Parliamentary committee wants your views on issues faced by working women

(127 Posts)
FrancesMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 10-Dec-12 11:48:00

The House of Commons' Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into Women in the Workplace. The Committee is examining what steps are being taken to tackle workplace gender inequality, and what more should be done.

The Committee is keen to hear Mumsnetters' views on this issue, in addition to the formal evidence sessions that will take place in Westminster.

They are especially interested in your opinion on:

*Obstacles for women wishing to progress in the workplace
*Issues faced by women wishing to return to work following childbirth
*The gender pay gap
*Flexible working

This is not an exhaustive list: the Committee welcomes your comments on any area within the inquiry's terms of reference, which are available on the Parliament website

Thanks,
MNHQ

dementedma Mon 10-Dec-12 15:17:39

Agree cost of child care is a killer.
something REALLY needs to be done about this to enable parents, but usually the mother, to be able to work.

Missmodular Mon 10-Dec-12 15:25:35

Another vote here to encourage employers to make more of their roles part time and be open to job shares. I really don't understand why there are not more part time options for professional roles and I think the government could do more to change this.

The cost of childcare is excessive and the few tax breaks don't compensate for that. Many women get stuck in lower paid part-time jobs and/or get sucked into the CTC/WTC cycle. Then it becomes much harder to take the next career step.

I wish the government would take a serious look at how other European countries organise it, not just the Scandinavian ones but also France and Spain.

I work in the NHS and have faced hostility and resentment from childless women. I can understand why but it's because the current set up is so either/or. It is extremely hard to get a part-time or flexible job if you are not a woman with kids. It's seen as not taking your career seriously.

From a government policy point of view I would focus on reduced childcare costs (why on earth is it private sector?) and improve part-time and flexible working for all through a measure of sticks and carrots. Tackling the long hours culture would help too.

slug Mon 10-Dec-12 16:19:35

Copied and pasted from another thread:

Partly it's about inflexibility. Partly it's about the long hours culture. But, in my experience at least (though I'm not particularly senior) it's about the culture of the work environment before you are even pregnant.

My decision to quit the job I had before I was pregnant (I hung on for a while after coming back from maternity leave) had as much to do with the drip drip of insidious sexism and the acknowledgement that women, even though lip service was paid to equality, were never going to be promoted. It's not the big things, it's the little things. Like:

The kitchen/tea room being seen as the responsibility of the female staff to keep clean. I never saw a man empty the dishwasher for example.

Sexist 'jokes' that went unchallenged or were expected to be treated as 'banter'. e.g. the inevitable comment about liking to see a woman on her knees every time I climbed under desks to fiddle with some cables. Not to mention the 'hormone' joke or rolled eyes if a woman gets angry.

The favoritism given to men. I don't know why they don't realise that we notice when male colleagues are given more training opportunities, promoted quicker and leave work early without comment. And let's not forget the number of times my suggestions were noted only after they came out of a man's mouth or the assumption that the woman in a meeting always takes the notes.

The different dress codes. I'm in the upper echelons of middle management. In meetings, especially amongst us techie types, the difference between what is acceptable for a man and what is acceptable for a woman is glaring. The men can get away with neat jeans an T shirts but that if frowned upon in the women. Without exception the women are expected to be groomed in a way men aren't.

The belief that presence = commitment. I leave at 5pm on the dot every day. This is not because I lack commitment but because I am efficient. I don't spend my time farting about on facebook and playing games in time wasting tasks. (she says's posting from work, though in my defense, I'm on my phone waiting for a person to turn up for a meeting). Like many of my female colleagues I'm in work reasonably early and, by the time many of my male colleagues appear, have put in some seriously efficient quiet work time where much gets done. But inevitably, the early starts aren't noticed but the prompt leaving is.

