A career and motherhood shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. But more than half of UK working mothers think their children are preventing them for getting a better job, according to a new study.
Some 56 per cent of British mothers think they would be further in their careers if they didn’t have children, according to a nationwide survey of 1,000 full-time working women conducted by watchshop.com.
A further 33 per cent of working mothers feel guilty when they have to miss work because of their children, the study finds.
But that proportion might be much higher.
Mumsnet, the UK’s largest website for parents, found that 91 per cent of its members believe the motherhood penalty exists and 65 per cent say that having children had negatively impacted on their career.
Joeli Brearley, founder of the online project "Pregnant Then Screwed", which aims to raise awareness of pregnancy discrimination in the UK, said many women are simply too intimidated to speak out thanks to restrictive gagging clauses, embarrassment or fear of being branded a troublemaker.
“Discrimination is a slow, insidious process that erodes confidence and makes you feel, somehow, that it's normal and acceptable practice,” she told the Independent.
An estimated 54,000 women are forced out of their jobs due to pregnancy every year, according to a research by The Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Patriarchal values still dictating that men are the “leaders” and women the “nurturers” might be the reason behind the depressing statistic, according to Brearley, who was fired when she told her client she was pregnant.
“In a work environment, maternity leave is normal, paternity leave longer than two weeks is not. Therefore women tend to bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities, even when there are two working parents in the family,” she said.
Some women report missing out on promotions because of maternity leave.
“They are more likely to seek part time or flexible work and as a result are often overlooked for promotion or added responsibilities. If the company is not willing to offer flexible working, then they need a valid business reason,“ Brearley said.
But companies and managers are not always the ones to blame
Tiffany White, a duty manager at a retail company and a mother of four, said her employer had been very supportive when she announced she was taking a maternity leave.
But the cost of childcare is holding her back from progressing in her job.
“There are certain shifts I can’t do because of my children. If I wanted to progress to deputy manager, I just can’t. The cost of childcare does not make it work,” she said.
The cost of childcare is almost uniquely high in the UK among Western nations – only Ireland charges comparable rates for two- and three-year-olds in full-time day care.
Just 45 per cent of councils report sufficient childcare available for parents who work full time, despite their obligations to make sure there are enough places under the Childcare Act 2006.
The world's 15 most powerful women in 2015
The world's 15 most powerful women in 2015
1/15 Angela Merkel - German Chancellor
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has retained her number one ranking for topping this year’s Forbes list for the fifth consecutive year and ten times in total.
2/15 Hillary Clinton - Presidential candidate, United States
Clinton, who could become the world’s most powerful leader in 2016, has been featured on the list every year since it launched in 2014.
3/15 Melinda Gates - Cochair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Melinda Gates has cemented her dominance in philanthropy and global development to the tune of $3.9 billion in giving in 2014 and more than $33 billion in grant payments since she founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband in 2000.
4/15 Janet Yellen - Chair, Federal Reserve, Washington, United States
Janet Yellen made history in 2014 when she became the first female head of the Federal Reserve.
5/15 Marry Barra - CEO of General Motors
Mary Barra made history by becoming the first female CEO of General Motors.
6/15 Christina Lagarde - Managing director, International Monetary Fund
Christine Lagarde is entering the last year of her first term heading the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the organisation which serves as economic advisor and backstop for 188 countries. Under Lagarde the IMF has supported efforts to increase female labor force participation as way to reduce poverty and inequality. The UK, Germany, China, France and Korea have endorsed Christine Lagarde for another term as the head of the IMF.
7/15 Dilma Rousseff - President, Brazil
Dilma Rousseff, who has been elected in 2010, is Brazil's first female president.
8/15 Sheryl Sandberg - COO of Facebook
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of bestseller “Lean In,” joined the company in 2008 and became the first woman on its board four years later. Sandberg helped the social network go public and expand digital revenue.
9/15 Susan Wojcicki - CEO of Youtube
Susan Wojcicki is CEO of YouTube, the world’s most popular digital video platform used by over a billion people across the globe. She oversees YouTube's content and business operations, engineering, and product development.
10/15 Michelle Obama - First lady, United States
Michelle Obama, the 44th first lady of the United States has focused her attention on issues such as the support of military families, helping working women balance career and family and encouraging national service.
11/15 Park Geun-hye - President, South Korea
Park Geun-hye is the first female leader of a country that has the highest level of gender inequality in the developed world. In her inauguration speech, she promised to prioritise both national security and economic revitalisation.
12/15 Oprah Winfrey - Actress, Director/Producer, Entrepreneur, Personality, Philanthropist
Oprah Winfrey, a former queen of daytime TV has proven she can thrive without a talkshow. Her 'The Life You Want' tour sold out stadiums from Newark to Seattle in 2014.
13/15 Ginni Rometty - CEO of IBM
Ginni Rometty joined IBM in 1981 and later became the first woman to lead the company.
14/15 Meg Whitman - CEO of Hewlett-Packard
Meg Whitman is the only woman to have headed two large U.S. public companies: eBay and Hewlett-Packard.Until Marissa Mayer's arrival at Yahoo, she was the only female head of a leading Internet-based company.
15/15 Indra Nooyi - CEO of PepsiCo
Indra Nooyi is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo. Mrs. Nooyi leads one of the world’s largest convenient food and beverage companies, with 2008 annual revenues of more than $43 billion.
Brearley said shared parenting would be a step in the right direction.
“In Sweden, where it is a norm, there are significantly more female CEO and greater female contribution to the economy,” she said.
“We are calling for statutory paid paternity leave of 90 per cent of salary for six weeks for all fathers, to bring then in line with maternity pay. This should be taken only after the mother returns to work,” she added.