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WHAT MAKES A WOMAN’S CAREER ‘STAGNATE’? CHILDREN.

HOW MUCH will gender inequality cost your employer? Steering clear of recent tribunal case studies, what is the real cost to employers who discriminate against women? Who tell them, as one told me, that motherhood involves career “sacrifice”?

Three out of four working mothers claim they have been victims of discrimination at work as a result of having children. Being passed over for promotion, enduring a lack of job opportunities and suffering pressure to quit were among the women’s claims, identified by the Equality and Human Rights commission in a report commissioned by ministers. Employers who discriminate against women are not only foolish. They will lose the best staff.

​​ Working mothers deserve nothing short of a medal. They bring tremendous attributes, honed through the carnage of working 40-hour weeks, washing eight loads a day, making 15 separate school runs and preparing too many quick teas to count.

Being a working mother does not mean you are only half there – half your brain focussed on work, the other half preoccupied with the kids. From experience, it means you are often working twice as hard, planning meticulously your working day and becoming an organised commander because you know your other job awaits when you get home.

You have to leave on time when you have a school or nursery pick up. But when did leaving on time mean you weren’t committed to your job? When did requesting an afternoon off to attend parents’ evening become a big deal? Why is that different to someone requesting time off for a hen weekend? Why is it alien to WANT to further your career as well as have young children?

A senior executive – female – told me while discussing my application for a promotion that because I had children, I had to accept that my career “may stay stagnant”, a “sacrifice” I had to make. Why?

My children don’t beg me to stay at home all day. And even if they did – tough. Unfortunately, like millions of British families, we couldn’t survive on just one wage. The worse thing is, this piece of diamond advice came from a woman. A fellow mother who should have known better.
What chances have we if female bosses don’t understand? At that time, I needed some intellectual advice from a superior whom I looked up to. A professional opinion based on fairness and realistic chances of career progression, regardless of whether I had children, five dogs, two cats or ten horses.

None of that should make a difference – unless I brought it into the equation. So why did she raise it when I didn’t? If I hadn’t have told her I had three children, she wouldn’t have known. I don’t want – and never have wanted – any special treatment just because I am a mother. I want just fair treatment. The same opportunities as everyone else.

The simple truth is that if companies ignore what is fair, legal and morally right, they will alienate so many of their potential work force they may well end up with the dross. And it is already happening to some employers.Society seems to love young, carefree high flyers. Women who have it all. They can be flexible, work long hours, re-locate. And you know what? Good on them. I begrudge them nothing – that was me once.
But along with their unwavering loyalty comes their inexperience. Those women with no children may indeed have them one day.
So let’s be fair to them, too, and set the correct precedent.

The author, who has three children, uses a nom de plume.

Harriet Edwards

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