Geoffrey Gillham

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Person.png Geoffrey GillhamRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
BornGeoffrey Charles Gillham
1 June 1954
SpouseNicola Brewer

Geoffrey Gillham (born 1 June 1954) is a former member of HM Diplomatic Service who took early retirement in 2008.

FCO postings

Geoffrey Gillham was posted as Second Secretary to Caracas in 1983 and seconded to the Cabinet Office in 1986. He was promoted to First Secretary in April 1988 and was made Head of the FCO's Management Consultancy and Inspection Department in 1997. He was posted to India as Commercial Counsellor (1998-2001) and was Head of Southern European Department FCO from 2001 to 2003. In the four years prior to his retirement, Geoffrey Gillham was Head of the FCO's Estates.[1]

Home posting

On 17 July 2008, Geoffrey Gillham's wife Nicola Brewer, CEO of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, was interviewed in the Evening Standard:

In her first newspaper interview since sparking controversy with a warning that extended maternity rights for women risked damaging their careers, she told the Evening Standard how she was supported by her partner staying at home with their children.

Her husband, Geoffrey Gillham, 54, a former Foreign Office diplomat, is now effectively in the supporting role she previously occupied:

"It's something we negotiated," she said.

In a major speech this week Ms Brewer warned that the introduction of a year's paid maternity leave could be having "unintended consequences" and deterring employers from hiring women.

She said that she now wanted a public debate on the law surrounding parenting and employment, which currently allows men two weeks of paid paternity leave, but suggested that a fairer balance between men and women should be struck in future.

Some businesses are likely to resist any extension of paternity leave, while others could raise doubts as to whether men would be willing to take extended time off, but Ms Brewer said she was convinced reform could be popular:

"If you were to say that dads are raring to go into the home, well possibly not. But there is research that suggests that if men on paternity leave were paid 90 per cent of full salary, four out of five of them would take it," she said.

By the new year, Ms Brewer wants to be able to put in place a series of recommendations about how equality legislation should be framed for the modern workplace, and she wants as many people to pitch in as possible, she said.

"We're doing it on Mumsnet and dads' network sites as well as the usual channels," she said. "It's a way of opening up the issues."

She insisted that she was open to the direction that debate might take, but was adamant about one thing at the outset - that it was unhealthy that society should always assume that when it comes to childcare, "it's women that will do it":

"If the world of work is premised on the assumption that a woman will take a year off, that loads the dice against her."

In a personal account which reflects the dilemma faced by thousands of women, Ms Brewer said she had decided to go part-time after her young daughter pleaded with her not to go abroad on a work trip, saying:

"Please don't go to Brussels tonight, Mummy,"
"She was very young at the time," said Ms Brewer. "It was the travelling that got to me. I wanted to cut down."

Doing the nappies

She said that although she had opted at the time to take a three-day-a-week job share, her husband was now the main carer in the family, although an au pair had also helped in raising Angharad and Rhodri, now 13 and 12:

"He does everything by himself," she said. "He doesn't have to be told. In fact, he was the one who started off doing the nappies ... I had an emergency caesarean. He does it all."

She added that her children soon began to "see it as normal" that their father was the main carer, adding:

"I was reading a book with them where the daddy was minding the children. I had assumed the mother was dead. But when I asked one of the children, where do you think the mummy is, she said at once, 'she's on a business trip'. And for her it was normal."

Ms Brewer, a career diplomat, has a PhD in linguistics, having completed a doctoral thesis on how politicians use language to persuade people.

She said she wanted to see the term "work-life balance" replaced with "agile working", and expressed her dislike for the phrase "flexible working":

"It's as if life is something you fit round work," she said.

Instead "agile working" would reflect how work is fitted around other responsibilities:

"That term isn't loaded, it's not pejorative," she said.

Ms Brewer also spoke enthusiastically about employers, including small companies, who go out of their way to provide workable schedules for staff with family responsibilities.

But she was less categoric on how such ad hoc solutions fitted into the current inflexible framework of the law on parental leave and pay, as well as where the benefits system leaves women who want to be at home with their children.

Asked what advice would she give young women who wanted to end up with a high-powered position like hers, she said: "I'd say, you should think through your options and make your own choices as consciously as possible. It's quite a difficult thing to do."

And marry the right man? " Definitely".[2]