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Today on International Women’s Day I find myself pondering what “gender equality” and “girl power” and all those other phrases that are bandied around on days such as this really mean.
If truth by told I wasn’t going to write anything today. Andy encouraged me to do so and to “share my story”… For those of you that don’t know I run a business with a man, Andy, who also happens to be my husband.
We are and have always been equal partners in the business in all senses, both with very different but very important roles to play here at ETC Tax and in Life.
Without EITHER one of us the business would not be able to flourish. In that sense, I guess you could say that at work I have achieved true “gender equality”, but:
I am not going to lie, after having children my previous career as a lawyer became a real struggle. I constantly felt like a failure – both at home and at work
I am not going to lie, after having children my previous career as a lawyer became a real struggle. I constantly felt like a failure – both at home and at work. Andy was working a full on career himself and latterly set up his own business (the business which we now run together). We had two children and we weren’t juggling things well.
Something had to give. The answer was my career.
That is perhaps not as bad as it sounds as law was not all I had hoped it would be… And in any event, it was my choice to make – nobody forced me to give up my career – it was a considered decision. Andy’s career was on the brink of something very exciting, mine less so, and so I chose to “make the sacrifice”.
My bosses at the time (both men and whose wives didn’t work) tried to talk me out of it (nice to know they still wanted me around) – they suggested that the way to do it was to get a nanny, a gardener, a cleaner. When you are only left with £250 per month net of childcare costs none of this is really an option! Besides whilst I still wanted to work, I also wanted to be there for my children when they were very young – I guess you could say I wanted it all.
It was, however, a very personal choice. We could have chosen for Andy to “sacrifice” himself, but then, in all honesty, I would have felt like I had missed out. Having it all certainly isn’t easy though.
In my view gender equality is not just about what goes on in the workplace, but ALSO what you do at home and with your children
In my view gender equality is not just about what goes on in the workplace, but ALSO what you do at home and with your children. True equality can only be obtained if both men and women also share the load at home. However, I am also realistic enough to know that if you both “sacrifice” time spent at work your careers may both stagnate.
This is where there is, in my view, a problem in the workplace.
It seems to be the case still (although things are slowly changing) that many employers confuse commitment with the number of hours physically spent in the office. This notion is fundamentally wrong in my view. Some of our most loyal, committed and productive staff at ETC Tax, also happen to be women who work part-time. They work harder perhaps than some full-time members of staff as they seem to feel they have something to prove or make up for.
I get this.
Although all the decisions we have taken as a couple have been mine to make, that doesn’t mean that you don’t find yourself questioning those decisions and that your confidence and self worth is not affected by them. I can’t explain why but it just is. It’s almost like you have admitted you can’t do it all and in that sense you have failed. You second guess yourself.
Or maybe that’s just me.?!
In my view therefore there are two things preventing true gender equality – employer’s attitudes towards “commitment” and the choices we make – with an added measure of self-confidence thrown in. When we make those life choices we need to stand by them – we need to own them and we need to tell ourselves that that doesn’t mean we have failed. We can be who we want to be but in life there are always choices to make. However employers must not just accept but support those choices.
I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to come into the business… something I love and in which I have found… “my wings”, but it is sad in many ways that it has taken self-employment to achieve that
I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to come into the business that Andy set up; something I love and in which I have found my confidence or as I say “my wings”, but it is sad in many ways that it has taken self-employment to achieve that.
The reality is that in my opinion, until such time as men are able to give birth things will never be truly equal – but there are things we, as employers can do to help.
This article isn’t about equal pay – that is a different argument – and one I don’t intend to stray into. This is about us all feeling valued for what we bring regardless of the number of hours we are able to commit at a given point in time #etctax #valued
This is, of course, only my opinion, so please do feel free to share your own…