There is a high desire among freelance respondents for shared parental leave as 74% of men and 72% of women said they’d like to access shared parental leave if it was available.
  • Support and training is needed - there is a lack of support and training opportunities for those who’ve had to change their job role. Of those who had changed roles, only 19% agreed that they received adequate training, and only 21% agreed that they received adequate.

Olga Fitzroy’s #SelfieLeave campaign is particularly relevant as it is now evidenced by data that shows that parents in the sector overwhelmingly want shared parental leave. There will be a second reading of the bill in parliament this month by Traci Brabin MP, so let’s see if it will make the difference!

A diverse talent pool drives a more successful industry and it is clear that parents and carers contribute to the industry’s rich diversity. Clearly, with such low earnings and obstacles to career progression, this talent pool risks being stifled and damaging their careers, and worse leaving their sector altogether. We would be poorer for that without a doubt. Surely this is a case for change? 

What’s next? The recommendations are strong, mentoring, training, support structures, returnship programmes, holding the performing arts sector to account to better support the parents and carers within it and keep them in the sector.

Supporting parents and carers working conditions will help to future proof the success of the music industry. And as you may have heard, HMUK is all about supporting and championing that same thriving music industry.

Read the full PiPA report here: http://www.pipacampaign.com/balancing-act-survey/

PiPA Indy James Claire