Last week the Daily Mail ran an article called, “I spend a fortune to send my girl to private school — so she’ll marry rich and never work.” Despite the initial shock, I took a moment to consider why someone would make a decision like this and went back to the article to find out more.
It transpired that mother of two, Rachel Ragg and her husband, both former academics, placed a great importance on their daughter’s learning. But not because they wished to lay the foundations for her stellar career, but for her to mix in circles that would help her find a husband from a wealthy and career focused background. Rachel herself after giving birth and going back to work after a year’s maternity leave, eventually handed in her resignation and became a stay-at-home Mum. She was essentially unhappy juggling both.
9 year old Matilda (Rachel’s daughter) on her future declares “I’m not going to have a job… I’m going to look after my husband and children.” And whilst this is an admirable ambition, as being a wife and a mother is a full-time and important job, she is only 9 years old. All parents want the very best for their children and even if you think back to the influence your own parents had on your life ambitions and choices, it seems Rachel is determined to make the decision for Matilda.
I wonder if the majority of working women that read the article shared a similar concern that I had. Rachel referred to the struggles of being a working Mum and that whilst at school had been taught the ultimate aim in life was a career and no mention of motherhood. I’m sure in the 80’s at Rachel’s private school in Sheffield, they were trying to encourage and educate girls that there is more to life than just motherhood and they can have a career or even both if they wanted. So is Rachel taking things too far the other way with her daughter? Just because Rachel was miserable juggling both doesn’t mean the same would necessarily apply to someone else.
Last year following international women’s day, colleague Angela Franks wrote a blog called ‘The Future of Leadership’ highlighting that we are living in a work-obsessed culture and we are basing decisions for the future based on today’s reality. But what will be on Matilda in 10 years time? Angela also noted that in 2025, the OECD predicts that 71% of university graduates will be women. If this is true, then I worry for Matilda’s ability to find a husband at university as the numbers are simply against her.
As international women’s day fast approaches again, where the focus will turn once more to ‘getting more women on boards’ and ensuring we have female talent engaged in the workforce, I do wonder why some women choose against returning to the workplace after starting a family? Is it just financial with the exorbitant cost of childcare? Is it simply a desire to be with their child in those formative years? Or is it the unnerving working environment they would have to return to? There has been a lot of debate in the press regarding the challenges that working-mothers face, particularly when returning from maternity leave. Sexist comments have been made by uninformed MPs like UKIP leader Nigel Farage branding working women as being “worth less than men to city employers” and BBC chiefs like Mark Thomas suggesting “women with child caring responsibilities should not hold senior management positions.” When in contrast, business woman Karan Brady took a mere three days out to have a baby before returning to her desk!
It is challenging enough to raise children and have a career without such ignorant comments which denigrate their achievements being aired in the media. Yvette Cooper, who became the first government minister to take maternity leave while in office, wrote in the Independent: “[When I had] my third child, senior civil servants treated [my] maternity leave with hostility, making it hard to keep in touch, and trying to change my job and working arrangements while I was away.” Eventually, Yvette managed to sort it out but after the final few stages of pregnancy or the baby’s first sleepless months, the last thing a new mother needs is another argument about her job!
We have come a long way with women being able to make choices about how the manage their career and motherhood and comments like those above really have no place in forward thinking organisations. In 2014 we live in a time of choice. We can choose to ignore such ridiculous comments as I’m sure Karen Brady does. We can choose motherhood, we can choose a career and we can choose or at least try to have it all. It’s people like Rachel Ragg trying to take the choices away from her daughter which I find most disappointing.
Daniela is Finance and Admin Assistant at Macmillan Davies and being at the start of her career, has all of this to look forward to.