Parliamentary committee wants your views on issues faced by working women(127 Posts)
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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
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
As always I think one of the main problems is that returning to work is seen as a woman's problem.
I think a culture of women being seen as the part timers / working for pocket money/ working if it happens to fit around their husband's actual career is the main culprit.
My public sector employer is on the face of it very supportive of flexible working but in my experience the problem lies with the line managers. Unless you are managed by someone who is sympathetic to the issues themselves quite often the requests are refused on 'business grounds'. Commonly these are mainly down to the fact that the manager is very narrow minded & doesn't believe the work can be done in a flexible way. I imagine the situation is even worse within small/medium private sector companies.
OK, here are mine.
1. Cost of childcare. I had a good professional job but I still only broke even on working with 2 kids in childcare and would have made a big loss once my third kid was born. And yes I know it comes out of the husband's income too, but the fact remains that you are still talking about losing out as a family by having both of you at work.
2. Trouble accessing wrap-around and emergency childcare especially if you don't have family in the area you can call on. A sick child, for dh and me, meant frantic discussions over whose career would be most damaged by staying at home that day.
3. Lack of opportunities to re-enter the workplace for women who have taken time out to care for children, meaning that many are working at well below their skill level - how can that make economic sense for the nation as a whole? Even with skills that are very much in demand you are often looking at paying large fees to keep up professional registration, or prohibitive amounts of retraining demanded to re-enter your former career and no clear path for doing so.
4. Discrimination against mothers, either in the workplace or when applying for jobs. Many women find that what seemed like woman-friendly workplaces when they were childless suddenly seem to become hostile once they have children. I have lost count of the number of brilliant, dedicated women I know whose careers have stalled at 40 despite the same thing not happening to their husbands.
Both my dc's were born in London and I then moved to the USA when they were 3 and 5 respectively. I found being a working mother difficult in both countries. Although my statutory rights were greater in the UK, the logistics of my life were far simpler in the USA. My UK employer was supposed to give me flexible hours, which he did, but I was given less responsibility and lower pay as a result. In the USA, my employer was not required to give me flexible hours, but did because they had to figure out how to get the most out of me within my time constraints...this meant that although my pay was lower, it was not as comparatively low as it had been in the UK and my responsibilities were far greater. Also the system for maternity pay was so complicated that neither my employer's accountant, nor I with my 3 degrees could ever agree on a payment figure.
However, the most difficult part about being a working parent (this applies to males and females) in the UK for me was the lack of appropriate infrastructure. The shops were not open late and on the weekends when I was available to do my grocery shopping. I was not allowed to choose a GP or state nursery/school near my work (had to be one close to my home), which made the logistics of getting my child and myself to school/work/dr much more difficult to manage. Many of the high streets with small local shops are not car friendly which makes juggling 2 children, groceries, dr appointments and a job too time consuming to be managed even with just a part time flexible job. These types of logistics are far easier to manage here in the USA which I felt made me a more valuable worker.
Flexible working should not just be for mothers, or parents, or women, it should be for everyone who does a job that could be done in a flexible manner.
Basic sexism - like hearing make colleagues comment on female colleages' sexual attractiveness - still happens.
Lack of flexible or part time working options is very unfair on women with children. I am very lucky as my employer has agreed to let me return part time, but few mothers I know have this option. In my area it is hard to find childcare beyond 6 pm, and many people commute for over an hour - it just is not possible if your employer is not flexible. Women are forced to give up work, as they tend to be the lower earner in a couple. 5 years down the track you are then looking for a job to fit with school hours, but your skills are out of date.
The government needs to legislate to force employers to offer part time work. This would help fathers as well as mothers as it would mean parents could share the work of parenting more equally. Yes employers will complain and there will have to be some exceptions, but it could help cut the benefits bill as when relationships inevitably break up fewer women will be stuck in the benefits trap with no up to date skills or work experience.
give us a break financially with childcare, we come out with less than people on benefits.
Agree with Gintonic. Employers need to be urged to create lots of 10am - 2pm part-time jobs. Then it fits with school pick-ups and even with early years settings. I don't think many employers would even think about this as an option at the moment.
1. Nannies' wages should be tax deductible. After paying 40% tax on my own salary plus 10% NI (or thereabouts) then tax on Nanny's salary and NI, effectively every pound I earn is only worth about 35 pence. This makes going to work difficult to justify.
2. There should be some sort of protected right to take time off when a small child is sick and so not allowed to attend day nursery, or when the nanny is sick and unable to work. I felt vulnerable and bad every time I was forced to pretend "I" was sick in order to care for my child.
3. Men should be expected to do more childcare! I am not sure how the govt can help achieve this.
I think the problem with most of these issues is that they are imposed unequally in the first place. If parental leave following birth was equally proportioned then career progression, issues relating to returning to work and the gender pay gap would not be such a 'women's issue'.
I have worked in both public and private sectors. I have been asked at interview what relationship im currently in and if I plan on having a baby. I have seen colleagues being employed on the proviso that they sign a contract saying they won't fall pregnant in the first two years. I have heard managers discussing promotion opportunities and openly talking about whether the role will be suitable for the woman based on her being likely to have a baby. Same with training opportunities, and whether it will be worth their investment.
Since having a family myself I have asked for flexible working hours and to work from home in order to avoid adding commuting time to an already long day, to find that the attitude is if your coat isn't on the back of an office chair you are not really working.
I also identify with what Bunjies said about line managers. My current organisation describes itself as being very good at offering flexible and family friendly working but my experience of that has been vastly different with different line managers. It is up to them to interpret the organisations policies as they wish really and if they are not sympathetic to your situation or have very fixed views themselves as to what working practices they want to see, there is absolutely nothing you can do. Challenging your manager on this can also contribute further to the problem.
Whatever gender equality policies companies wave around when asked seems to bear no relation sometimes to their actual practices. This won't stop IMO until there is no basis upon which to discriminate in the first place.
The cost of childcare.
It should be completely tax-deductible and then the voucher scheme can be scrapped, as can the childcare element of tax credits.
I also think that work needs to be done to encourage employers to allow fathers to work more flexibly too, so that they can share the burden of drop offs, pick ups, taking time off to care for sick children and so on.
Childcare costs should be tax deductible. My DH and I are both higher rate tax payer so it is surely better for the economy to keep us both in work as well as taking taxes from childcare staff? However there comes a point whereby the financial benefit to us of both of us working is negated by childcare costs. Doesn't make sense (for the government) in the long term as they will lose tax revenue.
Flexible working at my company means taking whole days out (eg working 3 or 4 days per week). I like the suggestion above for employers to consider PT roles during school hours (10-2 or 3).
Emergency childcare is a night mare to sort (can't imagine why no one would want to look after my plague ridden darling). The cost is a major barrier. I wanted to work f/t but couldn't afford to. I was lucky i got to reduce my hours but it could have cost me my employment. It was impossible to plan /budget because i couldn't find out what help with costs i would be entitled to.
I felt horribly out of my depth when i returned to work and would have loved some more training to get me back on track.
IceNoSlice - yup. I used to pay lots of lovely tax when I could afford to work
Issues faced by women wishing to return to work following childbirth.
