Diplomatic duo share top job

For the first time in the history of the Foreign Office, a husband and wife team will be joint heads of a British diplomatic mission.

Tom Carter and Carolyn Davidson are the married couple to job-share as British High Commissioners for Zambia.

According to the Foreign Office, the appointment also takes forward the British government’s objective to promote innovative and flexible working patterns.

It is also a strategy to retain women in positions of seniority. Traditionally, women tend to retire from service once they start a family.

The announcement is a reminder of how far the FCO has advanced in its family-friendly policies. Up until 1974, women had to resign from the Foreign Office upon marriage. The so-called ‘marriage bar’ was lifted and today there are 23 women heads of mission out of a total of 189.

Unlike a more conventional job-share, where both parties divide a week between them, Carter and Davidson have opted to alternate with quarterly stints.

This is the couple’s second diplomatic job-share. Five years ago, they were appointed joint deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Bratislava (2003-2008).

The couple are able to apply for a job together because they have the same level of seniority.

The pair have two sons, who they take in turns to look after in the “off months”. And as any diplomat will attest to, the life of a diplomatic spouse is just as busy.