I am a firm believer in doing whatever is right for you in life with regards to career decisions and when to start a family, there should be no rules or guidelines, and no one should be frowned upon for their choices in life. As a result, it is no wonder that I disagree with Kirstie Allsopp's 'advice' to young girls about having a baby by 27 and ditching university.
Allsopp tweeted '...women must have this debate & include young men in it'. Personally I agree with the fact that men should be included in the debate about starting a family but then what happens if he does not want to have a baby in his 20's like Allsopp advocates? Yes women do have a biological body clock but is it really fair to ask a partner/boyfriend to have a baby when they are not ready for it or simply do not want to. I think a man has as much right to decide when he wants to start a family as a woman does.
Despite Allsopp stating she is not questioning anyone's choices, I still find her advice patronizing to girls, as it seems that according to her, a female younger than thirty should be focusing on boyfriends and babies. Having gone to an all girls school for sixth form, the two years after the legal sexual consent age, I can not think of one general studies lesson where we were taught about how to find a 'nice boyfriend' and how to bring up a child in our 20s. Instead, my school focused on giving us girls a strong education and aspirations and enabling us to go to university and become educated young women...just like they were doing at the all boys' school down the road. Should schools be introducing antenatal, birthing and parenting classes into schools then? I really don't think so.
I know some people who have chosen the young mum route, which is absolutely fine; I am just saying that Allsopp's 'advice' should not be taken as advice or any sort of guideline. In contrast, I got my A-Levels and a university undergraduate degree under my belt before turning 21 and so I have instead chosen the education route. So now I have this, is it now time for me to have a baby? Well I guess if that's what you want than nothing and no-one should stop you, but looking at my own finances upon graduating I can barely afford to keep myself let alone invest in everything a child needs. It is undeniable that nowadays having a university degree or apprenticeship qualification leads to higher paying jobs. Whilst in sixth form I looked for part-time work but without a higher level of education the only options available to me were jobs such as waitressing or working in a shop which on the whole do not pay well. With that being said I am led to wonder how a girl straight from either GCSE's or A-Levels can afford to move out and start a family. Allsopp told the Telegraph that if she had a daughter she would say to her, 'Don't go to university. Start work straight after school, stay at home, save up your deposit - I'll help you, let's get you into a flat' but not everyone has access to Kirstie Allsopp's bank balance to help them.
I agree with Allsopp with her view that university is 'where you're supposed to learn something! Do it when you're 50!" I have learnt a great deal from going to university and I would recommend it to everyone yet pass no judgment on those who do not wish to go to. I have spoken to a lot of mature students who enrol in university to either enhance their learning which will lead to furthering their career, or simply because they have an interest in the subject. I do not think there should be an age limit on when you can go to university but if you're embarking on your first degree, probably a three year one, at fifty, you do not have the same forty or so years in a career as you do when you graduate in your early twenties. It is also no secret that employers would tend to hire younger people with more experience of the job than someone in their fifties straight from their degree with little or no prior experience.
Allsopp's recommendation portrays that having children is a requirement and that a woman's purpose in her early life is to be a baby-maker. On the contrary however, this is not the case, not everyone has to have children if they do not want to, it is after all a very big decision to make. I do not believe there has to be a choice between a career or a child, a woman can have both of those things, none of them, or one of them. Equally, with advances in science and fertility woman are increasingly being able to have children later on in life. This is true for my parents, not only have they had many years in their careers before starting a family, but they have guided myself and my brother using their years of life experience. There is a biological body clock and perhaps like Allsopp states, 'nature is not a feminist' but science is turning into a feminist allowing women in their fifties to have children.
I think that Allsopp's advice that women should not have a university education or career until they're middle aged and should instead have children goes against the modernity of the western world. This opinion sees men being the breadwinner again, and everything women, and men, have fought for concerning gender equality, equal gender pay and equal access to jobs between men and women being overturned. Aren't getting girls into education and enabling them to stay there what so many NGO's are fighting for? Is it then not hypocritical of us girls in the 'western world' to then stop educating ourselves.
To end this rant, I shall note some facts taken from the United Nations Women's Empowerment Principles and other articles that I think are extremely relevant when looking at Allsopp's advice to girls:
- According to some estimates, women represent 70% of the world's poor.
- In 2007, Goldman Sachs reported that different countries and regions of the world could dramatically increase GDP simply by reducing the gap in employment rates between men and women.
- Two-thirds of the estimated 776 million adults...16% of the world's adult population...who lack basic literacy skills are women [and] in developing countries, nearly one out of five girls...do not complete [their] primary education.
- The Women's Learning Partnership (WLP) estimates that worldwide, for every year beyond fourth grade that girls attend school, wages rise 20%, child deaths drop 10% and family size drops 20%.
Facts taken from: http://weprinciples.org/files/attachments/18.pdf.
- The United Nations claims that 'the next increment of global growth could well come from the full economic empowerment of women' (United Nations, 2012, p.16).
- Similarly a 2011 Deloitte report advocates 'investing in women and bringing them into leadership positions' (United Nations, 2012)
- A United Nations study shows that, 'there is a significant economic benefit to addressing the gender wage gap' (United Nations, 2012, p.36).
- Results from 'The White House Project' show that women only hold sixteen to eighteen percent of leadership roles (Gilmour, 2011). Surely by following Allsopp's advice, this statistic will only decrease.
United Nations General Assembly, (2012), Resilient people, resilient planet: a future worth choosing.
Gilmour, N, (2011). International Women's Day: Why the Gender Dividend is the Business Case for Gender Equality. www.theglasshammer.com