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women only spaces

(14 Posts)
anonymouspirate Mon 22-May-17 22:44:42

Hoping for some guidance. I met with a colleague in HR today to discuss the prospect of creating a supportive network for women in our particular field. the colleague, who specialises in HR issues (my professional skills lie elsewhere) said it sounded great, but we should really call it a 'gender equality' gathering. She explained that this would make sure it would be open to men as well, who would then be able to support the women. I questioned this - wouldn't it take away the sense of having a safe space for women, and wouldn't it be more likely men would take a disproportionate amount of authority/air time as they tend to do in mixed groups? She re-emphasised the need to make it open to everyone.

We moved on to discuss motherhood. I began to raise some points female staff have asked me to, around greater flexibility for those with young children. The response here was 'well we really need to focus on extending paternity rights, to create more equality for these women'. I can acknowledge the need for greater paternity rights for men, but do women have to wait for that, before they can request/demand a fairer working environment and support for themselves? I left feeling a bit confused tbh and just wondering what some of you would have said.

MariafromMalmo Mon 22-May-17 22:53:01

I think that for the paternity/flexibility I would have said "these women"?
Or "Yes I agree, obviously flexible working would be for everyone equally so you can hit two birds" etc...

With the other one... she is not your friend. I think you will have to ask her to explain what she sees as the problem she is trying to help, and the mechanism by which her actions will seek to address it? She hasn't got her thinking cap on at all.

OlennasWimple Tue 23-May-17 21:11:35

I think I would have said that she had misunderstood the purpose of the network that you were trying to create. You are deliberately trying to create a female only space to focus on the issues that are holding women back from achieving their full potential, which may include motherhood. Although men may wish to attend and be involved, you want to establish the network first and foremost as for women only, and will consider in due course how best men can be involved as "allies".

And if men want to meet to discuss paternity leave, they are of course welcome to do so, but that's not what your proposal is about.

And I would suggest that she remember that there is a difference between sex and gender.

DJBaggySmalls Tue 23-May-17 21:30:09

I would have reminded your colleague of the Equality Act. Women are a protected class still, and no you do not have to include men if you need to address issues faced by women.
For example, men do not menstruate, and women may not want to discuss menstruation issues they face at work in front of or with men.
Your colleagues training needs updating.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Wed 24-May-17 00:23:42

We moved on to discuss motherhood. I began to raise some points female staff have asked me to, around greater flexibility for those with young children

That is discriminatory for male parents. If you are going to set up a working environment which is flexible for mothers then that has to apply to fathers too. It may be the case that more female employees are unable to work certain hours due to family commitments but that can apply to men too.

PencilsInSpace Wed 24-May-17 19:36:14

You might find some useful resources on this site.

champagnecyclist Wed 24-May-17 20:36:05

thanks pencils I'll take a look

Lasso I didn't just ask for flexibility for females. It's just that they are the ones who raised certain issues to me. If the stuff I/we proposed is introduced, it would apply to everyone - in fact might even go wider to include those with other caring responsibilities. Would be a generally good thing.

I think what made me ponder was the response - when I talked about flexibilities for those with young children (referencing the women who had highlighted it), the only feedback was about men, the importance of increasing paternity leave.

Can I ask something about paternity leave in fact? - let's say hypothetically, that all men in the UK get access to 50/50 paternity leave. Does that automatically advance women's rights?

And maybe this is a slightly separate thing, but what if a women is a) without a man or b) does not want to share the leave (for example they are breastfeeding every 2 hours and the baby does not take a bottle, until 12 months+). In the first instance, paternity leave won't mean a thing to her as she is on her own, in the second instance it would be a private matter for the couple to negotiate?

My mind has started to wander in all directions..

AssassinatedBeauty Wed 24-May-17 21:05:59

What do you mean by 50/50 paternity leave? Shared parental leave already exists, but is problematic and uptake is very low. What I think would be better would be longer paternity leave (say 6 months) to be taken at the same time as maternity leave, rather than taking turns as per shared parental leave.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Wed 24-May-17 21:54:41

Shared parental leave exists and I've had a male employee take around 6 months on 2 occasions.

