'Cosmopolitan' editor exits amid maternity leave row

It was the magazine that introduced modern women to the multiple orgasm and advised them they could "have it all", but the owners of
Cosmopolitan were attacked yesterday by the departing editor over their attitude to maternity leave.

It was the magazine that introduced modern women to the multiple orgasm and advised them they could "have it all", but the owners of Cosmopolitan were attacked yesterday by the departing editor over their attitude to maternity leave.

Lorraine Candy, who has edited "Cosmo" for the past four years, was at the centre of a row after she announced her decision to quit and join the rival women's title Elle.

National Magazine Company (NatMags), which owns Cosmopolitan, announced her departure in a statement that included comments by its chief executive, Duncan Edwards, that angered Ms Candy. Mr Edwards said: "Lorraine Candy has been on maternity leave for a significant proportion of the past two years and Nina [Ahmad, acting editor] has done a wonderful job looking after the shop."

Ms Candy, who has two daughters aged 20 months and 13 weeks, and is a former women's editor of The Sun, told the trade magazine Press Gazette: "It is a bit sad really. I felt I had a good working relationship with Duncan Edwards and it is a shame he felt that a statement like that should have to mention my maternity leave. It's every woman's right to have maternity leave."

Colleagues at NatMags were more forthright. One said: "The statement was poisonous. Lorraine didn't deserve that sort of treatment after what she has done for Cosmo. It goes against everything that the magazine stands for - that young women can 'have it all'."

Ms Candy took four months' leave for the first child and 14 weeks for the second. She was not available for comment last night but, in an interview late last year, she spoke of the difficulties faced by modern women in juggling a busy life.

"Women don't live near their parents any more, so there is a lack of emotional support.

"There is also a growing realisation that being at the top of a career might not make you happy in the way that marriage and children might do. The choice is overwhelming," she concluded.

A spokesman for the National Union of Journalists said yesterday the comments by Mr Edwards reflected a sentiment that was not uncommon in the competitive publishing industry.

But the NUJ spokesman said: "NatMags publishes women's magazines and you would have thought it would understand that, if they employ successful women journalists to run these magazines, they are liable to want to have children, and that when they do so they are not letting down the company in any way. Readers would understand it, so why can't the company executives?"

A spokeswoman for NatMags said the comments by Mr Edwards were not intended to cause offence to Ms Candy but were an assurance to the industry that "the magazine wasn't going to sink into crisis".

She said the company's provision of maternity leave and childcare benefits was well in advance of what was legally required to be provided.

Mr Edwards described Ms Candy's response as "completely bizarre". He told Press Gazette that he stood by his comments. "For crying out loud, she wasn't here for two significant periods of time.

"We were a little surprised that she decided not to come back but that's her decision and we wish her all the best."

But there may be more trouble ahead. Ms Candy has already expressed a desire to move Elle (published by Hachette Filipacchi) to a new position in the market where it becomes as well known for its writing as for its fashion. Such a policy and change of the direction of the glossy would make it a more direct competitor to her former magazine.

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