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Parliamentary committee wants your views on issues faced by working women

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

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

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

They are especially interested in your opinion on:

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

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


Welovecouscous Mon 10-Dec-12 22:28:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

nonameslefttouse Mon 10-Dec-12 22:51:10

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.

Anifrangapani Mon 10-Dec-12 22:51:59

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.

3littlefrogs Tue 11-Dec-12 06:53:06

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.

Xenia Tue 11-Dec-12 07:13:40

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).

Meglet Tue 11-Dec-12 07:26:44

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 angry. 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 hmm. (Needless to say my boss has a wife who does all his domestic stuff).

SuiGeneris Tue 11-Dec-12 07:40:03

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

CabbageLeaves Tue 11-Dec-12 07:47:43

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>

OrangeMochaFrappucino Tue 11-Dec-12 08:02:33

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!

DoodleHolly Tue 11-Dec-12 08:24:41

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.

OrangeMochaFrappucino Tue 11-Dec-12 08:26:58

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.

TunipTheVegedude Tue 11-Dec-12 09:14:04

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 hmm

BlueHat Tue 11-Dec-12 10:50:53

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.

BlueHat Tue 11-Dec-12 10:54:43

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.

AnnMcKechinMP Tue 11-Dec-12 15:17:10

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.

HilaryM Tue 11-Dec-12 15:29:14

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.

IceNoSlice Tue 11-Dec-12 19:12:26

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.

bigkidsdidit Tue 11-Dec-12 19:24:20

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 smile

bigkidsdidit Tue 11-Dec-12 19:26:05

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.

CabbageLeaves Tue 11-Dec-12 19:57:25

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

TunipTheVegedude Tue 11-Dec-12 20:41:43

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....)

wanderingalbatross Tue 11-Dec-12 20:49:49

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).

Xenia Tue 11-Dec-12 21:55:16

"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.)

madwomanintheattic Tue 11-Dec-12 22:48:47

Big kids, were you on cawks?

madwomanintheattic Tue 11-Dec-12 22:49:36

Sorry, that was a bit weird - if so, is it still going, underground somewhere, and have you guys been working towards this?

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