This is the most pertinent for me, I was made redundant whilst on Mat leave. It is nigh on impossible to get a part time job that fits in with childcare hours if you haven't previously been in the role as a full time member of staff. I wanted to be at home as much as possible for my two, and number two took a long time coming. So now i have a 7 year gap on my C.V. and despite years of experience and degrees in my field I am virtually unemployable at anything less than minimum wage. So basically my degree....and the debt I incurred to get it, and missing out on the housing ladder due to paying back that debt, were all for nothing.
I have stated my own business in desperation, but it's very hit and miss. I'd like to see some form of job share or part time provision made for mothers, so that we don't HAVE to put our kids in childcare for 10 hours a day just so we can get back to working.
The key issue has got to be the cost of childcare. But I do not know how we make it affordable for us and still pay the workers a living wage.
Unless the government can make it tax deductible or subsidise it.
Cost & Availability of childcare is probably the main issue for us.
Firstly the cost of the actual childcare plus commuting costs would have more than cancelled out anything I would earn if I went back to work. So, as a family unit, we'd be worse off. OTOH this won't be an issue when both children are at school.
The second issue is the lack of childcare options. The nurseries and after-school club here are only open until 6pm. That doesn't leave enough time to get home from the city centre to pick them up by about 5-10 minutes. I was actually planning to speak to the afterschool club about extending it's hours by 15 minutes for this reason but Dh has changed jobs and it's no longer a problem for us .
We also have no options for when the kids are sick. We have no family near by (my family all 2hrs+ away and Dh's family are 4hrs+) . Friends are either childless & working or have kids so don't want to look after other people's sick kids. What on earth do people do in that situation? (and particularly when everyday childcare costs mean it's only just worthwhile working and emergency childcare costs would wipe that out) I'd love to see some form of affordable emergency childcare.
I'd like to point out that childcare is an issue for parents not just for women. Or it should be!
Ill child care especially is an issue. I don't know of any nursery or child minder who can or will take an ill child on. I'm lucky in that I freelance and can take care of my son when he's not at school but if I couldn't, I'd have a problem as I have no family near by.
I've been lucky to be able to continue working in my field part time, though agree with the difficulty of managing this. During the preschool years, the biggest issue has been the cost of childcare. Now I'm entering into school years, it's the logistics of wraparound and holiday care that is causing most problems - limited after school provision and no available childminders here. I would love to be able to pay someone to have the kids after school without them having to be formally registered as a childminder - after school provision is very different to baby / preschool provision IMO.
Biggest issue = the practical support of British Men.
Responsibility for the everyday practicalities of family life is general seen/practised as women's role. Bearing cost of childcare is generally seen as responsibility of women's salaries.
I could not sustain my career because it effectively required me to have an unpaid 'wife' in support. More women can work more if more men take on more of the 'wife' role.
Stop pretending that there isn't work in bringing up a family - instead, get men to take up some of that work.
Biggest issue = the practical support of British Men.
Responsibility for the everyday practicalities of family life is general seen/practised as women's role. Bearing cost of childcare is generally seen as responsibility of women's salaries.
I could not sustain my career because it effectively required me to have an unpaid 'wife' in support. More women can work more if more men take on more of the 'wife' role.
Stop pretending that there isn't work in bringing up a family - instead, get men to take up some of that work.
Sorry for double post - site went down.
Also - re-reading that - the "British Men" bit isn't intended to be some kind of racist invective - I mean 'men in Britain', as relevant to the scope of the committee. I'll stop digging now!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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...
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!
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.)
Sorry, lots of typo's... putting kids to bed.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
I would love to find a 10-2 job. 9-5 doesn't fit our flexible life styles now.
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.
More companies need to do this. There is no reason my pre children job could not be done as a job share or from home, but there is a culture problem with doing it.
My old job has a promotion structure where you can only progress by working hard through the childbearing years. Women can't move up to a senior level if they have dc.
As a working mum - the inflexability and cost of chilcare
As a self-employed mum - see above
As a employer - see above as well as upto a years leave to cover, requests for this that and the other, additional time off regarding childcare/illness. The needs of my business are paramount, if my clients don't receive the level of service expected because little Tommy is ill, they have the option to go elsewhere, no clients no business no employees. If I advertise a position for a x amount of hours between the hours of x to x, don't apply if two weeks down the it is unworkable and you need to finish at x or start at x becuase if the role could be done that way I would have advertised as such!
I suppose its different expectations, I took two weeks maternity during which time I dealt with emails and calls etc I suppose what I mean is I stayed at home two weeks. I am a very loving mother and do everything expected of me as a mother however I am also in business I create employment, revenue and pay taxes. Before any party promises the earth to parents make sure the cost isn't passed to employers because I can be absolutely certain it won't encourage employers to employ.
Obstacles to not getting promotion - weirdly in my company it is height. I am tall so get included in the informal, mainly male conversations. There are many very capable shorter women who don't get a look in.
Being heard. So often women are talked over in meetings so the male next to her can repeat the idea as their own idea.
The assumption that mothers are the primary carer. My dh does all the child care, looking after poorly kids et al. My male colleagues assume I will need to take time off to do this.
Flexible working should be automatic for all employees and employers need to make the case for exception.
Pay gap - make renumeration packages open. Ours are and it has led to women being valued more.
I am just leaving for work now. I work 7.30 till 3.30. DH works 8.30 till 7.30. luckily dd's school opens at 7.30.
My sons are now in their 20s. The most difficult thing for me, even though I worked part time, was the endless school holidays.
Worrying about what your 13/14 yr old ds is doing all day while you are at work is very stressful.
I would like to see schools open all year, with sports clubs, music, dance, arts and crafts, so that young teenagers do not spend the holidays hanging around the streets.
School holidays could be shorter and spread evenly throughout the year so that holiday costs do not rocket outside term time. That would solve the problem of unauthorised absence.
Summer holiday care is extortionate and not affordable unless you are very rich.
The need for childcare doesn't go away once your child is in secondary school. anyone with teenagers knows that parenting has to really step up if you don't want your child to get into bad company etc.
The state needs to stop ignoring teenagers and leaving them to their own devices, expecting their parents to work full time, then blaming the parents for the fallout.
I second the point about not burdening small businesses with more admin.
Most of all is women avoid sexist men. The public sector worker comment above about women working for pin money and men being Mr Big Bucks is just the attitude we need to change. Much less flexible and short hours working for women and much more for men is going to change that and get women to the top along with my preference for low flat taxes.
(CF, not the place for that on this thread. The argument which is also mine goes that babies need to bond and thus if you return full time work at 2 weeks they bond equally with mother and father and nanny and they have consistency and constancy in their lives. Also high income is one of the best indicators of child outcomes, school fees can be paid in due course etc and if women keep working full time then it's fine. Also to the other poster it is not pretending you have not had a baby - that is very very sexist. Women often want to return quickly just like men as it's the better deal and should not be criticised for it. If you are 24/7 with the baby and then wrest it fro your bosom at 9months that is hugely traumatic compared to baby always used to exact same routine from 2 weeks when parents go to work and nanny takes over etc).
This is really an issue for working parents not just women. The sooner parenting is seen as 50/50 male / femal split the better. I would like to see slightly longer, enforced paternity leave, maybe a month - then either parent can choose to go back. Force the fathers and employers to accept running a family + household is hard work and not just down to the mother and the magic errand / housework fairies.
IMO as an administrator flexible working is my biggest problem. In my job I do not receive phone calls, rarely need to attend meetings and my job is e-mail / spreadsheet based....yet it is not the least bit flexible. And working from home is only for management . Even my boss said my role could be done on compressed, term time hours but he thought too many people would moan if he let me do it. Thanks . (Needless to say my boss has a wife who does all his domestic stuff).
Main things are the high cost of childcare, the lack of a right to time off when the children (or the nanny) are ill and the unworkability of the right to flexible working.
Childcare is a cost of employment just like a professional subscription, so should be entirely tax-deductible. The present system of vouchers is not available to all and covers too small a sum.
Also, 40pc taxpayers lose half of their vouchers on changing schemes, with the result that some are worse off after changing jobs (e.g. due to redundancy). Couple that with the voucher scheme being voluntary and you end up with people stuck in a job because leaving it would mean losing the vouchers.
Lack of a right to time off when the children are ill disproportionately affects women as in reality we are the ones who do the most childcare at home. In our case, DH would have gladly stayed home when the babies were ill, but he cannot breastfeed!
The right to flexible working isn't really a right: way too easy for employers to get out of it citing business reasons. End result: highly skilled professional women becoming housewives not because they want to, but because the alternative is the children seeing neither parent Monday to Friday.
Off to care for said children, back later
Making this a thread about women and linking it to pregnancy, children and child are pretty much sums it up. It takes two to make a baby.
A disproportionate number of mothers are assumed to be default childcare, emergency picker upper, payer of nursery costs and the one who has to change their job to have flexible working.
There is huge resentment 'out there' because the policy is seen by some as supporting lazy women to abuse the policies to support their 'life choice' to work less but still get paid a wage. Now I accept this is true of some (I've heard women discussing this) but FAR FAR more women work as a career choice and a life choice and out of necessity.
Turn it around and make society see it is as a society issue. You don't want PARENTS on benefits....then make it possible for them to work.
I have seen on a non parenting forum a work advisor openly state he wouldn't employ women of child bearing age because the cost to business of maternity was so punitive. (Fair point tbh - I'm sure it has a significant impact on budgets) I've seen others angrily berate the fact that parents get school holidays as a choice for annual leave, are unreliable because of picking up a snotty vomiting child and get flexible working before they do. Huge resentment shown to a working parent. You cannot legislate against that. You have to mitigate the impact and educate those to see that they cannot bleat about mums on benefits, mums being allowed working hours to help them cope with child are and how 'you chose to have them so you should look after them and not expect me to' ....society naturally has children in it. Deal with it.
Cost of child care....don't get me started. Child care for mums doing unsocial hours? Shared parenting <hollow laugh>
Xenia, what about breastfeeding? Few people have the facilities to express at work so in practice, mothers going back after two weeks would put an end to breastfeeding. Not to mention the sleepless nights, recovery from birth and exhaustion - there is no way I was mentally competent and capable of work two weeks in, simply from sleep deprivation. Not to mention, it would have broken my heart to be separated from my tiny baby and I couldn't disagree more that it is best for the baby! What is needed is a lot more flexibility, not a restrictive and wildly unrealistic approach like the one you suggest. It may have worked very well for your family but what we actually need is recognition that all families have different needs and we have to find a way to cater to them. The problem is that we now need two incomes to pay a mortgage - I'm not advocating a return to the 1950s where the woman has to stay at home, but if families could survive on one income, both parents could work flexibly and share the childcare. That would be my family's ideal situation!
I returned to a professional occupation in local government part time.
As I often the case with a child starting nursery I had to take a certain amount of leave due to their sickness but this came from annual
Leave but every review I had involved my
Manager trying to take this into account in my sickness record.
As a part timer with a child I was unable to work extra days in the office free. I worked harder and more diligently than my colleagues but was sill seen as not "committed enough". No matter how many years went past I couldn't shake it and when my manager left he admitted to me he hadn't appreciated me and my talents enough.
Sorry, I can see my post went off topic. It just alarms me that anyone would suggest that a solution to the problems women face in the workplace might potentially involve forcing a bleeding, milk-leaking, exhausted mother to leave her young baby against her wishes. In terms of obstacles facing women returning t work after childbirth, that is a major one! I don't think cutting maternity leave is the answer - it is finding a way to stop women from being marginalized and sidelined after a lengthy maternity leave that is important. As a previous poster pointed out - society has children and the need of both parents to look after those children should be respected so that part-time flexible work is normal, accepted and not a barrier to progression.
The idea that it would all be fine if we only took two weeks maternity leave and the man did his share forgets about the fact that women are always going to be the ones who get pregnant and for a large number of women pregnancy makes you very ill.
Maybe in Xenia-land women who get HG, SPD etc just shouldn't breed
This is based only on my experience:
Time off for antenatal appointments. I had high risk pregnancies (but this could happen to anyone, multiples, complications developing, etc.) so was on fortnightly appointments. Then being kept waiting for 2-3 hours past your appointment time, scared of being in trouble at work, too scared to walk away without being seen in case something serious is missed. Why are antenatal appointments not available at weekends, and in the evenings? Why is it acceptable to keep women waiting all morning as if they have nothing better to do?
Childcare costs. We had hoped we would be better off once we had a child at school, but it turns out that breakfast club and after school club are so expensive that we're not better off at all. We don't need holiday childcare as I am teacher but I am shocked by how expensive that is. I would like to change career but doubt I could afford it if we had to start using holiday childcare. Plus, school holiday schemes are often 9-3, how is that helpful?!
As a working parent, I am totally car dependant. There is no way I could get a child to breakfast club, a baby to nursery, and myself to work by 8am, carrying all their equipment and my laptop, etc. on public transport. Petrol cripples me.
Long hours. Both my husband and I are expected to be at work from about 8-6. No childcare carries on later than 6, or starts earlier than 7.30. We are not high earners, we do not have a big house and could not have a nanny or au pair.
Time off for children when they are ill. I am given one day to sort out 'other arrangements' for my sick child. I have yet to work out who else would look after a child with a contagious vomiting bug? I honestly don't understand that one.
Lol at two weeks maternity leave. Two weeks PP I was suffering from an infected cs scar and couldn't drive or lift anything heavy. I would have been as much use as a chocolate teapot at work. I would have needed a minimum of six weeks off, and really more like ten/twelve weeks. I took longer than that both times, though.
Thank you very much to all who have contributed to this thread so far. As a member of the committee conducting the inquiry into women in the workplace, it is extremely helpful for me to hear what the Mumsnet community have to say on the matter.
I am particularly interested in the issue of part-time and flexible working, so any more comments on your experiences of being a mum and working at the same time are much appreciated.
Ann McKechin M.P.
Why does the website link say that comments need to be in by 5th october 2012?
