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Live webchat about women and work with Maria Miller, Culture Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, TODAY, Thursday 22 November, 1pm to 2pm

(335 Posts)
FrancesMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 20-Nov-12 16:28:42

Hello, we're very pleased to announce that Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Minister for Women and Equalities will be joining us for a live webchat on Thursday 22 Nov between 1pm and 2pm.

Maria has been the MP for Basingstoke since 2005 and has previously held shadow education and family briefs. Before entering Parliament, Maria worked in advertising. She is married with three children.

This is Maria's second Mumsnet webchat.

Maria is keen to hear your thoughts on how to get more women into work, with a particular focus on getting the right childcare in place for women. She also wants to hear your thoughts on how the government can make workplaces more equal environments, where women can better realise their potential.

Do join us for the webchat. As ever, if you can't make it, please post up your advance questions here.

Thanks,

MNHQ

Ahardyfool Thu 22-Nov-12 11:36:24

Xenia, totally agree with you regarding the problem of a lone working parent achieving the same financial status as non-working counterpart.

I guess this was me. It isn't even the attitude of 'why work for the same money I can receive on benefits'. For me, it's 'why deny my children so much parental input, so much parental support and time and interest for the same income I could achieve (thereabouts) benefits dependent?' Also, why see my children's education suffer, and pay for them to use inadequate public transport to and from school so I can be in work when instead they could be travelling cheaply and easily, and home in time to do homework, relax, see their friends and enjoy a meal cooked by me, etc. etc. These may be luxuries but what is the incentive to do without them when it is possible living off the state? And what about the glass ceiling of trying to achieve in a career, and be better off monetarialy only to be hampered by childcare and parenting demands that mean one will rarely take great leaps up the career ladder.

And the position of being part salaried, part funded by the state in the form of Tax credits...my calculations tell me that increase my salary by at least another £10 000 annually if I am ever to be truly self succient upon my income (or what was my income!). Until then, I am subsidised and caught between trying to increase my output (thereby upping my childcare costs beyond Tax Credit subsidy levels) and balancing that with the increasing costs associated with doing so. So, if i do achieve, say a £5000 increase in salary, my costs almost immediately negate this achievement.

I think any state supplementation of income needs to be incentive based and this is applicable at many levels - not just the point above joblessness and poverty.

There somehow needs to be a reward for personal and familial sacrifice and hard work, rather than a consequence for doing nothing - particularly when that consequence (low state provided income) seems to have very little impact. And by hard work, I imply any form of hard work whether employee or carer, or person that is ill.

Xenia Thu 22-Nov-12 11:46:52

Ahardy, it is terribly hard. I was amazed at the net figure the single working parent with no other half who pays or is at home, after her full time nursery place, tax and mortgage and she is no £50k. Of course if she goes up to £100k then she loses 42% of that increase to tax and NI (£21k to the state) and loses her tax credits and all her child benefit but she will still be better off.
I am certainly better off as a single mother of five who paid 5 sets of school fees etc as I work 50 weeks a year often 7 days a week and earn quite a lot even if does at times feel like I am working to fund loads of benefit claimants. I also have the choice to move abroad as I would if tax got higher.

So how to make work pay for women and men as both of them are equally responsible for chidlren and childcare? Iain D Smith is working hard at this but even so I think the single mother getting back into work will still lose lots if she works. Also many of the jobs are zero hours contracts and uncertainties. I could offer a benefits mumsnetter occasional work of a few hours but it would absolutely destroy her ability to eat because she'd be on and off benefits. IDS' scheme apparently will mean those in the first year of setting up a business not lose benefits and that might help.

If you pick a good career there are rewards for that sacrifice and hard work. My children have graduated debt free in good careers, I work for myself, I bought an island and I only mention these things as people moan a lot and I think it's really helpful on here for other mothers who think the call centre is their only possibility to know some women earn £1k a day and have great lives and lovely families and good relationships with chidlren. Making sure our teenage daughters pick the well paid careers rather than dabbling in the arts until a feckless man comes along who might support them for a few years is part of the process.

Anyway I am sure they wanted this thread just to be a list of specific questions and I have not achieved that.

One question is : why is it assumed childcare is a woman's issue? That is terribly sexist. Plenty of men find child care and most couples share these things these days and even did 20 years ago when I had my first children.

Bonsoir Thu 22-Nov-12 11:50:07

"it's 'why deny my children so much parental input, so much parental support and time and interest for the same income I could achieve (thereabouts) benefits dependent?'"

The same argument holds for SAHPs. Why deny your children all that parental input and time and stress-free lifestyle for no profit, if your partner earns plenty for the whole family to live on? Work needs to pay signficantly in order to make it worth all the family sacrifices it entails.

MayaAngelCool Thu 22-Nov-12 11:56:08

On the subject of childcare, why is there no financial support for self-employed people? Both my partner and I are self-emp - as are many more people since the start of the recession - and we pay £600 a month for 2.5 days a week of childcare, plus of course all the other rising costs of the basics of life.

This is typical where we live, and we could not do our jobs if we moved to a cheaper part of the country. We live simply, in a house too small for our needs, we work bloody hard, and we earn too much to qualify for tax credits but not enough to not be crippled by the astronomical costs of childcare. Sometimes it feels like this country is trying to break us. And ultimately that's not in the government's interests because you'd end up shelling out more on benefits and NHS costs, wouldn't you? So what are you going to do for people like us?

Bonsoir Thu 22-Nov-12 11:58:32

"So how to make work pay for women and men as both of them are equally responsible for chidlren and childcare?"

This is the fundamental flaw in all the thinking around this subject. Children do not need two parents to take equal responsibility for their upbringing and trying to make both parents equally responsible for earning and for bringing up children is economically nonsensical - it is always more efficient to specialise.

Xenia Thu 22-Nov-12 12:13:46

I disagree. Most couples are much happier when they share chores and share children. Heaps of us work full time - both in the couple. It's perfectly possible. There is also a moral imperative to help women do better in work. If one of the couple must stay home let it be men for the next 5000 years until things are evened up a bit.

On the self employed point good point. I never had maternity rights with any of the 5 children as with the first ones you needed 2 years of service and with the last two (twins) I worked for myself. The self employed small business owners who are the backbone of this country and many are women (more people are employed in companies with under 5 staff than any other size) do not feel very encouraged. We have masses of regulation and yes I accept a few bits may be going but I am not holding my breath... and few benefits.

The bottom line is we are in a very bad recession and need much bigger cut backs than already. So my suggestion of much less state provision, removing benefits and subsidies and letting the poor free market which never gets a look in actually operate for a bit is just about the best and cheapest solution.

MayaAngelCool Thu 22-Nov-12 12:19:16

"If one of the couple must stay home let it be men for the next 5000 years until things are evened up a bit." grin

IMO broadly speaking most couples these days prefer to have both partners working, but a minority are happy with a single income/ dedicated home parent arrangement. People should be able to make the right decision for their whole family without it reducing them to poverty.

Xenia Thu 22-Nov-12 12:25:03

I don't agree with the shoulds however. There is no human right for your lifestyle choices to be funded by the state. I chose to have 4th and 5th babies rather than buy a yacht say (which with private school fees as they are would have been a cheaper choice) and I support them. My choice.

What the Government is about is trying to turn around the female vote. As many women make poor career choices and marry and tolerate sexist men (more fool them) they tend to be pretty impoverished and cuts hit the poor.So not surprisingly Cameron is going to have to turn around the female vote. He is failing. The cabinet is more male than I can ever remember it. Few serious posts have gone to women. Even women like I am who are wanting free market libertarian options are not happy so he needs some ideas quickly which please women but cost nothing.

What about compulsory workfare for all including single mothers of babies (if I can work full time when a baby is 2 weeks so can any mother in the UK) and those benefits scroungers look after babies and toddlers of others who then get totally free childcare? Double win, no cost.

TunipTheHollowVegemalLantern Thu 22-Nov-12 12:27:19

Maria, why isn't more being done to tackle discrimination against mothers in the workplace, and particularly older mothers who are returning to work after taking time out to care for children? Most of women I know who have gone back to work after time out with children are working way below their skill level - how can this make economic sense?

It's common knowledge that if you want to get a job you should find some way not to mention your time as a SAHM - this screams to me of the fact that there is very widely acknowledged and blatant discrimination going on, and yet this is somehow fine. Why?

Ahardyfool Thu 22-Nov-12 12:33:21

Sorry for getting carried away with this thread but...

To what extent should the state fund individual stupidity and poor judgement?

I have 4 children, and this very fact makes earning decent money rather difficult. I depend on state subsidies for my childcare. However, the fact that I am a lone parent is not only down to the fecklessness of my children's fathers but also my own poor decision making about relationships. Should I be helped by the state?

Incidentally, were counselling/self esteem building therapeutic intervention widely available at an affordable cost then I might have been able to make better life choices age 26. Unfortunately, it has taken 10 years of life experience and soul searching to achieve the same (no cost to the NHS) but I'm now in a woeful financial position. Can you see the chicken and egg scenario here?

MayaAngelCool Thu 22-Nov-12 12:39:08

I do hope your last post was tongue-in-cheek, Xenia, but I'm doubting that it was.

If you chose to work full time when your baby was two weeks old, then, IMO, to use your own words, "more fool you". Everyone makes bad choices, not just women in limiting careers and with bastard partners. It is deeply patronising that you write of some women in this way. We all make bad choices at some point in our lives, but what matters is how we deal with it.

More significantly, we all make choices which have both positive and negative ramifications. Choosing to stay at home with one's children for a long period generally has a negative impact on one's finances and the career aspect of our self-esteem, but it usually has an enormously positive impact on family life and children's emotional well-being. The value of that cannot be overestimated. Conversely, choosing to go to work full-time immediately after the birth of a baby will usually positively enhance household finances and career self-esteem, but it will commonly have a negative impact on family life and children's emotional well-being.

It is naive and self-deluding to think that when we make such far-reaching choices over how we manage our family lives, we can do so without something having to give.

JacqueslePeacock Thu 22-Nov-12 13:01:17

Xenia, please explain to me why I should leave my 3-week-old baby with a "benefits scrounger" in order to do workfare for no pay?

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 22-Nov-12 13:04:04

Delighted to say the Minister is with us and we'll be off shortly.

MariaMillerMP Thu 22-Nov-12 13:05:36

Hello, this is Maria. Thanks for all your questions, hope to get through as many as possible.

MariaMillerMP Thu 22-Nov-12 13:09:34

BIWI

Oh bugger. I am working sad

But my question is something I feel very strongly about. I believe fervently that women should be encouraged back into the workplace (assuming that they want to, of course grin) but why is childcare always assumed to be a woman's issue?

It's even in your OP - with a particular focus on getting the right childcare in place for women.

This makes me really angry. Why is it always the responsibility for women? Until men start taking children and families seriously, and sharing the responsibility for organising childcare, we will never achieve equality for women in the workplace.

Children are produced by parents, not just by women.

Hello BIWI, thanks for your question. You are absolutely right, childcare is the responsibility of both parents. Though in practice, it is mothers who sort out most of the practicalities. It's still a real problem for many parents to get the right childcare in place for their family. That's why recently I announced extra support to set up 6k more childcare businesses.

Ahardyfool Thu 22-Nov-12 13:12:37

Does that mean that because something generally happens a certain away it should remian unchallenged? And what will new childcare business achieve in terms of making childcare more affordable on the typically low female parental wage?

MariaMillerMP Thu 22-Nov-12 13:13:26

strandednomore

I seriously don't think there is an easy answer to this. If there was, we'd all be doing it. But for me the answer is more about more decent (and decently paid) fleixble and part-time jobs rather than more and more childcare. Two of us earning (eg) £25k per year each and sharing childcare rather than him earning eg £50k and me doing all the childcare.

