Forget the guilt, just spend your cash on childcare, top scientist tells female high-flyers

 

One of Britain's leading female scientists has urged high-flying women to "spend every penny you've got" on childcare, saying that many are held back by the guilty "burden" of feeling they constantly have to be available to look after their families.

Professor Uta Frith, a Fellow of the Royal Society, British Academy and the Academy of Medical Sciences, criticised the idea that women "have to do everything", adding: "I have one piece of advice … throw money at it. Spend every penny you've got on getting proper childcare, because I'm really convinced that is something that holds these high-flying women back."

In an interview with The Independent, Professor Frith also addressed the societal pressure faced by working mothers: "They think they have to be these stay-at-home mothers to some extent, which is completely ridiculous – that they have to feel a bit guilty if they are not always available. And I think, hasn't it occurred to [them] that you could pay somebody to do this … There is a funny burden there … you carry it with you."

Her comments come amid wider concerns that the highest echelons of British business and politics are still off-limits to women. The departures of Cynthia Carroll at the mining company Anglo American and Dame Marjorie Scardino at Pearson publishers in recent weeks mean there are now only two female directors running top 100 FTSE-listed companies.

David Cameron has also been criticised for a paucity of women in the Cabinet, with Dame Helen Ghosh saying last week that an "Old Etonian clique" compounds the pressures of family life to prevent women from taking top government jobs.

Professor Frith, an expert in neuroscience and psychology best known for her work on autism, said she did not accept that there is only one "magic formula" which women have to find in order to juggle work and home commitments. "There are so many different paths," she says.

Now nearing the end of her career, Professor Frith has made great strides towards increasing the visibility of women in science.

When she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2005, she realised she was joining a "very exclusive club" – women make up only six per cent of the Fellowship – and decided to find ways to encourage other women to follow suit. When her emails to other female Fellows went unanswered, she started to create her own network from acquaintances, inviting them to meet her at the Royal Society and urging them to "come inside … be there, sit there, have a look around."

Holding meetings every two months, the network thrived and numbers have swelled to such an extent that the Royal Society can no longer accommodate them all. This prompted Professor Frith and others to found UCL Women, a network which provides monthly drop-in sessions giving professional women the opportunity to meet and share their experiences.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Service Manager

£37000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has a track record...

Recruitment Genius: Solar Field Sales Executive

£40000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Relations Officer

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable