This story is from an episode of Woman’s Hour presented by Jenni Murray and produced by Helen Fitzhenry. To listen to more episodes of Woman’s Hour from BBC Radio 4, please click here. Adapted by Sarah Keating.
When Kirsty Holden applied for flexible working after her second child was born, she had a battle on her hands.
Holden loved her job working in the legal department of one the UK’s biggest government agencies for 13 years. But despite her tenure, her request to change her working arrangements was rejected. She was forced to appeal. And Holden won – but when she returned to work on a part-time basis, she was made to feel like she didn’t belong.
“I didn’t have a desk, which was horrible,” she says. “I know a lot of people hot desk, but I felt that it was because I was part time that I was no longer entitled to a desk. I just felt like a number – I just plugged the gaps, and it was not a nice feeling.”
It wasn’t particularly management that made her feel unwelcome, she said, but rather the working environment and the team around her. In the end Holden, 32, realised she was experiencing discrimination and bullying. She decided to go out on her own instead – and in doing so became part of a growing trend among working women to choose self-employment over traditional workplaces.