And maybe this is a slightly separate thing, but what if a women is a) without a man or b) does not want to share the leave (for example they are breastfeeding every 2 hours and the baby does not take a bottle

What do you suggest? There can be very few jobs where taking a break every 2 hours to feed a baby is compatible with actually doing a job.

I've been an employee. I took 3 months maternity leave. I've been an employer who has had to deal with maternity and paternity leave. Factoring in this leave is disruptive. For many jobs the idea of just getting temporary maternity or paternity cover is a non-starter. It has to be accommodated and will be but bear in mind employers have needs and rights too.

AssassinatedBeauty Wed 24-May-17 22:18:41

At the moment, men are not expected to take months off when having children. It's typically 1 or 2 weeks, rarely more. So there is an expectation that women of childbearing age are likely to take significant career breaks for children, and men are not expected to. So women can experience discrimination as a result - not getting hired, not getting promotions, not getting the same pay rises, not getting significant clients assigned to them or whatever is relevant in a particular industry. Even if they don't actually go on to have children or if they only have a few weeks off.

So, the idea is that shared parental leave addresses this, by increasing the likelihood that men take time out when they have children, so that they're as likely to as women. Thus removing one of the reasons that women's careers suffer where men's do not. But, SPL is flawed imo. It has to be taken in turn, rather than concurrently. The issue there is that women are usually going to take the first section of leave, due to having given birth and perhaps breastfeeding. Men are likely to take the later sections of leave, say from 6 to 9 months or similar. But that's the period of leave that is paid at the lowest rate, or nothing at all if it's from 9 to 12 months. It's still the case that many men out earn their partners, particularly if it's a second or subsequent child and the woman is already part time. So if the man takes the later parts of the leave it means managing without the (usually) larger salary, which is often financially difficult. So not many men choose to use shared parental leave.

My partner and I didn't use SPL, partly because I was breastfeeding and because he significantly out earns me (I went part time after DS1).

LassWiTheDelicateAir Wed 24-May-17 23:11:02

So women can experience discrimination as a result - not getting hired, not getting promotions, not getting the same pay rises, not getting significant clients assigned to them or whatever is relevant in a particular industry. Even if they don't actually go on to have children or if they only have a few weeks off

That bears little resemblance to my experience or that of my female colleagues and professional friends and acquaintances.

Of course if you take extended leave you will be passed over-whilst you are off. What do expect? Everyone else to put their lives and careers on hold because it's not fair? But I profoundly disagree that is a universal application.

AssassinatedBeauty Wed 24-May-17 23:18:42

I don't doubt it differs from your personal experience Lass, I wouldn't have expected anything else.

"Of course if you take extended leave you will be passed over-whilst you are off. What do expect? Everyone else to put their lives and careers on hold because it's not fair?" Nothing I wrote in any way implies this. What I would like is longer paternity leave for men, to be taken concurrently with maternity leave, rather than the current implementation of SPL. I'd then want to see more men actually take this up and use it, to see a situation where both men and women are as likely to take extended time off work for children.

ChocChocPorridge Thu 25-May-17 08:19:08

That bears little resemblance to my experience or that of my female colleagues and professional friends and acquaintances.

And yet that is exactly what the national statistics show. A woman's career advancement/pay tails of in her 30s, whether she takes the time to have children or not.

I know 2 men who've properly split childcare responsibilities and parental leave with their partner. The vast majority don't. I know one woman who had twins (first children - and there were issues towards the end), and her partner didn't even take the full two weeks. Men need to step up here, and not by hobby horsing women's efforts.

OlennasWimple Thu 25-May-17 13:27:29

The main benefit, IMO, to SPL is that we might start to see less of the stuff experienced by women on the current thread in FWR about domestic responsibilities. I've long held that it's not just children per se that highlights the inequalities in a relationship, I think this is triggered by women having a period at home on Mat Leave where they are the default carer of the child and main runner of the household. Men get used to this (who wouldn't, when it can be 6/9/12 months of this set up) and it basically continues when the mother returns to work.

If men had similar periods of primary carer and Domestic Director status wink it would be much easier to push back the creeping tide of women being responsible for all the home stuff, therefore would help progress women's liberation no end

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