I'm another pleading for childcare to be tax deductable. My husband and I are both professionals in the high rate tax bracket - the ONLY WAY we can work is by paying for childcare.
Ms McKechin - regarding part time and flexible working. We need to get to a place where employers really consider flexible working requests from both parents and we need to get rid of the attitude that exists whereby people with these arrangements are "not committed".
The type of flexible arrangements available needs to be widened, so it is not simply a case of a woman working a 3 or 4 day week. Options should include earlier starts/finishes or later starts/finishes to enable nursery and school runs. For both parents. Working from home. Compressed hours.
Schools should be required to operate breakfast clubs (for a reasonable hourly fee) and after school activity clubs.
And childcare costs should be tax deductible, perhaps from an extension of the childcare voucher scheme. Current allwance is far too little.
I agree with a lot of these points. The fact that childcare and work is a 'women's issue' says it all. My DH went part time recently and it is wonderful for all of is.
I'm a scientist and on my university Athena Swan committee. This looks at the careers of women in academic science and how to improve them. We are finding some institutional sexism but from our (preliminary) research we are finding the biggest drawbacks to women staying in science is their own belief they won't be able to do it once they've had children. So we've brought in work-life balance seminars, mentoring with professors who have children, all sorts
Sorry - sent too soon
The biggest change we've made is to add 'flexible working requitements' to the usual appraisal form, so everyone, male and female, children or not, can request it and it is a normal thing to do. We hope this will have a big impact.
Flexible working and working from home are all great options. However regardless of what sex you are or how many dogs, cats, kids or elderly parents they have to care for...the staff I employ cannot do their job either at home or as flexible workers. They are working at a distance from home (sometimes 3 hr round trip) and fit in with hours available at each location - different one each day. From an ivory tower you might state that they should be offered flexible working etc but realistically I'd end up unable to staff the 'business'
If one staff member goes sick we have no alternative but to cancel the whole day - no available replacements. Business lost. Having a member of staff take repeated time off for a poorly child would completely scupper things. I say business but actually this is the NHS and patients wouldn't get seen, some with life threatening conditions and money would be wasted - so it's not all about personal profit is it?
No.3 DD drove me spare with vague tummy aches which got her sent home at the drop of a hat. I don't think there is a one answer fits all. It may be good childcare, good family support or an equal parent who shares the 'hit' on your career of having a child. It's a lucky person that works somewhere that accomodates them not being there, with little warning
Bigkids - 'So we've brought in work-life balance seminars, mentoring with professors who have children, all sorts'
That sounds really really great. When I worked in a university and was trying to work out how to deal with all this stuff, there were several people a few years ahead of me who were handling children and career, but as they had to work super-efficiently and then dash off home they were the ones that were never there in the coffee room or free for a quick chat to pass on their tips about how they did it. Meanwhile the person who was officially my 'mentor' was a childless bloke and didn't have a fecking clue about the issues that were causing real problems for me. A formal mentoring programme would have really helped (though - note to any MPs who are reading this and thinking 'Cool, that would be free!' - it would need to be ALONGSIDE, not instead of, the more expensive measures....)
I have an 18mo daughter and am now pregnant with my second. I've been back at work part-time for about 6 months since finishing maternity leave.
In some ways, part-time works brilliantly. I work in a place where everyone has flexible hours and they take advantage (think tech field where people have a reputation for working odd hours!). So in one sense no-one pays attention to when I'm in or when I'm out. I think it's great that everyone can set their own working hours to suit their lives because then those with kids are not seen as taking advantage. My boss realises that letting people set their working hours around their lives makes them more productive in the long run.
But, I'm not convinced it is the best move for my career. I found pregnancy hard work, so deliberately made the choice to step back a little while I was pregnant again. It's hard to fit enough into the shorter week, and training opportunities etc are a bit harder to organise as I'm not around as much. Plus I'm the only one in my department doing part-time, so I've no-one to compare myself to. Think there should perhaps be more discussion of the downsides of choosing to reduce your hours, rather than it be presented as the golden solution. I'm only a short way in to part-time working though, so time will tell how my decision pans out.
I think that flexible working for mothers is not a great idea, there should be a move towards encouraging flexible working for anyone and everyone who wants it (and where the business can support it).
"Making this a thread about women and linking it to pregnancy, children and child are pretty much sums it up. It takes two to make a baby.2
Yes I agree, that says it all. If 28 years ago my children's father could hire and deal with childcare when in 2012 are women so pathetic they allow men to foist this still on to them 100% in some sexist relationships when other women ensure they and their men do these things equally?
(jelly, it is off topic. Briefly I said lots of women go back very very happily early to work. It is not hard to find a room or the loo at work and express milk. My children never had cow's miljk. I breast fed for at least a year. I went back to work 2 weeks after a birth. Do not denigrate those of us who love that solution which is win win all round. I do however support the 6 weeks at 90% pay as that reflects recovery time for many. Let us not all be tarred with the same brush and it is dead dead easy to sit in an office at 2 weeks being treated like a God, than at home minding at 3 years old and toddler and new baby which is what we had at home after baby 3. My point is that plenty of women want to go back quickly and not be pushed into this sexism threads like foist on us that somehow women care for babies. Babies have two parents. real men do as much childcare as women and real women do not accept sexist men at home or men who duck their responsibilities.)
Big kids, were you on cawks?
Sorry, that was a bit weird - if so, is it still going, underground somewhere, and have you guys been working towards this?
17 years ago my (x)h and I were in the same field and earning approx the same amount (I earned v slightly more). I was pregnant (early 30s). I had a good employer (small company) who recognised my worth and wanted to keep me. xh had a large company employer.
We (both of us) decided that 3 day childcare, 4 day parentcare would be a good compromise to meet child's needs and ours. I suggested 4 days per week each - this (apparently) would make his career progression none existent.
I went to 3 days per week. Worked this way for 10 years. My career stalled as I had to ensure childcare, drop offs, pick ups etc. Xh was very hands on but also worked away a lot (not an option for me unless I checked first and the stress involved in the arrangements wasnt worth it)
The company I worked for went into liquidation. I had to find another job, currently working 3 days per week. I looked for 8 months for a part time job on a field which accepts flexible working and which I had nearly 20 years experience. Nothing. In the end I took a full time job, but xh still worked away part of the week, the jobs were in city centre and childcare only available until 545. This meant that 2 nights a week I had to leave at 430. I could work until 7 the other nights, I could start before 8 3 days per week, but 2 days I had to leave at 430. I had to accept a 25% reduction in salary to get a job in my field where I could leave at 430 2 nights a week. Thats the reality of flexible working when you're looking for a job rather than working for an existing employer.
