LETTERS:A woman's place is where she wants it to be

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The Independent Online
Sir: One woman, Penny Hughes of Coca-Cola, forfeits a fat salary and decides to become a full-time mother and in flows a flood of propaganda and out goes a sense of perspective. Esther Oxford ("Motherhood isn't for wimps", 8 December) suggests tha t the harsher economic climate and stress of combining job and family may persuade more and more women to follow Ms Hughes and become maternally correct (MC). Their return to the home will confirm to male employers that there is no point investing in wom en since they will up and leave, but it will also, according to Esther Oxford, help to elevate the status of the full-time mother.

Any improvement in the regard in which motherhood is held is welcome. If a woman discovers that she prefers to satisfy her maternal feelings rather than climb the ladder of promotion, that's fine. What is not good is if she has been forced back into the home, defeated by a man-made work environment which is based on the belief that children don't exist. Her loss of talent and skills is a waste to the economy as well as to herself.

Esther Oxford argues that "it seems that the MC bandwagon will gather pace". Maybe not. In the long term, it is more than possible that the workplace, in which the family has traditionally been treated as nonexistent, will be forced to change. And changeenough even to attract women such as Penny Hughes back into it, once her child is older.

Almost all the professions report that half or more of their recruitment is female; middle management has an increasing bulge of women. Such a large female intake - no matter how resistant male bosses prove - is already having an impact on how the workplace is structured and priorities decided.

Of course, even when the high-flyer's workplace adapts, the pattern of some careers may be impossible to customise to the needs of a family (unless a male partner is prepared to take on a larger parental load). In this case, for a woman to choose successin her job rather than having a child is a decision which should be applauded; not every female wants a baby but traditionally many feel obliged to conform.

Maternal Correctness is for many, of course, a luxury. Often women work because they feel they must for economic reasons. They do so with insufficient rights as part-time workers and too little access to good, affordable, consistent child care.

The bandwagon that will really gather pace in the next couple of decades will not be bearing the Maternally Correct but a large and growing group of women angered by the knowledge that a job and a family can be better meshed together - if the system willallow it.

Yours faithfully, Yvonne Roberts London, SW12

9 December The writer is author of `Mad about Women: can there ever be fair play between the sexes?'

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