I was asked to comment on a discussion on Today FM about the results of a UK survey on attitudes in the workplace to working mothers. It made, as ever, for depressing reading. Myself and the ever-excellent Sarah Carey bashed the topic back and forth for a while on air and, inevitably, I ended up thinking about it last night.
News headlines from the survey:
  • 55% of mothers of young children now work outside the home
  • 30 years ago, that percentage was 25%
  • 94% of women said that juggling home and office life had a negative effect on their career and wellbeing
  • Only 31% of men felt the same way

And the alarming one – over half the respondents said they would lie about their reason for being late to work if it had anything to do with their children (sickness, problems with childcare) for fear of the reaction of their boss and colleagues.


Economic reality – more and more couples need to be dual income in order to keep their heads above water. Yes, we have higher expectations now, but just breathing in and out costs a hell of a lot of money these days.

Workplace reality – women are better at pretty much everything you can measure in the modern workplace, with the possible exception of lifting heavy weights and killing woolly mammoths with spears. If you have any doubt about this, read Tom Peters’ stuff in his Women Roar! presentation [you can download it here the work-related stuff kick in at about slide 150, but make sure you read it all]. More to the point, the trends in education are such that employers are going to have a hard time finding a qualified male in a decade’s time.

Reality reality – women need to be in the workplace, women are better in the workplace and, according to the World Health Organisation, women do the vast majority [81% !!] of all the work that is conducted on planet Earth anyway. So to the snarky detractors out there, I say (a) read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and (b) grow the hell up!

There was a great line in Monty Python’s Life of Brian film. Eric Idle’s character Stan wanted to be a woman and wanted to be addressed as Loretta. When John Cleese (Reg) asked him why, they had the following exchange:

LORETTA: I want to have babies.
REG: (incredulously) You want to have babies?!
LORETTA: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.
REG: But … you can’t have babies.
LORETTA: Don’t you oppress me!
REG: I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb! Where’s the foetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!

So, to all those people who think it’s okay to snark at mothers in the workplace, I have a few questions …

  • As a species, what is our key function here on planet earth? (Hint: do you think that “perpetuating the species” might be anywhere in there in the Prime Directives?)
  • Who is capable of bearing the babies, seeing as we can’t keep the foetus in a box?
  • Do you think it would be a good idea to take the babies away at birth and grow them to maturity in pods in a laboratory somewhere?
  • Do you live in an alternative economic and workplace reality where women don’t want to work, don’t need to work, and aren’t much good at the tasks of the modern workplace anyway?

Well then shut the hell up.

[You can find an article on the survey in the Daily Telegraph by clicking here. The reader comments after the piece make for some pretty eye-popping reading too.]