Kate James - GM Local Government, Ventia

With women making up almost 70% of the part-time workforce in Australia we all probably know or work with a female whose role is part time. What is less common, however, is seeing senior leaders who are successfully managing flexible working hours. 

General Manager Local Government Katie James is one leader who has successfully transitioned from full-time to part-time and back again, whilst growing her career with Ventia. 

Joining the former Transfield Services in 2008, Katie was recently married and planned to start a family. At the time, Ventia's Group Executive for our Defence and Social Infrastructure sector Derek Osborn was the EGM for the Facilities Management business. Katie worked as a Finance Manager supporting this business.  

"I took around six months parental leave, and when I came back, I was working two half-days, focusing on accounting projects and special assignments," Katie says. "This was a role that could be done part time, so it worked well." 

"It also helped that Derek is focused on outcomes and understands and values flexible working opportunities for his team."

When the opportunity to move from Melbourne to Perth for a full-time role as Finance Manager for the WA Department of Housing contract arose, Katie and her husband discussed their options and agreed he would transition to full-time parent for the duration. 

"My husband is self-employed, so he was able to effectively put his job on hold for three months," Katie explains. "When we moved back to Melbourne his ability to work around employment commitments continued, giving us a chance to figure out what worked for us."

What worked was her husband starting work early and Katie doing the morning run, and then working through to dinner whilst her husband managed after childcare and meal preparation.

Katie says that in her experience, men are often reluctant or struggle to ask for flexible working conditions from their employer, even where they'd really like it. So, the pressure falls back on their female partners. 

Katie James, GM Local Government, pictured with her two daughters

Katie James, Ventia's GM Local Government, pictured with her two daughters.

Whilst she managed her last role as the General Manager for Audit, Risk and Compliance on part-time hours, Katie's current role is full time. 

"My role as General Manager for the Local Government business unit is fairly demanding," Katie says. "But the past year as we've all been forced to work from home has actually been quite helpful as I am saving on commute time, giving me more productive hours in the day."

She says she knows that not everyone finds working from home when they have young kids straightforward.

"Juggling work and family from the same physical space can be challenging," Katie says. "Unless you've worked from home before as a consultant or home-based business for example, you probably had to learn how to transition between being a parent and being an employee. It takes some skills!"

The other thing that takes skill is ensuring your workday ends when it's scheduled to.  Katie notes that when you work part time, you have to ensure you don't end up doing full-time hours for part time pay. 

"You need to protect that downtime as there's always creep," she says. "But you also need to be flexible. As a leader you can't just say it's my day off and I won't answer the phone for anyone."

I have found that it's important to build a team with people you can rely on who can make decisions without you if they need to. Then if they call, you know it's important and you take that call.

Katie and her husband continue to negotiate their schedules to keep things running smoothly. She says she's pleased that she has options, a supportive husband and a boss that values what she brings to the team.