A few years of full time work later, marriage fell apart (hmmmm, no family support, expected to work silly hours, huge childcare costs, high stress levels) xh divorced me for unreasonable behaviour on the grounds that 'during easter holidays Hiding worked all holiday and left xh to make childcare arrangements'. I had made all childcare arrangements for ELEVEN YEARS, but solicitor thought it was valid grounds for divorce (obv divorce was due to far more than this, but solicitor decided, and judges agreed, that this was unreasonable behaviour)
So, thirty years after meeting dh, thirty years in the same industry, ten years I worked 3 days per week, both equally capable (and I'm probably more career focussed), he earns 30% more than I do, he has company pension, I can't afford to retire as we paid any extras into his pension and judges are not keen to award this to spouses, I'm stuck at a level I can't progress from because most people make the 'jump' at late 30s. Because I spent 10 years focussing on family (and did work 3 days a week during that time), I'm trying to make the 'jump' late 40s, but that's not acceptable because if you were capable you'd have been promoted to that level ten years earlier. That's where the glass ceiling is, it's a combination of sexism and agism which says if you are any good you read 'x' level by 'y' age but doesn't take into account that it may be 'y+5' or 'y+10' if you were the primary carer
Phew - rant over. The really sad thing is that i wouldn't have given up my time with my children. I look at them and know I have contributed something valuable to society. But, if you want to look at it financially, it has cost me over 250k (gross) in lost earnings compared to my male partner in the same position, and can't even begin to consider pension funding.
I have accepted that if I want to retire, I sell everything, realise my assets and then accept it's time to go when I can no longer afford to live.....
Hiding, isn't the moral of that story as a woman never put your career second? Never accept the sexism of that. We moved for my work. He followed. I ended up earned 10x what he did. On the divorce issue there is divorce on demand after 12 months in English law. In any marriage you can write out the reasons but anyone in any loving marriage can find enough to write on the form - if one side thinks it's over it's over. I wouldn't worry about what was written as the illustration of that. I wonder if you earned 10x what he did and he was working 3 days a week and part time if he would have divorced you?
As long as women are prepard to play second fiddle to men and go down to earning pin money and accept flexible and part time working they will never get to where they want to be - in positions of power and out earning men. This is the interesting point - if you go for the easy life, whether male or female and go for very long leaves when a baby comes and then work part time you pay the price - thus in a sense foisting all this child care on to women, guilt tripping them into thinking mother must be home more and doing the dreary school run day after day as some kind of motherhood ideal rather than painting a picture of woman as rich business leader which is much more likely if she leaves her husband to mop up the baby sick or he and she hire help, is what also holds women down - sexism is the key to women's unhappiness and lack of progress at work)
Xenia's view that women should go back two weeks after birth is stupid for many reasons, but also very London-centric. Many people commute by car and if you've had a C-section you can't actually drive for 4-6 weeks because you've had major abdominal surgery.
But there is a challenge for all of us here: what can we do differently in our own workplaces? Many of us have senior roles or line management or influence. Basic change management theory shows that the most effective and sustainable changes come from the front line. So what are we all doing to encourage a less rigid, sexist working culture - not just for women, mothers, parents but everyone? Why are women emptying the dishwasher? Why are women organising the Secret Santa (I wish they bloody wouldn't)? Why are we letting ourselves get talked over and taken less seriously?
From a business perspective there are valid reasons why there are limited 10-2 jobs etc. One is that a lot of people would still require/expect their own desk, PC etc. which are fixed costs that are only used part of the time. I take flexible working requests more seriously if people can show how it will impact the business or the rest of the team. Are you willing to come in at 7.30am twice a week and then leave at 2.30pm? Are you willing to work 10am to 7pm?
Marking place for later.
Most women don't have C sections and all the more reason tos top the rise in C sections where there is no reason not to have a natural birth. I have never said everyone should go back in 2 weeks. I just said I do and plenty of women do like this and it works really well. I said I supported the current 6 weeks at 90% pay for women, not men as women need to recover after birth.
I agree with Queen - why are women emptying the dishwasher? Why does Sarah Vine wife of Gove in today's Times write about she (not him) doing all the Christmas cards to teachers. Why if in my non sexist marriage even 20 years ago he did that kind of thing as much as I did and he took the children to the dentist for 17 years and I never once, why if I can achieve no sexism in marriage in the 80s are women today still putting up with sexist pigs at home and doing more than men? Is there such a shortage of men that they have to pander to their every need and take on more than men at home? Are these women brought up on sexist homes so kind of conditioned to think woman equals low paid worker or indeed home servant?
Most of us try to keep good workers. We work around how they work. I have done that with people too. Tiny example but my cleaner now works around her other job. She sometimes is here at 7.30am and sometimes until 7.30pm she has my work ethic, she is marvellous. I will bend her hours to fit to keep her. Our first nanny who stayed 10 years in due course brought one of her babies to work and then the second. Another person who does work for me now does it from abroad. You make the accommodations which suit you. If the person is pretty useless as are I suppose most people then you certainly don't.
Xenia obviously has a very strong and uncompromising view on this. In some ways I agree with what she's saying. Roughly - to achieve equality in the paid workplace, women need to ensure that men step up to equal responsibility/effort on the domestic front.
(Or, men need to volunteer to do that, rather than it having to be another thing that women have to organise...)
IMO, this CANNOT be addressed effectively by tweaking improvements to flexible working - it requires much more fundamental change. The parliamentary committee should be looking at what can be done to encourage this. I guess that it would need to be introduced as skill development & expectation setting within the education system, as well as infrastructure changes to eg address childcare solutions.
While there are examples of marriages that work like this (Xenia has one herself) the large majority do not. I read Xenia's posts as tending to say 'women should be like xyz and not let the sexist stuff happen' - that's quite hard to hear. It's one way round to put things, and there's some truth to it - but it can't 'just happen' - it requires a large-scale skilling-up of women to negotiate that, and a large-scale expectation change of men. It's what the feminist movement has failed in to date (on a most-of-society level).
(I don't think the 2-weeks mat leave solution is realistic for most people - I think this denies the physical work/trauma involved in child-bearing as experienced by a large % of mothers. But I think that's a slightly separate debate)
I am currently on maternity leave from my professional public sector career. Before I left I was keen to negotiate my flexible working request for my return. I was shocked at how little my managers and indeed the organisation, wanted to support my application.
To all intents and purposes there are family friendly policies and flexible working is welcomed corporately, but the reality is very different. The attitude was very much "we are only legally obliged to consider your request, not grant it. We have considered it and decline it."
That is a pretty big obstacle to my return to work or furthering my career! Not one of the female senior managers where I work has children...
Brawhen, I think 1 - 3 months which is what plenty of women do is fine and we should not criticise women who want short leaves as actually long term it can be best for marriages, finances, money and babies.
The biggest issues holding women back are (a) no matter what they earn unless they are I, they marry up - men a bit older who earn more, whether the woman works in a call centre or Tescos or in a bank so their work is always seen as secondary and worse paid - men tend to marry someone they like who is pretty or/and has big breasts and women subconsciously look at the pay packet and (b) once they do marry women tolerate sexism at home. If you look all those of us who have been very successful full time working mothers just about all of us have not tolerated sexism at home.
Oh - I absolutely agree that more (all) marriages/parenting relationships should be far more equal, and that is probably the biggest issue holding women back.
I married someone earning less, and slightly less career-y than me - but was still scuppered by the unequal/sexist weight of domestic work. You can argue that I failed on toleration of that. (It wasn't the only reason for stepping back from my career, but it was a very significant one.)
