Visitor views: work and children

18 Nov

Many of the comments we’ve had on visitors’ own experience relate to the issue of work and children. This is a subject threaded throughout the All Work and Low Pay exhibition, with organisations such as Black Women For Wages For Housework campaigning for an alternative system, and books of advice for mothers returning to work after maternity leave.

The exhibition features a timeline with statistics on women and work. One of the most interesting I think is the one showing the disparity between the percentage of men and the percentage of women working part time: hardly any men do. Whether by choice or necessity, this suggests that it is still overwhelmingly women who adapt their working routines to fit around childcare.

Although great strides have been made in legislation to ensure that pregnant women and parents are treated fairly in the workplace, several comments tell of discrimination against women because they have – or simply potentially might have – children:

‘My boss frequently says to me “You are not going to go and have a baby are you?”‘

‘My first job on leaving school at 16 was a trainee dental nurse. At interview I was asked (by five men) what plans I had to get married/have children. This was only in 1985…’

‘I remember a client, when I was working as a graphic designer in Murcia, that told me he didn’t want talk to me. He preferred to speak with my mate because he didn’t like to have a conversation with me, “Women should be at home just taking care of their children…”‘

Emmeline Pankhurst with a baby, The Women's Library/Mary Evans Picture Library

When asked about their ideal working situation, many visitors responded with wishes for work that balanced or understood their family responsibilities:

‘I want to work and have a family preferably with reasonable hours. The recession is making this impossible.’

‘Is not looking after your own babies working? Should we not use the tax system to encourage mothers with small babies to be able to afford to look after their own babies?’

‘[My dream is] owning and operating a business run by women that also benefits women’.

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