I guess, like many women I took time during maternity leave to take stock. I saw an environment where young, poorly qualified and inexperienced men were promoted over efficient capable women. I saw these women having to manage their bosses and tidy up after their mistakes. I saw the glass ceiling. I wondered if I really wanted to work for a company that clearly didn't value me or my gender but were prepared to exploit us none the less. I could see any woman who had been promoted forced to conform to the company culture and laugh along with the jokes while keeping the women down. So I thought, like so many others, it's simply not worth it. I went somewhere else.

Whyriskit Mon 10-Dec-12 16:28:19

I am very lucky in that my immediate line manager and the quango I work for are flexible and have allowed me to return to work p/t after both DCs.
They also encourage remote working (I am in a profession which is not desk based).
My main issues are
1. Cost of childcare - it pretty much eats my salary.
2. Emergency childcare. I don't have family who can help so either DH or I have to take time off.
3. Nurseries tend to close at 6 which means we are pushed to get there. We live in a suburb but work in a city. If it's a day I work, DH will often leave "early" at 5 but this is frowned upon.

Xenia Mon 10-Dec-12 16:55:52

I have done pretty well helped by ensuring no sexism at home and each doing as much sa the other (5 children).

Taking 2 weeks holiday in stead of maternity leave and back full time.

Most of all being in my view best at what I do in the UK. Few are as good or as reliable whether male or female.

So in answer to the questions:
*Obstacles for women wishing to progress in the workplace
Too many women wanting flexitime, married to sexist men.
Women and men in their relationships deciding childcare is a female not a parents' issue.
*Issues faced by women wishing to return to work following childbirth
I recommend the two weeks off per baby. You tend to find your pay stays high and you do well and it is best for babies too.

*The gender pay gap
Keep asking for more. A survey of MBA graduates found every woman paid less than the men in the next job. Why? All the men thought they were great and pushed for more and more pay. Every woman thought she was really lucky to have the job and failed to press for more pay. So realise how good you are and push for more pay all the time. I don't know why I am like this and many women aren't.
*Flexible working
For sissies or women married to sexist men. Avoid it. You end up trapped in the ghetto of home with a husband who thinks you are there to iron shirts and a boss you thinks you aren't serious. Leave flexible working to men or low paid public sector workers.

My advice to women is avoid sexist men, never arrange child care - leave it to men, pay half the costs each; Secondly don't take long leaves - pick work you adore. Thirdly advice to employers think laterally. I hate golf, I don't drink. I have never watched any sport not even a second of the Olympics but I am very very good. I am not clubbable and like to be here at home not doing corporate entertaining. Women and men who do it get on better which is fine as I out earn just about all of them without bothering with it but a lot of promotions come about through people you know and that is often a male thing or a white male thing - the muslim man who doesn't drink has the same issue.

Think outside the box. Norway has done it. We need the quotas and I hope the EU imposes them on us.

We need many many more women shouting from the roof tops as I try to do that full time work and being that the top of your profession is massive fun as is money and power and getting to the top and that you can have a large family and happy life as a woman. We need fewer moaning minnies going on about how life is hard and more of the happy women setting out how great things are if you earn a lot, work full time and have a family.

Vicky Pryce, Miriam Gonzalez and so many other successful women are great role models.

What I would like most of all is a very very small state and very low flat tax, no allowances even for pensions or tax credits or childcare - just an environment which encourages enterprise - see what Boris J said about India the other week - 30% top tax and 10% for freelancers.

neriberi Mon 10-Dec-12 17:09:55

1. (To repeat an earlier post) Discrimination against mothers, either in the workplace or when applying for jobs. I'm in the process of job hunting and have experienced this, as soon as a recruitment company or prospective employer discovers I'm a mum to a young child I get grilled about my childcare set-up then I don't hear from them again or make it to a 2nd interview

2. Flexible working. I had my request refused despite the fact that my line manager only works in the morning because their childcare set-up. I thought my company was parent friendly, but apparently this only applies to select few of employees.

3. Career changes. There is a total lack of support for mums / parents who wish to career change because of the financial implications.

Boggler Mon 10-Dec-12 17:16:20

Xenia - 2 wks maternity leave! Try thar after a c section. Get real your attitude is extreme and unworkable without a nanny and extra help.