Strandednomore, you are completely right. The Government has just announced that the right to request flexible working will be open to everyone - encouraging a more flexible ethos in the workplace. This will help carers as well as parents, as other posters have mentioned.

MariaMillerMP Thu 22-Nov-12 13:14:14

StewieGriffinsMom

How do you square your government's policies on women, particularly the destruction of the CSA and the benefits system, with being the Minister for Women?

We've got a strong set of policies to support women, including supporting 2 million of the lowest paid out of income tax altogether - most of whom are women - and extending help with childcare for those that work less than 16 hours a week. A first for government!

bunchamunchycrunchycarrots Thu 22-Nov-12 13:15:23

The Government has just announced that the right to request flexible working will be open to everyone - encouraging a more flexible ethos in the workplace.

The reality of actually getting the flexibility needed when you are responsible for children, is pretty far removed from this 'announcement'. How do you intend to address this?

MariaMillerMP Thu 22-Nov-12 13:15:31

Xenia

I disagree. Most couples are much happier when they share chores and share children. Heaps of us work full time - both in the couple. It's perfectly possible. There is also a moral imperative to help women do better in work. If one of the couple must stay home let it be men for the next 5000 years until things are evened up a bit.

On the self employed point good point. I never had maternity rights with any of the 5 children as with the first ones you needed 2 years of service and with the last two (twins) I worked for myself. The self employed small business owners who are the backbone of this country and many are women (more people are employed in companies with under 5 staff than any other size) do not feel very encouraged. We have masses of regulation and yes I accept a few bits may be going but I am not holding my breath... and few benefits.

The bottom line is we are in a very bad recession and need much bigger cut backs than already. So my suggestion of much less state provision, removing benefits and subsidies and letting the poor free market which never gets a look in actually operate for a bit is just about the best and cheapest solution.

I agree with you that most couples are happier when they share chores and childcare. And better for children too.

poppyseeds99 Thu 22-Nov-12 13:16:26

Hi Maria,

You're supposed to be Minister for 'Women and Equalities' - yet:
a) your comments on abortion times suggest you're not all that keen on the 'women' part of your role.
b)The government's WorkFare project forces mothers with youngish children on benefits to work for free with no offer of longer-term job prospects.
c) Proposed changes to maternity leave make it possible for women return to work just two weeks after giving birth at the behest of their employers.
d) I notice you're also not one of the MPs supporting Mumsnet's Miscarriage Code of Care proposals.

Can you point to something you actually have achieved for women? Or a voting track record with response to women that you can be proud of? Because at the moment you - and your government - are looking far from credible when it comes to women's rights - at work, at home, and as mothers.

I would absolutely love it if you - a female minister - could stand up for women - and I'd appreciate it if you could point me in the direction of some evidence suggesting that you've done just that.

slug Thu 22-Nov-12 13:17:19

The Government has just announced that the right to request flexible working will be open to everyone

There's a vast difference between asking and getting especially getting without putting your career on the line.

RatherBeOnThePiste Thu 22-Nov-12 13:17:31

I am thinking your £500 grants won't go far with respect to increasing provision, not sure in reality it will make much difference to the quantity of places. Not in real terms? . Drop in the ocean springs to mind

MariaMillerMP Thu 22-Nov-12 13:18:15

Solopower1

Maria, how would you make sure every child had access to affordable before and after school care?

It's so important that we look at this in helping women get back into work. Part of the £2 million pound pot announced last week could be used to help with this and the government's childcare commission is looking at this and will report next year.
We've also extended the early years free entitlement to a 130,000 more 2 year olds. All practical help that makes a difference.

MaureenB Thu 22-Nov-12 13:18:47

Hello Maria,

As the Minister for Women and Equalities, I'd like to ask you to please correct the ongoing inequality for British citizenship by descent. As the law stands, the UK continues to discriminate against those of us born abroad before 1983 to British mothers.

My mum is British but I must register, submit two references, be approved (!) and attend a ceremony* before I can apply for a British passport. If my father was British I could simply apply for a British passport. This inequality is shameful.

*It is the same ceremony that immigrants (without a British parent!) have to attend before gaining citizenship.

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