Working mothers; damned if you do, damned if you don't

11 months ago by Sophie Stones

Working mothers; damned if you do, damned if you don't


This years British Social Attitudes Survey was recently released by NatCen. The 34th report of its kind, the survey focuses upon moral issues, immigration and views on gender roles, amongst other ‘current issues’. First introduced in the mid 1980s, the survey has revisited one question over and over again throughout the years; Should mothers with small children be at work.

Whilst there has been a notable change in attitudes towards working women over the years, when those women are mothers, the results tell an entirely different story. With 33% of respondents stating that mothers of pre-school children should stay at home, only 7% believe they should work full-time.

These views are in stark contrast to the reality many parents face, meaning judgement from outsiders could be affecting their every day lives. Almost ¾ of women with dependent children are in full-time or part-time work, however previous studies have shown that narrow-minded attitudes are causing women to lose out on progression or even lose their jobs entirely. In a 2017 report, conducted by YouGov, 1 in 7 employers admitted they would be reluctant to hire a woman who might go on to have children, meaning all women of a certain age are vulnerable to discrimination, despite their preference to family life. Going even further ¼ of respondents said they take into account pregnancy and young children when making promotion decisions. The fact that both of these actions are illegal made little to no difference to the numbers.

Young Women’s Trust Chief Executive, Dr Carole Easton OBE, says the key to changing these attitudes is in shared parental leave, however the BSA survey also showed dim views regarding the new government scheme. Even when presented with the scenario that both parents earn the same amount, 15% still think women should take all of the leave, whilst 4 in 10 believe women should take the most. The percentage who thought men should take most or all was negligible.

These numbers leave women in a catch 22 situation, being judged for not spending enough time with their children, whilst simultaneously being punished for doing so.

“It’s not just employers who need to stop treating women as 2nd class citizens; society as a while should support men to take an equal role in childcare.” – Dr Carole Easton OBE

Whilst the majority of the public believe it will take at least 10 years to resolve these issues, with many believing they’ll never be completely equal, there are those who are attempting to hurry the issue into a resolution.

Previously a stay-at-home dad, Daniel Godsall, set up WOMBA (Work, Me & The Baby) with career woman and mother Helen Sachevto, to provide coaching support to new parents and their managers, after seeing first-hand the difficulty his female friends had going back to work, compared to his own experiences.

“It was counterintuitive that leavers like me should be so well looked after, but returners are left to fend for themselves.” – Daniel Godsall

WOMBA is fulfilling a crucial role, helping businesses to support employees, and helping employees to understand their rights as parents. Utilised by Talk Talk and Google, even their existence proves when it comes to working mothers, attitudes need to change and they need to change soon.