I'm a senior manager in the public sector and I'd dearly love to be able to work part time. However the director (female) that I report to insists that I need to be full time hmm I however try my best to help my staff work flexibly and I font think I've ever had to refuse an application fir reduced hours etc. There's definitely issues with flexible working the higher up you go. if governments were serious about helping women stay in work then the right to flexible working must be made a right especially in large organisations where there is capacity to share tasks.

Unfortunately arranging childcare dies inevitably fall onto women - perhaps because men still earn more in most households so their jobs are seen as most important. In addition although men can take carers leave for sick children etc most don't just because it's not the done thing in their workplace.

Lane81 Mon 10-Dec-12 17:33:00

Like others, cost of childcare (and also the quality) would love to see state funded childcare like in France.

The other biggest problem for me (and results in the gender pay gap) is the lack of paid paternity care. In order to maintain my career and ensure I don't end up on lower wage than equivalent jobs on same level held by men, my partner is taking a year's sabbatical when my year's maternity leave ends. We can barely afford this, but are lucky we can. If he was getting stat pay, like I did, then it would make it easier for us to both return to work; for my daughter to have a strong female working role model; for childcare not to be seen as sole responsibility of women; and if men took same break, there would be less contributing factors to unequal pay.

elastamum Mon 10-Dec-12 17:53:35

Cost of childcare and open discrimination against single parents.

I had to pretend to be married to get a job after my husband left us. No one would employ a single mum in a senior job.

If you can do one thing that would transform the lives of working women then make the cost of childcare tax deductable.

Siri1 Mon 10-Dec-12 18:12:22

I quit my job as a scientist as there was no way to combine my career with pregnancy and progress my career. My DH & I agreed that whoever has the permanent post with consideration of salary would work and the other would quit/ go part time. His job just permanent, mine was 1-5yr contracts. I out earned him but not by enough to make it worthwhile taking a risk on grant renewals (a big shift occurred in that renewal is MUCH less certain even with an established career than it used to be). Part time work at my level was just not feasible, in fact the expectation was for almost permanent presence in the lab.

I also found the culture male biased, by that I mean I never met one man who had to leave early/ skip a meeting to pick up an ill child on short notice.. Pregnant women were called breeders and often took junior poorly paid tech jobs on return from mat leave as these were the only thing on offer even when they were highly experienced staff with PhDs. When running my own team, our beloved prof would always turn toe and ask if I could Russle up a cuppa. I just pointed him in the direction of the kettle. (ooh the raised eyebrows). Slug was spot on with many of her observations. The big issue was being seen to be present. Apparently our lab head thought starting at 7am and leaving after 7pm should be the norm as that's what he did. When I asked him if he minded if I showered, ate breakfast at home, had my haircut at the weekend, did my shopping in the evenings/ weekends and then worked a normal day, he was flummoxed. He just didn't remember doing these things in those hours...

mrscogon34thstreet Mon 10-Dec-12 18:32:36

A lot of very good points have already been made, but I'd just like to reiterate the point that we need a social/cultural change in the perception of men's role in parenting their children. There is a stereotype which many men conform to which is that they are the 'family man' but by this they might 'babysit' their own children for an hour or two here and there, or they might change a nappy if asked. However men need to take a much more active and confident role in family life. My Dh knows when to change my baby's nappy, he knows how to make his breakfast, if he's ill we'll discuss who is going to take time out to look after him. This is unfortunately still quite unusual - it needs to be seen as the norm for any parent to be calling in asking for time out to look after a sick child or for an afternoon off to see a nativity or a refusal to go on a 'work social' as they'd rather have some family time.

Things like adverts don't help - how often do you see fathers portrayed in family product advertising - things like children's foods, nappies, cleaning products etc? Never. They might crop up on an advert for a Wii game or something, but this just reinforces my point above about Dads doing the fun 'babysitting' activities rather than parenting their children.

Phew. Rant over!

