Women blamed for being ambitious

// 19 September 2007

Today’s Daily Telegraph carries the headline that Childless women ‘hostile to working mums’. Based on a survey of 1,500 mothers childless women are being described as “unsympathetic” to those who have children. But, as with all our research expose’s – read on and what was actually said is a bit different….

“Those surveyed said that with maternity leave lasting up to 12 months and the right to ask for flexible working, women without children perceived them as enemies to be left behind on the corporate ladder.” From Daily Telegraph

Slightly different then. What is being suggested here is that maternity leave and flexible working disadvantages women in the workplace. And why (oh why, oh why) is it that it’s women being compared to women here – are men exempted from seeing maternity leave as quick career advancement? The report goes on to admonish women for behaving like, well like ambitious men….

“The report paints a picture of women undermining and undercutting each other, vying for advancement and sometimes filled with resentment.” From The Daily Telegraph

What is interesting is the findings about how anti-child working mothers find workplaces in general. That this statistic – 52% find it easier to blame the alarm clock or traffick than childcare problems if they are late. Now bear in mind we generally have to explain lateness to bosses and bosses tend to be men, this isn’t a woman-woman problem but that workplaces are not accommodating to parenting at all.

94%of the sample said juggling home and office life had a damaging effect on both them personally and their career. But only 31% said that having a family had any impact on the father’s career. Over a third of women had been asked about family commitments during their interview and almost 15% had delayed having children because they felt their employer would disapprove.

However, and for balance perhaps, the Telegraph does admit that “it was not only childless women who could be unsympathetic to working mothers” – but no this isn’t about the prevailing misogynistic culture, it’s that mothers can also be dismissive of other mother’s problems particularly when they relate to disability.

The upshot? Remember that a woman’s place is to support motherhood, even if not engaged in it, rather than to challenge patriarchal cultures which make parenting a woman’s responsibility and make working and parenting difficult.

Thankfully the discussion boards also pick up on this notion and I include this response for interest:

“For the life of me I fail to understand why childfree women are expected to be ‘more understanding'(than men presumably) to quote Mr Black. Why? Out of some sort of biological sympathy? Please! This is at bottom an outdated and sexist attitude, and typical of the approach that the childfree have to fight against, that by virtue of gender one is expected to accomodate the shortcomings of others. My collegues are exactly that – colleugues and I judge them professionally on how well they do their work – there are no extra points in the workplace for someone (male or female) because they have managed to reproduce – it is irrelevant.From Daily Telegraph

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