But HOW to stop that happening - that's what needs addressing.
Also agree that 2 weeks mat leave should be a perfectly valid option. Just that I don't think we should plan around that being normal/average.
I think that when you're a woman significantly outearning your partner, it's probably easy to go back to work a month or so after having a baby, especially if you can afford to pay for help.
But most couples aren't in that situation. Even couples who have equally balanced careers pre-kids find that someone has to do the work of looking after the baby and there are loads of financial and societal reasons why that is normally the mother. Many parents can't afford the flexible nanny care you really need to support two good careers, unless they are financially well off. There are plenty of good professional careers that don't pay all that well, especially if you are in the early stages.
Wandering, just interested, what financial reasons mean it's usually mothers?
Like mentioned up the thread, women tend to 'marry up' with a man who is earning more, so it often makes more sense when doing the sums for the mother to stay home. I know plenty of mothers who earn significantly less than their partners, and (sadly) I think it's a far more common situation than mothers who outearn their partners.
I do agree that the fundamental issue needs to be greater equality generally - in the argument around who stays at home to look after a sick child, its nearly always the woman that does it. Don't ask me why - I had a professional career at a fairly senior level, but I nearly always stayed at home when the children were ill, despite the upheaval this caused at work. Imo a combination of the maternal instinct as well as ingrained sexism within the workplace and in marriages. When you work part time, everyone (and I mean husbands as well as colleagues) treats your job as less important, even if its more senior/highly paid.
However I think there does need to be some focus on tackling the workplace issues. Until women (OR men) working flexibly are taken seriously in these positions, the underlying sexist attitudes won't ever get addressed.
IME the key issues facing working women are:
1) Massive costs of quality childcare which for many women wipes out any financial benefits of working.
2) Companies need to pay more than lip service to flexible working. My ex employer is regularly in the press spouting off about how good they are at this but my experience there was horrible. It makes me
cry laugh when I see them promoting themselves as leaders in this area.
This means - more creative approaches to flexible working; genuinely looking or opportunities for job shares or areas where PT working can work without major disruption to the business, and provide proper opportunities for advancement rather than stagnation.
3) There should be better mentoring within organisations so that those who actually buy into this way of working can promote it within the organisation. I had a wonderful mentor at work who had a family of his own and who supported me after ML. When he left I found myself shunted onto rubbishy assignments, allocated poor resources and generally with no support.
But you said yourslef this is in the case where their careers are "balanced" (which I understand to mean roughly equal)
I think careers can be balanced but not financially equal. I have chosen a career path that just doesn't pay as well as DH's, although I think intellectually they're on a par with each other. Plus, DH being a couple of years older gives him an 'advantage' in terms of pay even if our careers were the same.
Also, in my case, maternity pay meant it made far more sense for me to stay home with DD, but the law is changing on that front.
All little things, but they add up to create the bigger picture.
Madwoman - sorry, don't know what you're talking about
Wandering, that's not tre any more. I believe that 30 year old professional women earn more than men before they have children? (may be slightly mis remembering).
Hiding, you say you both wanted 2 days at home. Then your husband refused to do any, so you did it all. Likewise people saying 'it made sense for me to be at home'. Surely we need to really make it possible to share care and both parents go part time if that's what they prefer or the gap of senior women in professional jobs will never go. Women's careers should be considered - by themselves as much as their bosses and husbands - as just as important as the men's.
The reasons women play second fiddle as Five asks are the ones I mentioned - women marry men who earn more on the whole or if they do not they are stupid enough to allow men to lumber them with much more dull domestic jobs or rushing home to let the childminder go than men do.
So one answer is to train our daughters as mine are to be feminists. You can do that by buying the books we bought showing women as leaders and doctors and men at home, when they are little. You can ensure they see happy working mothers earning a lot of money. You can skip buying them the barbie dresses and suggesting their wedding day is the most important day of their life. You can encourage them to climb trees and be adventurous.
As to the question of how does a woman who is just married where working and perhaps her husband earning about the same - how does she on that first evening when he assumes she will cook how does she avoid that. She just needs to realise he is as lucky to have her as vice versa. She needs to say - great . I am happy to cook tonight and you cook tomorrow. Or she could say you cook and I wil do the washing. At one stage I did not know how to use the washing machine as my children's father had 100% of that role.
May be parents need to teach their daughters how they would run such a conversation with a sexist slob they have been foolish enough to marry of course.
Sexism is really at the root of a lot of this and as I said women who don't earn much marrying men who do.
I always enjoy it when Xenia is on a thread. I don't 100% agree but it is always an interesting argument, and we need people with strong opinions and conviction to effect real change.
One of the biggest challenges can be that if you take flexible hours you are seen as being not committed as child care can make you less flexible about when you are available in work. Work is often given out so that you ave less opportunities to ' shine'. Promotion becomes more difficult. Especially if there is an old boys network in place too.
School hours and wrap around care is often not long enough or inflexible, making child care for school age children difficult. Access to holiday clubs can be limited in both the hours they are open and availability too, especially for the 8-12 yo age group
I work for a large Govt Dept that actively encourages flexible working for their own benefit (no 1 being there aren't enough desks to go round ). Men as well as women regularly work from home or do compressed hours (working FT hours in 4 days rather than 5). It makes for a much more productive workforce.
The Govt is currently reviewing CS conditions with a view to bringing them in line with the private sector [Hmm]. That suggests that soon all these alternative working patterns will cease, at huge cost to the business.
So it seems odd that a Parliamentary committee is looking into this now, when another lot are looking into things with a view to change.
As working parents, our lives were easiest when ds was under school age. As we looked at schools, we realised that accessing wrap around and holiday care that had long term viability and offered ds more than just somewhere to be was incredibly hard.
Attitudes are hard to change too - this week I'm working in the US, and ds is ill. DH is working from home (not a problem normally), but yet his boss was quite snippy about 'is your wife away a lot', when dh would have needed to share the week anyway
While you can ask your existing employer for flexible working arrangements, most jobs are advertised as full time. This puts a barrier up to women moving employer to further their careers. I don't know the solution to this, but it is a real problem.
Breathe, good point.
Yes, I have found this to be a major sticking point in my career. I am an architect and have for years worked 3/4 time in small offices, but in the current economic climate, coupled with my level of experience, there are no more part time jobs. Only the large firms are hiring and they only want full time people at my salary/experience level.
Agree there needs to be better choice of part time jobs available. I rarely see part time jobs advertised that are anywhere near the salary I used to earn (FT equivalent), in fact most are less than half. I think this is indicative that employers don't take part time working seriously.
There are huge numbers of women who are highly skilled who have left to care for their children for a few years and are now effectively blocked from the labour market. What a waste! There needs to be better access and support for mothers back into decent jobs rather than having to start from the bottom all over again.
I always find it particularly ironic when I read about employers complaining that young people today can't do basic maths or write good English.
So employ middle-aged women!
I do work part time but in my experience you are overlooked and feel as if you constantly have to try harder to make up for having the luck of getting part time hours.
