Irish Impact Report

3 min read

Walking the journey with working parents

Lifting the veil on working parents’ lived experiences using participatory photography.

  • What does inclusion mean for parents who are balancing a career with the demands of raising children? A small group of working parents from our Dublin office decided to lift the veil on their lived experiences using participatory photography.

“Parents can often feel as though work and family commitments are juggled ‘in secret’. We wanted people to feel that they are not managing these challenges alone”

Torunn Dahl, Head of Talent, Learning and Inclusion

Photovoice is an innovative research approach focused on using photography for social change. Torunn set up the first Photovoice project in 2018 in partnership with sociologist and researcher Dr Maria Quinlan, highlighting the perspectives of colleagues who had joined Deloitte from outside Ireland. Following its positive reception, their team decided to run a second programme focused on colleagues who are simultaneously working and parenting.

Lifting the veil on lived experiences

Eleven individuals spanning across genders, levels and service lines volunteered to take part. Each volunteer was given a camera for three weeks and was asked to take photos to illustrate a range of themes that they collectively agreed on – centred on their current experiences, challenges and potential solutions. The photo catalogue was launched at an internal event attended by 130 staff, with three of the project participants taking part in a panel discussion to discuss the study outcomes.

“Initially, there was some unease at opening up about their vulnerability as parents, but the group agreed that by sharing their stories openly, they could drive positive change for working parents,” observes Torunn.

“The stories the participants shared were incredibly honest and often hard-hitting in terms of the pressures they felt to succeed both at home and at work. We aimed to support them in feeling safe throughout the process, and ensuring that their stories received a proper platform with our leaders.”

Driving positive change though photos

The study provided meaningful outcomes around what we could learn and do differently in our business, leading to improvements in our support structures for parents. We have since enhanced our maternity returner’s workshop, provided support guidelines to our business leaders with returners due back to their teams, and launched a workshop to support new dads.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, these supports have further evolved to recognise the additional flexibility required by parents looking after children whilst working from home. The usual notice period was waived for our flexible parental leave policy, and the Inclusion team have held a webinar series for parents to share their tips, tricks and challenges - maintaining an open conversation around how best we can provide support within the ‘new normal’ of parenting and working.

“Juggling the demands of work with those of raising children can be challenging at the best of times, and doing it all without childcare or a normal routine is a whole new ball game. We operate first and foremost on a basis of trust, and we support everyone to find a way of working which helps them balance their own needs with their work commitments,” adds Torunn.

Download the full Photovoice study

“Here are my two daughters and we are teaching them how to ride a bike. It’s so important to invest this time. I am afraid because my life feels like it’s on fast-forward… this moment is just trying to pull back a bit of that time.”

“…Kids aren’t selective on the nights they choose to disrupt your sleep. It could be on a weekend but also just as likely to be the night before you have a big presentation or back to back meetings for the day. The knock on effect of this is that sometimes through lack of sleep you’re not firing on all cylinders at work and your colleagues or your clients have no idea why and can just chalk it down to poor performance. Coping with the lack of sleep while still maintaining acceptable working standards is a constant challenge.”

“I think this is hilarious, for a couple of reasons, one my child is massively into Marvel Avengers and superheroes. I took this photo mostly because I wanted to show it to my son this evening and to show him that actually we do have some fun in Deloitte. Then I thought you could replace most of the words with parenting analogies… so what Batman is saying there is "How do I balance my crime fighting with my fieldwork planning"… “How do we balance our work with our family life?” … and “we are superheroes because we’re doing it all and we need to give ourselves credit for that!” Parents need check-ins too!”

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