Another report out last week, this time from the think-tank Resolution Foundation, bemoaning the plight of women working part time.The moment I see “plight” and “women” in the same sentence, I see bright red. And that, in itself, saddens me. I wonder how many others the feminist movement has lost along the way with its muddled moaning. According to the report by Resolution Foundation, British women are paying a shockingly high price for motherhood as they are forced into lower-skilled, part-time work after having children. One participant is quoted as being “amazed” that they could not be a supervisor on a part-time basis. Could they perhaps explain their great plan to me? Who should supervise the rest of the time? Higher-level jobs involve supervision, responsibility and problem-solving. Employers – especially in these recession-bitten times – are going to try and chose the best staff available and yes, full-time availability is often a big factor. The report states that in many families with lower incomes, the mother has to work part time for economic reasons. It bemoans the low subsidies the British pay on childcare in comparison to other EU countries. It complains that women have to make a choice between making more money or spending time with their children. But the report misses out something vital – the word “choice”. Women do have a choice – just as they had a choice to have children in the first place. Feminism originally was all about equal opportunity. Women absolutely and utterly should have the same opportunities as men. But I find it absurd that women expect to be able to have children and still continue that equality in the workplace. To me, one of the most ridiculous feminist “victories” of recent times was the celebration of MP Louise Mensch’s early departure from the Commons inquiry into phone hacking to pick up her children last November. Hailed by many as standing up for her “rights”, Louise Mensch did nothing more than underline more strongly the concept of men staying at work to do serious stuff while the little woman rushes off to take care of hearth and home. Furthermore, it underlined how less available (and therefore potentially unsuited) for senior roles a woman with children can be. Of course equal opportunities are not going to have resulted in equal achievement. I have balanced my career and having children. I am proud of that and yes, I worked less when my children were younger. It was a privilege and I never once considered myself to be a “victim” because of it. Jan Cavelle is founder of The Jan Cavelle Furniture Company.
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