After school care is causing me major headaches at the moment. I work part time but need before and after school care 2 days a week. DS is currently going to the school's breakfast club (which is great and cheap) and a childminder picks him up after school, but she won't be able to do this from Jan and I can't find another one.
The school does run after school clubs but they don't run at the time (for example not in the last week of term) so it's not a really reliable solution but I can't see what else I can do. I can't drop any more hours at work (firstly I can't afford to and secondly I'm not allowed to, there are minimum hours we have to work).
I also think this issue is linked with boardroom quotas (which I don't think I agree with). The reasons why there are few women on boards, are the same as many of those discussed on this thread. Sort out the issues of supporting women along their career path, before, during, and after children and the number of women on boards will increase.
When I say 'during' I don't mean actual childbirth
I mean maternity leave and beyond.
bigkidsdidit do you have any more info? I also remember something recently about 30 something women out earning the men, but I thought it was only in certain places and certain industries. And even then, it wouldn't necessarily translate to women earning more than their husbands due to the 'marrying up' effect. Would love to be wrong on this though!
So we seem to b e concluding ensure women do not make the mistake of working part time or flexi time any more than men do and all will be well. So it is an education of girls point - go part time at your peril, it can ruin your life and also ensure inequality in your relationship at home and much less money. Eradication of sexism in terms of expectations that only muggins women will do dross domestic stuff and home and forcing men to do as much as women at home.
I'll have a search for you wandering - I read it somewhere a while ago, I'll have a think!
I do think we have to be careful with the flexible working etc to make sure it doesn't become someting just women do, like part-time, and therefore another easy way to discriminate
Thanks wandering, food for thought. I think what riles me is the basic assumption that all things child related are within the remit of the mother which Dh ans I are as guilty of as anyone else. I have a flexible job and so can usually make school plays etc. Last year I shifted my hours to go to dd's nativity while Dh went to work as normal. This year Dh made his leave start on nativity day and so will be going. Despite the fact ill be working from home, I can't spare the time so ill be "going to work" as normal. Yet the questions from the grandparents are starting...
bigkids I came across this article in the Guardian from last year, but it's about women in their early 20s earning more. It also says the effect starts to disappear by late 20s at about the time women start having kids. I have heard a few senior women say something similar recently - that when they were starting out it seemed like an even playing field, but by the time they got to senior positions the balance of power had shifted towards the men and they couldn't really explain why. I also see among my own friends that lots of the women are in highly paid professional jobs, but they still don't outearn their husbands who are in higher paid professional jobs. So not really sure what the answer is, and what happens in those years bridging the junior and senior positions??
Is it not 'they have children and go part time'?
That's probably the article I read and mis-remembered slightly. I didnt pick up on your point about marrying up, sorry.
Is it not 'they have children and go part time'?
I don't know if it's that simple? Plenty of women don't go part-time, as there aren't that many part-time jobs around. Would love to read some proper research into this, but not sure if anyone's looked at it in detail?
I don't know
There must be data on whether there's a pay gap between eg 50 year old professional childless women and men?
Anyway, must go into the lab now
It's not about children or part time. The effect remains whether or not they have children. Quite a large percentage of the women in the UK workforce don't currently, or never have had children. Yet they are still paid significantly less.
I lived this explanation of the problem
Some of the posts yesterday evening were about the lack of part-time jobs advertised. Every job I've had since DD was born was advertised as full-time but I apply regardless. I'm upfront about it and usually give the recruiting manager a call first to see if they would be interested in an application from me. 8/10 it's a yes.
This also goes back to a point that Xenia makes - be really good at what you do. I can say I've done X for Y years, I've delivered A, B and C. Most (although I accept not all) are more interested in what you can do for them rather than can you sit in an office five days a week.
I read this book a few years ago which really helped - only 22p on Amazon! www.amazon.co.uk/Stop-Sabotaging-Your-Career-Strategies/dp/0446697850/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355403222&sr=8-1
wandering, I earned 10x him so not surprisingly I am very happy and kept a great career and continue to do well and never wanted to go part time. Surely that is the answer - ensure women do not always "marry up" and that they never put their careers second and that a load of women like I am who earn a lot and have lovely large families, work full time and get huge satisfaction from their children and careers get some publicity. We never do. All press articles are about moaning minnies who want to work 2 hours a day but not do the housework.
I agree that childfree women often do not do as well but even they are tarred with the same brush as skiver women. If most women want part time hours and are not very committed those of us who are are stigmatised by those other sexist women - every decision by a woman to put her man first is a stab in the back from other working women. The personal is political on these issues.
I accept there is also some sexism although plenty of we women simply vote with our feet, found our own companies and outearn earn men which is huge fun and gives you total control. I sometimes mention here my island but really the better illustration of the "success" is lots of lovely children in fee paying school - women working in good careers can achieve that. women working 2 hours a day in Tesco can't. Get with the programme (see women who ear £1000 a day threads) and you can have a great life. I am not against board quotas as plenty of people don't drink, play sport or share things with other male white board members which has an effect on promotions. I would have liked the new Bank of England Governor to be female and new director general of the BBC but this Government whose cabinet senior posts are packed the gills with white middle aged men is not remotely interested in appointing women to senior positions.
I think it's true Xenia that there aren't enough successful women in the press talking about how they did it. Plus in my career so far, I've never really come across any senior women who've successfully juggled career and children. Plenty of child-free middle management women, but no real senior figures. Which all adds to the general feeling of "well maybe i should just give up because perhaps it can't all be done" when you're thinking of what to do post-kids. I am far too stubborn to give up, but I can see just how easy it is to make the decision to step back in your career and have everyone pat you on the back for it.
I often see articles about senior women and how they did it, but they nearly always worked full time and I can't relate to them. Why should we conclude that you can only get ahead if you only work full time? Plenty of women don't want to do that, and because PT working is not valued, they don't get ahead. I don't think anything will change if you say, well the only way to do this is to work FT.
I'd love to run my own business. I've come to the conclusion that that is the only way to make serious money, be in control of when you work and get better job satisfaction. There should be greater support in this area to help women work out how they can apply their skills in an entrepreneurial way.
Well the abuse started whilst being pregnant
cross as had 2weeks off sick during 1st trimester-nearly hospitilised.
I was then moved to literally the rougher deprived stores with staffing issues as in hardly any staff as last dipstick manager has flexed up his kids over summer and then was september and had no one.
The ones i had were sick, late or useless. some days did 10-12hour days, xmas as coming so was getting busier, food retail is crap, area manager was sexists tosser who just had ago unrealistic veiws of what I could achive if he wasent having a go about standards, it was availiabilty or overspend on wages.. During this time i was sick every day remember it well there was no suport at 8mo9nths preant i was dragging cages of stock off back of lorry as there was no one else.
I then had child had full year off-company paid 1st 6weeks 90%then smp.
