Today’s blog is, I will admit with honesty, a bit of a rant.
But it is I think a justified one – and also one that I think there will be a lot of fellow feeling about. And maybe some dissension.
I am going to be extremely frank. There is constant media coverage and debate on work/life balance at present – and it’s true – now, more than ever, we are struggling with the challenges that managing modern life present. But if you look at it through the eyes of the press, it is appearing to be an issue that is affecting only half of the world’s population – women.
And this simply isn’t true.
The ongoing images in the media are those of working mums juggling phones and laptops, power dressed and severely pinned up hair, with bubs on hips and a look of weary resignation.
In this weekend’s paper alone, there were a total of four – four – articles talking as to how hard it is for women to juggle home and work, the guilt of being back at work with a new baby, or small children, and the supremacy of the male breadwinner.
Come on people – let’s get some balance on this debate.
The reality is that we all want choice.Whether you are male or female, I think the debate about balance is the same and the choice to do what you want, when you want is one that affects everyone – whether it be about work, family or whatever it may be you are truly passionate about.
The reality is this. We are all trying to do our best one way or another, and we don’t need the media telling us what we should be feeling – and more to the point, making out it’s only a woman’s feeling. Let me tell you, my better half misses his children desperately when he has to work long hours – which he does frequently. He would love more flexibility to be able to pick them up from school, to watch them training at rugby and netball; and even to go in to see them collect their rewards mid-way through the day – which always seems to be the time the school sets, which in itself shows a lack of understanding of what working parents – parents, not mothers – are facing.
But there are problems that are exclusive to women, and these are the ones that need to be addressed – not the stereotypes of women struggling to ‘keep it all together’.
The big issues are that choices for some of us are taken away due to cost of child care, availability of child care, lack of flexible working conditions and sadly, and incredibly for 2013, women still earning only 83.5 cents to every dollar our male counterparts receive.
The stats don’t stack up in our favour still.
A survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in late 2012 of 357,500 working women with a child under two revealed 18.8 per cent faced discrimination in the workplace and 29.3 per cent left the workforce permanently while pregnant or after having their child.
Of those who did return to work, one in four said it was to ‘keep their employers happy’.
To save costs, grandparents were the preferred child minding option for 87,900 parents (42.8 per cent) compared to 57,700 (28.1 per cent) who utilised long day care.
The research showed 31,200 women felt they received negative comments from their manager or colleagues, 22,900 said they missed out on a promotion, 10,100 reported their duties were changed without consultation, 4,500 were demoted and 1,200 said their hours were changed without consultation.
These statistics are not just bad news for both women and men who are trying to be changemakers and leaders. They are frightening and disturbing.
This is not the way it should be.
But because life has to happen on a day to day basis, I, along with so many other women I know from all walks of life, are quite simply getting on with it with their beautiful husbands and partners.We are willing to help each other out when needed and at the same time we want and are actively trying to bring about change.
Journalists; hear this. We – and I say we and mean women and men of worth – want balanced discussion and an understanding that men need balance and support too. Politicians – we want this on the agenda, particularly the need for greater childcare provision and funding; and people – we want your voices.
The only way forward is through a united approach. So the next time you see an image of a woman struggling with a briefcase and a baby in the Sunday supplements – just have a quick think – is there a possibility that her partner is in the background with a screaming toddler and another briefcase, trying to load the car and get them all where they are supposed to be on a Monday morning?