Stylist’s Alix Walker imagines what the world would look like if more of the people making decisions were working mothers…
Fun fact for the day. Seventy-seven percent of the world’s politicians – you know, the ones responsible for deciding fairly significant facets of our lives – are men. Here’s another. There are only three countries in the world with more female bosses – you know, the ones who decide who is promoted and what time you’re allowed to leave – than men. Which is a shame, as men don’t tend to have the best experience of what it means to be a woman, particularly when it comes to being a woman who works and has children.
Which is why it’s particularly lovely news that Ruth Davidson, head of the Scottish Conservatives & Unionist Party, has announced she’s expecting a baby with her partner Jen Wilson. Not just because a baby tends to be a nice thing, but because the more women we have fighting our corner, the more our corner stops looking like the one where being a working mother is a whole lot harder than being a working father.
Davidson isn’t the only political player who is currently pregnant. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her pregnancy in January and has already implemented a policy to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks starting in 2020. No doubt Davidson’s experience of navigating parliament while pregnant and then as a working parent, will shape the issues she fights for in the future. And it’s not just the big issues working mothers in power can address…COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg made the company put pregnant parking spaces in front of their office following her own experiences of pregnancy, which is just good sense.
The more our leaders, and our bosses, are reflective of us and our experiences, the more society will become geared to helping, rather than hindering, working parents. Just imagine! Here’s my dream of what the future of being a working mum could look like:
1. Pregnant women would be gifted shiny office thrones which cool down or heat up depending on your hormonal inclination that day and have sick bags in the arm rest. Oh, and a comedy punching attachment for whenever someone attempts to touch your stomach. Alongside this absolute necessity, pregnant employees would also be able to do the following: Go to assigned midwife appointments without shedding three stone of sweat trying to negotiate the 7am slot. Not feel the need to work twice as hard for fear of becoming one of the three quarters of pregnant women and new mothers who experience discrimination. Not feel the need to assure anyone that yes, they will be returning to work.
2. Flexible working would no longer be a dangling carrot that very rarely comes to fruition. Instead, employers would trust that adults who mostly show the ability to wipe their own noses might also be able to fulfil their job description without being chained to a desk in an office that smells of cheap sushi and tuna sandwiches. Picking hours that work around your lifestyle, your body clock and your family would just be the norm, recognised by all companies as something which results in happier staff, lower costs and greater productivity. (I do realise that there are certain professions where this dream might be a bit ambitious: midwives, firefighters and 24hour McDonalds drive-through staff are probably better working from their ‘offices’)
3. Rather than fearing them, discriminating against them and overlooking them, bosses would realise that parents tend to have the kind of multi-tasking skills that can only be taught by a toddler who forces you to carry out every task with another human attached to you and are a pretty valuable asset to have. This would free up the huge pool of talented, brilliant women who have been pushed out of the workforce – 54,000 a year, according to reports - thanks to a work-week structure that was decided when we used to plough fields.
4. You could pay for childcare – you know, that thing which allows you to go to work and contribute to the economy without resorting to leaving your baby tied to some railings with a bag of Quavers - and still have actual real shiny money left in your account at the end of the month. Because your friendly female PM followed the lead of Sweden and France and Belgium and just about every other ‘good place for a mini-break’ and capped it at an amount that doesn’t cripple most families. Just imagine.
5. All media would refer to men as “working fathers” with the same “Look at that mother who is prioritising work over baby music class” undertone as they previously did to “working mothers”.
6. Speaking of fathers… They would be actively encouraged to take their entitled shared parenting leave because it benefits them, and their children and society.
7. Net-a-porter would merge with Ocado and deliver fully ironed, styled outfits with your weekly delivery of delivery of avocados and almond milk.
8. Mac would create a wonder product that creates a full face of make up in 30 seconds.
Ok, I got a little carried away. But as far as I can tell, the world, run by women, would be a far superior place.
I would love to hear about the things that would make your life as a working parent easier. Please email me with your – serious or ridiculous! – suggestions at Alix.Walker@stylist.co.uk.
Images: Getty, Priscilla Du Preez