My husband was store manager with same company different region,
I was store manager des if hadent left for maternity would have got my own store but gavce it to aman whilst i was off.
when i went back hr and new area manager -had formal meeting which was these are the terms if you come back you need to accept them- when complained i required my on store i was signed off then then said due to being off i needed retraining.
this led to them moving me to different stores a lot very far from home some very rough, felt so stressed out and upset.
when dd1 started nursery fullt ime it was oover £800per month and ony 8-6 sometimes be late due to traffic and they would get stroppy no nurserys went up to 7, none open weekend, they closed for eek at xmas retails busiest time. in retail we expected to work weekends, bank hols.
dd1 as sick a lot every bug going.
I remember vividly me covering storemanagers week off.
nursery rang I couldent leave as as no one.
rang hubby ho orked an hour away-he went to get her.
I then get call from my area manager saying just had angry call from hubbys areas manager. why had he abandoned his store-he left supervisors and keyholders in charge but his boss was annoyed he came to see him and wasent there and implied it was my job.
I told my area manager straight that im on his patch and i couldent abandon the store on his patch as i had no management cover to lock up store and he should tell the other manager to take a running jump.
in all fairness hubby got just as much crap from his boss over sickness as I did.
They discriminated against me so badly in end decided to leave.
I should have taken the to tribunual but I dident want the fuss was too crap they had made me feel worthless like wasent good enough.
moved to another foodr etailer where i declined to mention unless asked if had child. hubby had changedd company so had more flexibility and during training period i made sure i put hours in was seen to be seem and did really well until new regional started ho clashed with him over not being there one evening when he popped in i had done my shift and gone to pick child up from nursery . he then gave me lecture about kids and responsabilities of store and how im limiting future career progression.
So I left.
Me and hubby hardly saw each other.
we had no family or freinds locally
i was earning 400 a month after petrol/nursery.
I quit just before the crash.
Then i tried to get part time jobs-must have applied to 50 i ad 10years retail experience, degree, a levels, gcses.
I have never struggled to find work .
I want part time work even stuff thats min wage be nice but cant even get that as have to work arounds hubbys shifts he does 40-50hour a week
Over the years i keep looking but most employers want fully flexible.
Before I left shitty company no 1-A place where mums love and kerry katona as highly regarded it was very open in mangers meeting that fixed set shifts were to go so that included cashiers with kids and we want people are our beckon call to do weekend and evenings.This is a trend in retail maybe other areas.
I recently applied for few xmas jobs and dident get them
saying i dident have enough experience,
hubby says was probably standard message they had to many applicications and say cut off at first 50.
Hubby last year advertised a 8hour temp flexible position and got 200aplications in 3days.
its an employers market full flexible and mothers are not.
I feel discrimination goes on all the time sadly.
unless your employer you worked for prior kids was child freindly
or you work public sector in job share, parts of nhs quite flexible and have much more generous maternity provision.
I do know 1person who works in insurance and has onsite nursery and flexi hours but thats rare and shes was quite high up the chain before she had kids.
As for when they get older.
preschools 9-3 term times only
schools only have 1 in school but for me to go back fulltime i be looking at £100 a day nursery for 2younger kids so £500 +school age child be looking at 50ish so £2200 a month on childcare thats hubbys takehome pay on 40k im no where near that pay bracket.
schools really do have so much time off
so many occasions
random inset days
the afterschool clubs dont run late enough dd old school stopped at 5.30. 1teacher i know used childminder as needed to leave before 8 when brekkie club started and pick up later.
new school has brekkie club but no afterschool childcare provsion they have clubs latest they go onto is 4.30.
old school had outside provider for holidays £60 week but often only ran for 1 week.
I say stop tax credits
start paying and providing reasonably priced childcare for all ages.
its not even like nursery staff get paid much more than min wage their pays just as dismall..
nursery £40 day including meals seems reasonable
its just peoples wages so low and have more than 1 child no family backup you screwed.
I dont know what to do for future. i say ahh when youngest starts school but school hours no easier to juggle than now.
We could do with 2nd income finacially.
will keep trying to get something in new year a job that i can easily do underselling my worth and capability.
I love my kids but would love a career too.
Thourght about retraining but cant afford 9grand a year tuition fees and childcare on top so feel stuck and trapped.
Keep thinking start own business but dont know hat and its tough economic climate out there.
PPP, it will be new businesses and existing businesses expanding which will get us out of this recession or part of the reason so we certainly need to encourage women to do that. I do. If we looked at the women who earn £1000 a day thread on mumsnet most did work for themselves or owned the company. I work very hard because I love the work and have just done a bit now early on Sunday morning but I can work when I choose. I certainly choose to work 50 weeks a year and often do work 6 or 7 days a week but I decide.
I do think the key issues are (a) women marry men who earn more - they marry up so when it comes to who gives up work the women do (b) women tolerate sexist men / sexist men exist so women working full time sometimes (although gosh not most of us who would not for a second tolerate unfairness ta home) end up doing more than men at home even though both work full time.
It is very hard to generalise about what would most help women. This Government will not get elected next time unless it can swing the female vote. With a cabinet with so very few women in senior roles and the impact its policies have had on the poor (more women than men are poor as they make foolish choices to stat at home, not work, work part time or rely on men.. never wise). So if I were the Government given there is no money at all available really for anything and much much bigger cuts needed things like tax deductibility of childcare costs will not be economically possible, forcing all the small employers of the UK (where most people work) to allow their workers to force part time working on them will not work. Non transferable paternity leave rights will be a cost unless they cut women's current rights back.
Some kind of free childcare for those on benefits with under 5s so that they have to work would keep middle England happy. The benefits claimants could mind the children of other claimants so it could probably be self funding. You take your child for 7.30am to the centre where it is fed breakfast by benefits claimants and you get on the bus or walk to your 8 hour a day job as so much of middle England of both sexes does and collect it in the evening. if you don't want that they you either don't get pregnant or you marry someone who can keep you or move countries. Workfare. None of this namby pamby if your child is under 5 you cannot possibly be separated from the precious little darling if you're on state benefits.
My own preference would be for abolition of all tax allowances, child benefit, tax credits and in its place a low flat tax and much smaller state and much less regulation.
I worked in a city law firm full time and I found it very hard. Although I had a good salary, I was not earning enough as a junior to afford to pay for my flat, living expenses, and a nanny on top and so I was left searching for childcare. However nurseries are ridiculously expensive (the cheapest I could find was £1000 a month, the one which would have been better was £1700). So cost of childcare, problems with working hours - who wants an employee who has to 'slope off' as my boss put it, to collect DC? and also the consideration of working single mothers - there may be no back up, I had no family in London, I was on my own juggling it.
I think the main problem is the childcare cost. It's prohibitive. I was paying out more each month to go to work than I would get in.
(I didn't just stop working, I'm a workaholic and I'm a full time student now but face similar childcare problems- the nationalised childcare grant system doesn't cover half my son's nursery fees) However I can see why many would think there's no point in working.
In my firm, children were very much seen as something you do after you have made Partner and you are married or whatever and have various houses. There was not any realisation that sometimes life isn't like that, and I felt I could have easuly been labelled for having a child young, and moreover I felt I was viewed as a risk because I'd already had a child, they viewed me as someone who could just go off and have another one at any time. That;s the real problem with women who have children I thin - the concern the eye is off the ball and once you've had one or two, you might take maternity leave and have another even if that's something you'd never do