Philobiblon: The cost of motherhood: 40 per cent disadvantge

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The cost of motherhood: 40 per cent disadvantge

It is something that still raises my blood pressure thinking about it. My poor Mum, who was never very high in self-confidence and ego, really wanted a job as an estate agent, and would have been very good at it, because she was really good at people.

It would have been her first real "career" job, after taking a range of part-time secretarial posts when I was young, so that she was always able to take me to and pick me up from school. But I was now 11, and other possibilities beckoned. The choice was down between her and a male applicant, but the employer chose the man, telling Mum that "your child might get sick or something". Mum never went for another professional job.

Now the same employer mightn't actually say that flat out, but it seems his compatriots are still thinking it...

The review concluded that mothers were the most disadvantaged group in the job market, after calculating which groups face the biggest “penalties” when analysing data dating back to 1974.
It was found that mothers with young children have a 40 per cent disadvantage. The next most disadvantaged groups were Pakistani and Bangladeshi women, with a 30 per cent disadvantage, and mothers with children over 11 years, at almost 20 per cent.

Then of course there are other disdvantages. The Guardian gets a bloke to list his ten favourite verse novels. Nine of them are by blokes; one is by a long-dead woman, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

That's the power of the "old media", but the new can be as bad: Amazon is in hot water, in an uncomfortable reminder of the potential power of these new virtual behmouths, over the anti-abortion slant of its search results:

Campaigners complained that requests for information on abortion generated the response "Did you mean adoption?" at the top of the page. They expressed their suspicion that Amazon was tampering with its search results to appease pro-life groups, and expressing what appeared to be an "editorial position".
Amazon has hurriedly taken down the question but continues to risk the ire of pro-choice groups because adoption is still listed as a related topic. Customers are not offered listings on abortion when they search on adoption.

Then Afghanistan - remember that? George Bush's success story? Well the UN is tell refugees don't come home because of the parlous state of the security and general situations. Is it any wonder the US can't catch Bin Laden?

Finally - I do try to get one bit of good news in the round-up, a lovely profile of Janet Todd:

From the trend-setting encyclopaedia of women writers that she brought out in 1984, through the seven-volume edition of the works of Aphra Behn (a Mother of the English Novel), a seven-volume edition of the works of Mary Wollstonecraft (with Marilyn Butler), to the nine-volume Jane Austen edition (currently under way with CUP), Todd has tramped the Himalayan ranges of her subject. She is the kind of academic who, unlike most of her colleagues, will leave monuments behind her. Useful monuments.


Blogger mapletree7 said...

Then of course there are other disdvantages. The Guardian gets a bloke to list his ten favourite verse novels. Nine of them are by blokes; one is by a long-dead woman, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Childless woman, at that.

3/21/2006 09:35:00 pm  
Blogger Badaunt said...

At one of the places I work, when the university found out that one of the part-time teachers was having her second baby, they considered not renewing her contract the next year. (In other words, firing her.) Our boss was against it (he was livid - she is a good teacher), and so they went over the records to 'prove' how mothers take off too much time for their children. They discovered that, surprise, surprise, not only do the teachers who are mothers NOT take off more time for their children, teachers who are fathers DO.

I can't figure out whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I suspect the women are ultra careful about being seen to be 'unreliable' workers because they have children, so make other arrangements, whereas because men are so rarely criticized in the same context they didn't even think of it. Also, the university didn't even consider firing men for becoming fathers, even after finding out that fathers take more time off. They didn't even get reprimanded.

Those are the worrying points. The really good thing about this story is that at that place I work with some lovely men for whom being an equal partner in child-rearing is so normal it doesn't even occur to them to not do it.

3/25/2006 07:02:00 am  
Blogger Badaunt said...

Those were all foreign teachers, btw.

3/25/2006 07:03:00 am  

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