"Look!", said the HR manager, brandishing a folder as if it was a WMD, "We have equality policies posted on all the Tampax machines but we're still haemorrhaging senior women".
The not so human resource manager wondered if women weren't their own worst enemy. She was irked that the only female executive had left a high profile meeting the day before, to collect a sick child from school. "Why does the school have her work number for emergencies and not that of her husband"? She was luminescent with rage. "How many of your male senior executives have ever left a meeting to collect a sick child"? I enquired. "None".
This is just one example of the, one rule for women and another for men, culture that's so entrenched in organisations that it's rendered invisible and accepted as normal. As long as HR mangers apply double standards in the execution of equality policies (not encouraging male executives to share parenting duties), women will invariably be left holding the baby.
A recent study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission estimated that around 54,000 new mothers in Britain lose their jobs every year, that's twice as many as a decade ago. One in five new mothers experienced harassment or negative comments from colleagues or manager when pregnant or returning from maternity leave, 7% said they were put under pressure to hand in their notice and one in 20 reported receiving a cut in pay or bonus after returning to work.
The recession is also pushing many single parents, 9 out of 10 of whom are women, into poverty. According to Gingerbread, who carried out a survey of members, 47% borrowed money and/or went without food in order to pay for childcare. In 2015 two thirds of England's Sure Start children's centres were hit with crippling cuts. Hundreds have been forced to close in the last 5 years and 130 are currently under threat of closure, thus removing a vital safety net from the most vulnerable children and families in society. So much for "early detection", "making work pay" and "aspiration". Hollow sound bites, with more bite than tangible substance.
With cleaning up other peoples' mess as our USP, we need more women at the helm of UK PLC. Seasoned mothers wouldn't succumb to corporations' threats to throw their toys out of the pram if they don't get what they want (avoiding tax on their toys). They would put them on the naughty step to ponder the maleficence of greed. Followed by a lecture on, "you won't get anywhere in life without mastering the skill of sharing".
But women are a long way off calling the shots. Among chief executives and chairs of FTSE 100 companies, there are 17 men called John. That's more than the total of seven female bosses.
But perhaps the most chilling of all the statistics I've come across is that 17 % of people forget Mother's day and, of the 83% that do remember, 79.9% of them think flowers are an appropriate gift. As if a bunch of Dahlias is commensurate recompense for being banished to a hinterland of societal insignificance, wherein moaning about your DH on Netmums constitutes radical political activism.
It's not for me to say what an appropriate Mothers Day gift would be, but, as a general rule, I would avoid the following: flammable nighties, toxic talcs and anything from the Kotex product range.