Jowell says men must do more

// 27 November 2005

Men must spend more time looking after their children if women are to be able to spend more time at work and close the gender pay gap once and for all, the Minister for Women said today.

It’s unusual enough to hear a Government minister use the word “revolution”. Not least when they are talking about women’s rights. But that’s the term Tessa Jowell uses in today’s Observer to describe the most neat and obvious solution to all that protracted hand-wringing about how women can achieve the perfect balance between family and career. Home made cookies and an executive place on the board. Or, the more likely senario of struggling to pick the kids up on time and hold down a part-time job for which she is wholly overqualified.

Gaby Hinsliff and Amelia Hill consider again all the various attempts to achieve some sort of balance, from “having it all” to house work short cuts. But more interesting than that is Jowell’s insights into the sacrifices she made to spend quality time with her children and step-children while winning Cabinet office.

“‘When my children were little I used to work through the night twice a week, in order that I could have three days at the weekend with them. I used to start work at 10pm and work through until 4am.

“‘My daughter wouldn’t do that. I did feel at times that the balance was very precarious. I would hope that she would be able to just be as ambitious as she wants to be, with a bit less kind of juggling stress

“‘In the longer term there are a number of things that will begin to close the pay gap and perhaps the most interesting is the greater sharing by men of parental responsibility. As men do more at home, women can do more at work. That, I think, is the next stage of the revolution. It’s a stage that may be laughed at by older men, but most young men will [do it] – they want to be more part of their children’s lives than their own fathers were part of theirs.’

“Government priorities, she said, should include extending the right to ask for part-time hours to parents of older children – currently the rights only apply to parents of under-sixes – and to men and women caring for elderly relatives. Both of these measures would help men be more involved in child-rearing, but could also help mothers of older children cope with a teenage crisis.”

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