I have a colleague who often writes about women's affairs. She sometimes writes about childcare and education too, although she doesn't yet have a child. And each time I read her strongly held views, I wonder how much they will change when she does become a mother.
Because having a baby changes your life completely. Obvious when you think about it - I'm sure I haven't told you anything you didn't know. But let me be more specific. When I say your life, I mean your work/career too.
Some of my female colleagues (though not that many) have children. They have ambitions and aims. So do I. But I am realistic. Mine are difficult to fulfil because I have chosen (and yes, it's been my choice) to work part-time.
If you have a full-time job and then have a baby, you may then decide to go back to work part-time. Quite often your company will help you out and, together, you will sort out a favourable enough working solution. But what happens if you ever want to leave? It's incredibly difficult to get a part-time job, especially if you are professional, qualified and reasonably well-paid. Too many companies aren't open to the part-time option or to job-shares. Too many women are trapped in the job they have. There is nowhere else to go.
It's worse if you have had a baby without the security of a job to go back to. It took me years to get a part-time position, and I know I am not alone.
In fact, I have been banging on about this, and the waste of a whole tranche of intelligent, well qualified women, for years. Now research from Women Like Us has backed me up.
They found that there are hardly any jobs for skilled part-time workers and that many mothers face a 'career choke', which they describe as "the dead end choice between trading down on their skills and experiences to accept a role beneath their level of worth, and not working at all."
And interestingly, they add: "the lack of quality part time jobs has a particular impact on lower skilled mothers who face intense competition from higher skilled women competing for the same jobs."
This is fascinating stuff, though not surprising, I'm sure, to any part-time workers. The research said that just 3% of available jobs were for part time roles offering £20,000 (full time equivalent) or more. I'm amazed it's that many!
Women Like Us say that there is a lot of potential within the part-time market. I do hope that's true. But in my experience any changes will require a huge mind shift. And this is not only on behalf of men. So many famous female voices (including those with media influence) don't really have a clue about what it's like to work part-time. They don't know how it can trap a woman in a job because all the good jobs they see advertised are for full-time workers. They don't know how it feels to be looked down by full-time mothers and full-time workers (both think that part-timers don't care enough about either job or child) or what it's like trying to fit all the work they have into two, three or four days (I'm convinced that many part-time workers are incredibly proficient with their time). And they don't know about the endless struggle to balance childcare with part-time work (it's easier to get care for a child every day, than random after-school hours one or two days a week).
I'd love changes to occur, particularly as more and more women are doing well at university and going into high flying jobs - before they have children. Surely it would be better not to lose these women completely within a few years?
When Women Like Us carried out follow up interviews, they found that when a part-time employee resigns, only around a third (35%) of employers think of replacing the role on a part-time basis. If even these companies aren't forward thinking enough to consider another part-time worker, but are prepared to spend more money on a full-time replacement, then what hope do we really have for proper changes to come?
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