Editor-At-Large: If women have it all now, they can thank my generation

Related Topics

Last week, the long struggle for equal pay reached a historic turning point. The latest statistics show that, on average, a woman in her twenties will earn 2.1 per cent more than a man of the same age. It's taken so long, and so much hard work.

For the past 10 years, women have steadily been achieving better exam results than men; they've painstakingly acquired qualifications and proved that they are highly motivated, reliable and ambitious, and now employers are recognising that. Women are carrying more responsibility, rising up to executive level right across a whole range of sectors and it's reflected in their pay packets. It's a struggle I know at first hand – and yet, I don't feel like celebrating. I only got to the top by not having children, always putting my work first, to the detriment of all my relationships. Sadly, I don't think much has changed over the past three decades. The same set of statistics reveals another historic first : more women than ever in their forties – one in five – are childless.

Some might have postponed babies because they couldn't afford it, hadn't found a decent place to live, or because the right partner hadn't come along. But sadly, I suspect most of these middle-aged women did not have had kids because they recognised that pausing to breed would stop or slow down their tortuous ascent up the career ladder. Every time you have a child, you slip a few rungs back down the food chain, and before you know where you are, that underqualified dreary bloke you fought so hard to rise above is issuing orders while you are effectively demoted in your workplace.

For every woman who claims that it's possible both to raise a family and to hold down a good job, these statistics are proof that for most female workers this remains an optimistic dream. There will always be a small number of middle-class mums, with supportive husbands or partners, who can afford hired help and who are lucky enough to have understanding bosses who accommodate their flexible hours, the school run, sports day and trips to hospital. That is not the norm: 90 per cent of bosses are still male and blatantly uninterested in their female worker's life outside. Women must fit in, and get on with it.

Most women want to have children: we are genetically programmed that way. That 20 per cent are childless by choice or necessity means something is very wrong in our society. We still have a male-dominated workplace, with rules set by and operated to favour the male way of doing things. If having kids were no problem for female workers, the birth rate wouldn't be dropping and loads of middle-aged women wouldn't pretend their lives were complete with designer clothes, a cute pet and a top-of-the-range sofa. Maternal instincts are being sacrificed for power, a comfy income and material possessions.

Women in their twenties can now claim there's no glass ceiling. But women in their thirties still lag behind men, with a pay gap of 2.9 per cent, although it is closing. These young high-fliers might be the first generation that can truly have it all. If so, the career women who reached 45 and never had children have made a huge sacrifice for the sisterhood. Without these trailblazers, these successful twentysomethings would never have reached parity in the workplace.

Ridiculing a disabled child isn't comedy. It's despicable

Channel 4 proudly describes Frankie Boyle's new comedy series Tramadol Nights as "adults-only", and issues a warning before transmission promising "very strong language and uncompromising adult content". This is an X-rated club I don't want to be a member of – if making jokes about Down's syndrome and autism is sophisticated, count me out. I'd rather be considered naff.

Frankie Boyle is a touchy subject in our household. My partner (like a lot of middle-aged blokes) thinks the repellent Boyle is exciting and edgy, whereas I find him the comedy equivalent of Clarkson – something I won't be including in my leisure time. Even Frankie's hardcore fans must be feeling a bit queasy about his latest target: Katie Price's severely disabled eight-year-old son, Harvey.

On last week's show, repeated without cuts after the promise that it would offend, Boyle announced, "Jordan and Peter Andre are still fighting each other over custody of Harvey – eventually one of them will lose and have to keep him." He went on, "I have a theory about why Jordan married a cage fighter – she needed a man strong enough to stop Harvey fucking her."

Is this a stylish example of black, cutting-edge humour? Or just plain nasty? For once, Katie Price has my wholehearted sympathy – she's reported the matter to Ofcom after receiving no apology from Channel 4. Making a sexual joke about a blind child is hardly brave. Time for Frankie to grow up and apologise.

Royal tat is a missed opportunity

The forthcoming royal wedding means a flood of gloriously tacky souvenirs (I cherish my Charles and Camilla mug, printed with the wrong date), but this happy couple seem naively optimistic about policing the tat celebrating their nuptials. The other week, I suggested that Kate flog her engagement dress for charity. Now they've issued a po-faced list of items permitted to carry their picture and the Prince's coat of arms. Carpets, cushions, wall hangings, mugs and scarves are OK, but T-shirts, tea towels and aprons have been banned. Instead of trying to police taste, William and Kate should be using their wedding to raise millions of pounds for charity by charging to use their image on souvenirs. And is a tea towel less tacky than a biscuit tin?

Some twits are bigger than others

Middle-aged pop stars should be grateful they sell records, but sadly, the Smiths are a pompous exception. Both Johnny Marr and Morrissey are outraged that David Cameron proudly tells us he's a fan. Marr tweets, "David Cameron stop saying you like the Smiths, no you don't. I forbid you to like it." Morrissey turned down Andrew Marr's show when Cameron was also to be on. Morrissey, a strict vegetarian, is upset because the PM wants to repeal the ban on fox hunting – but missed his chance to put his point of view across live on television. You can't pick your fans, and MPs have notoriously naff taste in music. The Smiths should ignore the PM, instead of highlighting his attempt to appear trendy.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Administrator - East Riding of Yorkshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Administrator - East Ridi...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continuous expansion and growth o...

Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive - West London - £35,000

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A luxury fashion retailer based in W...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s Director of Communications  

i Editor's Letter: Poultry excuses from chicken spin doctors

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Women come back from the fields to sell vegetables at a market in Bangui, Central African Republic  

International Women's Day: Africa's women need to believe in themselves and start leading the way

Sylvia Bongo Ondimba
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