Data can often confirm what we think is true. In this case, that women’s lives have been one of the most affected since the first lockdown in March 2020. But what of working mothers? Coat of Many Colors, Dolly Parton‘s song, was released in 1979. Although it can be heard as a song of poverty, it is actually about immense maternal love. So today we celebrate working mums.
The Gender Gap
The gender gap still exists, even at home, even at the executive board level. From the lowest paid to the highest-paid, there is still some way to go. This week research shows the gap as it stands even at the top level. The need for continual insistence on more meaningful corporate responsibility in business to ensure greater diversity at the board level is still relevant, necessary and more pertinent than ever.
I am sticking with Dolly Parton this week and remind you of this great country number.
Data shows that 67% of women declare themselves to be the main responsible adult for homeschooling. Three in four mums (72%) saying they are to be the ‘default’ parent during lockdown. As a result, 53% of women reported struggling with their mental health, against 45% of men.
So as working mothers, should we be grateful or livid? In 2009, despite the fact that I work in a largely female-dominated profession, and in a country that takes gender equality seriously, (or do we?) I knew from societal pressure that keeping my first pregnancy to myself as long as possible. That would enable me to maintain my role and not be pushed aside for new projects and responsibilities. The second pregnancy I also ‘hid’ as long as was possible. By the time I had my last, I had given up on my professional trajectory and had to think of an alternative.
The complex and intertwining roles of the parent and professional are perhaps, at last, becoming seen as having to be connected. My most recent Laugh Out Loud moment in the car was the confession of a Radio One listener that secretly loathed having to entertain colleagues’ new babies in the office, which was bad enough. Imagine having to do it on zoom?
My pivotal supporters
So I had a long period of time, feeling grateful, once the confidence dive took hold (as it does as soon as you are out of the workplace). And had to dig deep to have the innovative spirit to become self-employed. This is hard. But I had some pivotal women, and men, to whom I am enormously grateful. But does this hold today? This article yesterday about being Pregnant then Screwed dives into the complexities and is worth a read.
The disparity in costs of childcare across Europe is stark and a real crisis right now. One can only hope that Carrie Symonds is entering a new field where she may have a voice to the ears of those in current power, once the babymoon is over, or has to come to an end.
The ONS survey reveals a strong story “many parents make changes to their work to help balance work and family life”. Moreover, “almost 3 in 10 working mothers said they had reduced their hours to help with childcare, compared with 1 in 20 fathers.” So does that leave working mums feeling grateful to have any work at all alongside being a ‘mother’? Or does that make us feel livid that we can see that the progress made in the last couple of decades rolling back like a slow incoming tide?
And the new flexi, home-working policy being developed right now, for your business, needs to consider carefully how to ensure greater equality, rather than systems and structures that may well compound the gap further down the line.