CanonFodder Mon 10-Dec-12 18:46:10

Xeina, not wanting to take the tread off topic, but can you sustantiate, in any manner, shape or form your claim that returning to work full time 2weeks after having a baby is best for the child. You come across as more than a little cracked by making such a bold statement. I don't know many women that would put money before the love and care of a child ever, but certainly not two weeks after giving birth!!
The point is, for many women it comes down to a choice, commitment to our jobs or commitment to our families. It shouldn't be a choice we have to make. if a woman takes time out to care for her kids, then there should be a route back to work that DOESN'T involve having to give up her ability to also be there for her family. (or a man for his family for that matter.)

CanonFodder Mon 10-Dec-12 18:47:49

Sorry, lots of typo's... putting kids to bed.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Mon 10-Dec-12 19:07:37

Xenia I don't think that pretending that you haven't had a baby is the way to deal with this.

Women like you who barely acknowledge their children in their working patterns, are as bad as the boss who expects you in the office 7-7.

chocolatecheesecake Mon 10-Dec-12 19:13:51

I agree with previous posters - raising children is the work of the family not just the mother. My DH broke new ground at work by getting agreement to work from home one day a week, and get in at 10am one morning a week so that he could do 50% of nursery runs and enable me to work part time. This was seen as very radical and caused some raised eyebrows about his commitment to work - shouldn't be the case!

The thorny issue of school hours, holidays and wrap around care also needs grasping. The logistics of both parents working and covering the hours when school isn't open are horrific if you don't have family close by/ can afford nannies etc. the one school in the area that provides wrap around care is oversubscribed for that reason. And covering 12 weeks school holiday a year without family/Childcare would mean DH and I spending all our holiday separately. We are dreading our eldest leaving nursery for this reason.

Finally wouldn't it be a fantastic Olympics legacy if the flexible working put in place in case of transport meltdown became the basis of an acceleration of the trend for increased remote and flexible working for both genders and not just for parents? It is possible and needs to happen. The culture of presenteeism needs tackling - I work 12 hour days but am only in the office 8.30-5. As previous posters have said, what registers with colleagues is the 5pm rush for the train not the 12 hours (or me taking calls/doing emails on non working days).

mrscogon34thstreet Mon 10-Dec-12 19:15:41

I also think that what would be helpful for everyone is some advice/tips/hints etc. on making flexible work/part time roles work from managers that succeed. I once was lucky enough to be managed by the most wonderful woman (who actually didn't have children herself) who put lots of thought in to how to accommodate all flexible working and part time requests. This was aided by the roles being suited to giving people who wanted to scale down their hours smaller projects, but she also made sure meetings were on days when people were in the office - or alternated so that PT people could at least make every 1 in 2 meetings.

Sometimes workplaces/managers just need some open minded, creative thinking not anchored by 'but x and y has always been done THIS way'.

Also, at my workplace all flexible working arrangements are subject to review after 3 months and then another 3 months - this gives the business confidence to try out new things as if it doesn't work out it can be changed/tweaked accordingly.

Phineyj Mon 10-Dec-12 19:37:16

Could the NHS be encouraged to provide ante-natal care at times other than the middle of the working day, and at hospitals or health centres near the woman's work rather than home? The current system completely ignores the fact that many women have long commutes and jobs where it's not easy to take full days off.

madwomanintheattic Mon 10-Dec-12 19:37:31

Mm. Where exactly are we on extended schools? I thought by now every school was supposed to offer breakfast club and after school club, and the LA was supposed to be offering holiday clubs?

I know a few years ago mainstream schools were at least theoretically in the throes of getting it all sorted, leaving special schools out in the cold (well, we all know parents of sn kids aren't supposed to work, anyway, right? They need to be at home being carers for £1.50 an hour with no respite and saving the government money) but where are we now?

What percentage of UK schools provide wrap around care?

However, the biggest obstacle is clearly that this is still deemed to be a gendered issue. The entire debate is steeped in irony of the highest order.

Until we lose the idea that women are there for looking pretty, shagging, childcare, and cooking, and men are there to work and bring home the bacon, it's really a lost cause. You can fight it, and make small inroads, but there isn't going to be a sudden major cultural shift where 50% of fathers wake up and say 'hey, I think I want to stay to home and look after the baby, darling.'

More's the pity.

IceNoSlice Mon 10-Dec-12 19:52:06

mrscog I agree that men should be taking a more confident role in co-parenting and not babysitting. Sometimes women are the ones not allowing them to do this (from a sense of needing to be needed perhaps?) but often it's the men who define that role.

In terms of what the government could do to facilitate this- treat flexible working requests from parents equally. I am pleased to hear about chocolatecheesecake and her DH's flexibility for nursery runs. It would be great if this was the norm.

HandbagCrab Mon 10-Dec-12 19:56:11

Agree with slug great post.

in theory I could work for 44 years in total in my role until I retire at the current retirement age. So why should it matter if I take a few years working part time or even out of my career? Why should a maternity leave or two effect my career prospects when we are discussing careers in terms of decades? When viewed as part of the bigger picture it is not something I think should be given as a valid excuse as to why so many women struggle to continue their careers after childbirth.

Perhaps a shift from work being the be all and end all to exploration of other ways of living. Enabling women with kids to work 12 hour days misses the point I think. Equally are the same questions being asked of men at all?

nextphase Mon 10-Dec-12 20:03:42

First thing (and it would mean flexible midwife hours), would be to have more accessible antenatal appointments - maybe appointments near to work, or appointments which start at lunch, and then are available in the evening. And, get them to run approximately on time! I spent soooo many hours sitting waiting for the midwife, who regularly ran 2-3 hours late.

My flexible application was turned down, the first one I'm aware of in the 10 years I've been at the company. Previously grandmothers have been given reduced hours, and someone doing a very similar role to mine has previously worked reduced hours. Can we either scrap the idea that we are all entitled to request flexi hours, or make it really common to job share, so men and women, old, young and mothers can all have hours to suit their lives.

Were not there yet, but I'm worried about holiday care when we reach school age.

Equally tho, we need to get into a situation where mothers can't abuse the system. I'm thinking about a lady at work who has announced she is pregnant with no 4. She came back from her first 3 ML's (a year each) several months pregnant, and is now about to go back on ML with no 4 having been back less than a year. And as she is back weeks 17-25, she has been getting full SMP each time, along with occupational pay.

notnagging Mon 10-Dec-12 21:07:09

I went over my sick allowance due to my kids although I was rarely ill myself. This is a problem for alot of parents especially in the winter. My boss agreed to flexible working in principle but was but very happy about. I am sure I have missed opportunities to progress due to my other commitments but the problem is proving it.

notnagging Mon 10-Dec-12 21:08:15

I would love to find a 10-2 job. 9-5 doesn't fit our flexible life styles now.

Sabriel Mon 10-Dec-12 22:25:17

For me, nursery was a breeze (except for the cost). School is a whole new ball-game. I've had to reduce my hours - and my pay- because although our school has a breakfast club it doesn't have an ASC. They've tried to set one up but there is no demand. I started off using a local nursery for ASC but they didn't have many older children either so were putting them in with the 3 yos.

So you've got short days. Inset days. 13 weeks holiday a year to cover. Sick days. Class Assembly, plays and various activities during school time that parents are invited to. I took an afternoon off to go to a Mothers Day event and there was just one child whose mother didn't come (and who hadn't sent granny instead). Seeing all the little hopeful faces as they came out all looking for their mum I realised that it would be hard for DD if I couldn't go.

We've only got one at school, so paying for Holiday Clubs isn't too difficult, and we are very lucky to be in an area where there is a lot of holiday club availability. We are also lucky to have grandma 1/2 an hour away who is happy to have DD for a week in the summer. Without those 2 elements I don't know how people manage unless they are on a term time contract.

I would say it was time there was recognition from the Govt that although school isn't a childcare facility, if they want parents to work then they need to look at providing some sort of structured care for after school and holidays, for those people who don't have access to private clubs and grandparents.

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