Almost three-quarters of mothers feel that taking maternity leave put their jobs in jeopardy and left them vulnerable to ambitious colleagues or redundancy, The Times reported yesterday.
This was one of the findings from a recent study among Netmums members to examine the challenges faced by working mothers or mothers-to-be.
One in three working women also said they felt they had been overlooked for a promotion because they were of child-bearing age.
As The Times rightly infers, “this and other studies show that although protected by law, mothers remain fearful during their child-bearing years, believing that they are first in line for redundancy and at the back of the queue when it comes to promotion and training opportunities”.
The study also found that two-thirds of women now earn less than they did before having a baby, while only 5 per cent earn more. Despite all this 73 per cent of women believe they are better employees as a result of having a baby, making them more focused and organised.
This is not the first research to show that having a baby is the one single factor which limits women’s career progression and thus their pay packet. The gender pay gap in the UK taking account of full and part-time work currently stands at 22 per cent, the sixth worst in the European Union. Part of the reason for this poor showing is that the gap between man and women’s earnings dramatically worsens once a woman has had a baby. According to research conducted by the TUC, there is little difference in men and women’s pay in their 20s, yet by the time they reach their 40s the gap between male and female hourly earnings is 15.3 per cent.
The study for Netmums was conducted by maternitycover.com, a specialist recruitment consultancy, and confirms many women’s experiences of having children and trying to keep a career going.
I read in the Telegraph earlier this week that private clinics which carry out abortions will be allowed to advertise on television and radio for the first time. I was not surprised to learn that this news has been met with outrage from anti-abortion groups such as Life and the more dogmatic elements of the Conservative Party. As usual, their arguments range from the factually incorrect to those of gymnastic leaps of logic.
Joanna Hill from Life described the proposals as utterly unacceptable because it meant that abortions would be advertised as if they were cars or soap powder. The problem is that no abortion provider advertises their product in such a way. The Marie Stopes advert that caused so much outrage last year didn’t even mention the word abortion or suggest it. It simply said “If you are late, you could be pregnant and Marie Stopes could help you”. It accurately represented that Marie Stopes aims to provide a range of options to women who are undergoing an unexpected pregnancy.
Life also argued that the new rules would allow “money-grabbing abortion providers” to abuse vulnerable women. Firstly, the overwhelming majority of abortion providers such as Marie Stopes and BPAS are charities, run not-for-profit. Secondly, abortion is available on the NHS and that is where the most vulnerable women, such as teenagers who are unlikely to be able to pay for an abortion, are likely to go. Thirdly, the reason many women chose to pay for a private abortion rather than use the NHS is because they believe that such organisations provide a higher quality of care and counselling.
This issue highlights the hypocrisy of the right-wing Tories’ current stance on abortion. Nadine Dorries has demanded that women be forced to undergo compulsory counselling by an organisation that doesn’t itself provide abortion services before being allowed to undergo the procedure. This will actually delay treatment for women but she has justified these proposals on the grounds that women should have the choice to abort but need to have “as much information as possible”. Why then has she denounced these new proposals which are fundamentally about providing women with information about their options? The only possible reason is that Dorries and groups such as Life only want pregnant women to have certain kinds of information, the information and advice that fit in with their own agenda.
Anti-abortion campaigners are blinded by their dogma and prejudice into thinking that those involved in abortions are immoral people who either have no respect for human life or even get pleasure from the taking of it. This is totally and utterly wrong. Those who work for organisations like Marie Stopes are, I believe, motivated primarily by compassion, just like those who work in all other forms of healthcare.
Such organisations are also not simply about providing abortions. Marie Stopes, BPAS and similar bodies provide a range of fertility, sexual health and counselling services. The mission statement of Marie Stopes sums up their role perfectly; “Children by choice, not by chance” and that includes helping women to have children as well as not to have them. Right wing Tories and the dogmatic elements of our society are trying to prevent women from being able to make that choice for themselves.