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The doing-it-all, not having-it-all generation of women

Tara Howard

Today’s working women are the doing-it-all not having-it-all generation, still facing unfavourable treatment, difficulties with childcare and challenges with maternity leave. Meanwhile they are still continuing to do the lion’s share of housework. Contributor Tara Howard, Founder – Venus Awards.

The Working Women’s Survey, carried out by the organisers of the Venus Awards, is the largest survey to date carried out by the group. Over 2,400 women responded to the survey, which was designed to investigate actual experiences and the current challenges facing working women in the UK today.

The results show that many women are still experiencing discrimination in the workplace and challenges surrounding maternity leave and childcare.

Key findings from the survey include: 47 percent of respondents stated that they had never asked for a payrise. Reasons given included lack of confidence and it ‘not being worth asking’.

Too many women report their gender has affected how they have been treated: two out of five women (42 percent) said they feel they have been disadvantaged in the workplace due to their gender.

Pay is still not always equal for equal work, but still taboo: 15 percent of women said that their male colleagues are paid more than them for doing the same job, but 43 percent said they didn’t know if their male colleagues were being paid more or less, suggesting transparency in pay is still lacking.

Being entrepreneurial and a need for flexibility: of those that run their own businesses, more than half (53 percent) said they were driven to do so because they were entrepreneurial and wanted to start their own businesses. 35 percent said the need for more flexibility for family life was a factor, although 39 percent said they find they are working longer hours than when they were employed.

Further findings from the survey include: Family plans: 29 percent of women said they had been asked about plans for family in a job interview. Covering unplanned childcare is a challenge for both mothers and employers: an overwhelming 68 percent of women said if their children were ill or needed childcare for another unplanned reason it would be themselves providing it rather than a partner. Meanwhile 62 percent of women said they had felt guilty asking for time off work to look after children. A third of employers (32 percent) said covering unplanned time off due to a staff member’s family commitments was a challenge.

Women are feeling under pressure on their maternity leave: 35 percent of women said they felt pressured to take less time for maternity leave than they would have liked. As to reasons why, 38 percent said they couldn’t afford to financially, 11 percent said it was due to workloads, and 5 percent said they felt guilty about it.

Women still take the lead role in looking after the home: only around a third (37 percent) of women said they share the duties of looking after the home equally with their partner. 43 percent said they end up taking on closer to 75 percent of the duties, whilst 9 percent said they end up taking on closer to 100 percent of the duties.

Tara Howard, Founder of the Venus Awards, comments: “There is no doubt that the position of working women has come on a long way from previous generations, but the results of this survey demonstrate that there are still some very real unsolved issues. As a society we need to have a real and open debate and discussion about how we tackle these challenges. Unplanned childcare, for example, is impacting a significant proportion of working mothers – yet seems to be a topic that is effectively taboo. When a child suddenly falls ill, naturally this can create difficulties for both employees and employers. We have to be honest with each other about what that means, so that we can develop strategies to address those difficulties.”

The Venus Awards were originally founded to help recognise and celebrate the many achievements of working women. By understanding the experiences of the women it represents, the Venus group is spearheading a drive to improve the experiences of working women, not by forcing opinions but by mutual respect and collaboration.

Tara continues: “For too long, women have felt unable to speak up – perhaps because they have not felt they had the opportunity or perhaps because they simply haven’t had the confidence. We need to work at this – simply ignoring the problems is not going to get us anywhere.

“We were greatly encouraged by the number of women who are showing that they are ready to talk about the challenges they face. As well as completing the survey, so many women have used this as an opportunity to tell their story. So many of those stories are inspiring, some are heart-breaking, but they are all empowering. Simply put, much more needs to be done in order to foster working environments that truly provide support and recognition that women need and deserve. With each shared experience we can work together to make the workplace better – for women today and for the next generation.”

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