Sunday, 3 June 2012

It’s Women’s Fault

I knew as soon as I picked up the article this was a blog (rant!) waiting to happen…

So, now it’s women’s fault that they aren’t better represented at the top of industry (according to a female vice-president at BT, allegedly). Nothing to do with centuries (or millennia) of discrimination and being considered inferior being counterbalanced by only forty years of equality legislation then?

But why be surprised? Everything else is our fault, isn’t it!

There is this constant sense of guilt with almost every mother – every woman I work with– about our lifestyles and the choices that we make.

You get pilloried if you’re a working Mum as “research shows” (that wonderful catch all phrase which makes no account of the quality or funder of the research) that children fare best with quality care at home.

You get pilloried if you’re a stay-at-home Mum as “research shows” that women who stay at home are more likely to be depressed and depressed mothers are storing up problems for the wellbeing of their children…

Now if you work part-time you can feel doubly guilty!

Women who choose not to have children…are variously labelled as “selfish” and subject to all sorts of unpleasant stereotypes instead of celebrated for making an informed choice about their life.

Single mothers come in for a whole load more derision. Interestingly I was comparing notes with a working single Dad one day at a conference. He explained how he got lots of praise for managing to work and bring up two children – people were admiring and sympathetic and he was considered a bit of a hero. Hmmm!

So now it’s our fault we’re not better represented at the top of industry too.

It really made me laugh when the article quoted that there is now free childcare for children over 2, as if that’s no barrier for women working. Er…for two and a half hours a day? I remember that when my children started nursery at school. By the time I’d said goodbye, travelled home, sorted the post and done the basics of sorting the house out, it was time to set back out on the journey to pick them up again. Not sure how many employers at the top of the working ladder would be open to employing someone available for an hour a day.

It will require a major structural shift in the way we perceive work, childcare, flexible working, how girls and boys are educated about work, the responsibility for unpaid work at home etc etc etc before women genuinely are equally represented and paid in the workforce. That’s going to take time, but it’s right we do so.

Bold steps are needed.

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