8 March, 2017

Gender equality and its significance to new dad, Matt

Matt Rogers is a Senior Adviser in our Social Media team. This sees him interact with our customers via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Gender equality has a special significance for him as he identifies it as a fundamental building block in all his relationships. The part it’s played in influencing our own policies has enabled him and his partner, Jess, to raise their daughter, Lyra, in line with their shared values.

It was the proud history of the business, and its reputation as a great place to work for all its employees, that initially drew me to working for M&S. It hasn’t disappointed. My day-to-day role is full of pace and challenge as it involves communicating directly with customers through our various social media channels. I’ve always felt supported here in all kinds of ways, be that through monthly one-to-ones and feedback sessions or training and supported learning opportunities. But it was when I first became a parent that the culture and approach of the business really came into its own.

Being a parent to my daughter, Lyra, is without doubt, my proudest achievement in my personal life. It’s a wonderful thing: challenging, exhilarating, exhausting but, ultimately, hugely rewarding and fulfilling. Managing this without the support of my employer would, however, have been a much tougher proposition.

My partner, Jess, and I discussed long before Lyra was born that we would try to find a way to work flexibly if at all possible. (Jess teaches English at a secondary school in Wrexham). Traditionally, in a partnership like ours, it’s perhaps been the view that it’s the woman who takes full maternity leave and then applies to work flexibly on her return to work. Fortunately, we weren’t bound to go down this particular path as M&S enables men to take full paternity leave and then apply for the same kind of flexible working arrangement on his return. So, when Jess returns to work in May after eight and a half months, we’ll both be able to spend one day a week at home with our daughter.

This is hugely important to us. We both feel strongly that it’s vital for Lyra’s development, resilience and emotional wellbeing that she spends an equal amount of time with both her parents, as well as the additional time she’ll have at nursery. We’ve chosen not to raise her as gender neutral per se; however, we both place equal value on co-parenting and our individual roles as mum and dad. Jess and I agree that we can each provide the love and support that Lyra needs while, at the same time, giving her a different perspective on things as she grows up.

Gender equality has enormous significance to me as it’s the foundation for every relationship I have; be that with Jess & Lyra; my colleagues at work; or my family and friends. Viewing everyone I meet as my equal is something I’ve never had to think about; we want Lyra to grow up with the same ideas and values.

Gender inequality only exists because men and women sometimes view and respond to each other differently. I try to approach every situation and every person I meet in exactly the same way. Identifying one another as human; seeing the person first and foremost, irrespective of gender, should be how we interact with one another in my view.

Throughout my 12 years at M&S, it’s been great to see a fantastic gender balance. There’s always been a more or less equal amount of men and women in all the different roles across our department; which is as it should be. While we’re multiple teams working as part of one large customer service operation, our strength lies in our differences, our individual abilities, our versatility and our diversity.

In an ideal world, we would all view one another as equal, but we’re not there yet, sadly. We just need to keep celebrating what makes us all unique, share our values of equality and inclusivity with one another and continue to spread positivity.

Personally, I draw a lot of inspiration from the people around me. My partner, Jess, is a diligent and inspirational mother, loving co-conspirator and creator of boundless joy and energy. My parents and my brother, whom I’ve worked alongside for many years, have helped shape and mould me as a grounded human being. And, of course, Lyra, whom I cannot wait to introduce to the little girl from ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy who inspired her name.

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