Wednesday, 2 March 2016

If women want equality, we need to start including men in the conversation !!!

Juggling parenthood with a career should be as much a man's problem as it is a woman's

Vivienne Durham, retiring head of Francis Holland school, said she is not a feminist
Vivienne Durham, retiring head of Francis Holland school, said she is not a feminist Photo: Rex
Another week, another tranche of news stories about the sacrifices we women must make in the pursuit of some vague sense of happiness, and the endless obstacles in our way. First there was an interview with Vivienne Durham, the retiring headmistress at Francis Holland, an all-girls school that is clearly built on all-male money. “I’m sorry, I’m not a feminist,” she told Absolutely Education magazine. “I believe there is a glass ceiling - if we tell them there isn’t one, we are telling them a lie.”
Next came a survey by the British Pregnancy Advisory Board.Apparently, women aren’t 'sleepwalking’ into infertility - actually, the main reasons for putting off motherhood are a lack of financial stability, a lack of a suitable partner, and finally, the lack of a home. Then there were the quotes from Masterchef presenter Monica Galetti, who said that too many women were not prepared to put a career in the kitchen ahead of a life at home in one.
“That’s it,” she announced.”There’s no BS about it - the truth is you’ve got to put it first to do well. I’ve seen many amazing chefs, girls, come into the kitchen and then give it up to be with their boyfriend. Would he do that for her?” Galetti at least acknowledges that there is another sex out there.
Otherwise, in all the conversations about the struggles women must endure while trying to juggle a personal life with a professional one, men are barely mentioned. If a visitor from outer space was to chance upon the average report or survey about parenthood, they would be forgiven for thinking that Earthlings reproduced asexually. This is kind of weird. How can we hope to be equal to men if we are not even including them in the conversation?
Chef Monica Galetti said too many women put their life at home ahead of their career in the kitchen.
Non-feminist Mrs Durham shows that all the expensive education in the world won’t change the widely held belief that childcare is woman’s work. Does the headmaster of Eton feel the need to tell his pupils that when they grow up, they will have tough choices to make when it comes to fatherhood?
Of course not. But it would be good if he did. It would be nice if we started to share the burden of responsibility that comes with parenting; if we woke up and realised that while child-bearing is very much a woman’s business, child-rearing needn’t always be. (Please don’t throw the breastfeeding argument at me, given that only a fifth of mothers in the UK are still using this method at six months).
There will never be proper equality between the sexes until parenting is seen as an equal responsibility - and I mean properly equal, to the point that it is acceptable for men to leave the office to attend to sick children, and not just women. (Not everyone will choose to become parents, I do understand that, but you are still discriminated against in the work place for your reproductive organs, even if you don’t actually use them).
Most experts are united in their agreement that the gender pay gap is because it is predominantly women who take time off work when a baby is born. Now that shared parental leave is in place in this country, we can actually take steps to change that. But just over six months on from its introduction here, there has been no significant uptake from men; it is still not seen as the thing to do.
Jayne-Anne Gadhia with Richard Branson.  Photo: Reuters
This is not entirely the fault of the male of the species. For a start, women have to be willing to actually let their other halves take said leave. But for many mothers, the thought of splitting the leave 50/50 is anathema. They want bonding time with baby without their career prospects being harmed.
I get that. In an ideal world, this would happen. But we do not live in an ideal world - and neither, incidentally, do the men who go back to work after two weeks and spend the rest of their lives watching their child run to mummy rather than daddy because only mummy has always been there for them.
Does this set-up benefit anyone? Just think how devoid of resentment and simmering hatred relationships would be if everyone was expected to work the same amount of hours and do the same amount of childcare! (As a side note, I remember a couple appearing on Woman’s Hour years ago, who had decided, 'as a commitment to the relationship’, that they would divide out childcare equally. They sounded really very happy. And possibly like they were having lots of sex - with each other, even!).
Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the chief executive of Virgin Money, has announced this week that in a government-backed report to be released ahead of next year’s Budget, she plans to recommend that city bonuses are linked to gender balance targets.
I hope these include targets to let men take more paternity leave. (The city does not lead by example on much, but on this issue they could.) And I hope that eventually, boys are encouraged to plan for parenthood as much as their female counterparts. Only then will the battle have been won.