Did anyone see the BBC programmes "The Trouble with Working Women"?
Presenters Sophie Raworth and Justin RowlattSince this is a subject close to my heart I watched the first one "Why can't a woman succeed like a man?", and found an intelligent but entertaining look at the place of women in the world of work. The main finding, (which we didn't need to be told, did we?) was that it is the childbearing years that changes things. Up until then, men and women are level pegging. At the stage of having children it is overwhelmingly the women who make a choice. Men do not seem to be as torn between work and family (but that would be a whole other documentary and I'm not going into that now!) Although I did think that the enlightened employer who gave his female employees 9 months maternity leave on full pay, should have redressed the balance with more than the statutory 2 weeks for the men. This is the 21st century and men are parents too!
Some women essentially do not have a choice; they either have to work to earn the money, or they cannot afford to work because childcare is too expensive. Some women make a choice to continue working but not to pursue a certain career because the career doesn't 'fit' with family life. I noted at the time that when presenter Sophie Raworth had her first child (she was pregnant at the same time as me and I was interested in what she would do) she changed from reading the prestigious 6 o'clock news to the more family friendly time of presenting the 1 o'clock news.
Sometimes the choice of whether to continue to pursue a career, to work full time, to work part time or to stay at home is entirely a free one, they are the lucky ones. Or are they? Even the women with a free choice who choose to continue their careers find they do so at the expense of family life. Or, as Sophie Raworth said, echoing my post of a few weeks ago "The problem with having it all is that you have to do it all, every day". And the professor who concluded that putting your children into childcare for the first four and a half years of their life can lead them to be "agressive and disobediant when they start school and all the way through" didn't help with the guilt factor either!
The conclusion seemed to be that women cannot 'have it all'. So, no surprise there then!
The second programme "Why can't a woman earn as much as a man?" I thought would show what I have thought all along, that on average women earn less because the majority of women work fewer hours and work in lower paid jobs. And yes, women earn less because they choose to work part time or they choose to work in fields that are traditionally less well paid.
But, this was where the programme became very interesting. Are girls choosing 'girly' subjects and hence going into less well paid careers because of influence at school? Here was the bombshell: girls from all girls schools do earn as much as men, girls from mixed schools don't. This really held my attention.
Teaching as I do a traditionally male subject I try very hard to ensure that both genders feel that they have a right to succeed at this subject. However, I am saddened by the small number of girls that go on to study my subject at University compared to the number of boys. It's almost like they are saying "A level is enough, I won't push it any further".
At home, my husband and I have tried to avoid gender bias in toys and books and subjects with our daughter, but since she has started school she has been influenced by other children who have told her that cars and trains are for boys and teasing her for liking "Thomas the Tank Engine". Even at the library last week, she wanted a book called "Who's in the loo?", but thought that she couldn't have it because the librarians, in a drive to encourage boys to read, had stuck a big sticker saying "Boys into Books" across the front of it, so she thought only boys could take it home. (We did take it home)
Where do these attitudes come from?
What I took away from this programme was that I need to encourage my daughter to continue her education without seeing a gender bias in subjects. To pursue what she wants to study and to be aware of the choices and implications of her choices. Life will never be easy for working women, but we mustn't stop having ambitions and dreams.
For a while now she's wanted to be an astronaut.
Job for a boy?
Job for a boy?
Well, being a woman didn't stop Linda Godwin: