Osbourne’s incentive for stay-at-home mums?

working motherIn the UK, there are currently 14.4 million women in employment, a record high, according to The Telegraph but the Government want to see nearly 500,000 more by the beginning of 2016. The Chancellor, George Osborne, stated: ‘Today’s Treasury research shows that women are playing an ever larger role in the economy, but it also makes clear that there’s more we can do to support women into work’. So how exactly does he plan to incentivise women back to employment?

The Government proposes to reform childcare to support families. £2million would create 50,000 childcare places across the country; and introduction of tax-free childcare would cover up to 20% off childcare costs for a maximum of £2,000 for each child. As an added carrot, the current government would extend the New Enterprise Allowance and Childcare Business Grants, which provided money to prospective childminders to start up nurseries in England. So far, these initiatives have generated around 4,000 new childminders creating 29,000 childcare places.

Childcare is a hot topic amongst all parties with Nicola Sturgeon, in Scotland last month promising to double the amount of free childcare available for three and four-year-olds taking the number of free hours from 16 to 30 every week if the SNP wins the next Holyrood election.

The proposals have evoked mixed reactions: Minister for women, Nicky Morgan, said: “I’m delighted more women are working than ever before – in the last year alone 350,000 extra women have been employed, giving them greater financial security. Women are making huge strides in the economy and it’s vital that their contributions are recognised.”

But not everyone sees this as progress. Laura Perrins, from campaign group ‘Mothers at Home Matter’, said: “Osborne fails to understand that mothers caring for children are working. They are caring for their kids.” She felt paid daycare places stigmatises stay-at-home mothers by suggesting paid work is the best way women can contribute.

We believe woman shouldn’t have to choose between their career and their family. The proposals encouraging stay-at-home mothers to go to work follow last year’s changes to child benefit which forced many back into the workplace.

$1 contraceptive shot for world’s poorest women

3rd world countries toWomen in the developing world will now be able to buy the contraceptive device, ‘Sayana Press’, for £1 or receive it free. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Children’s Investment Fund, are extending access to new contraceptive injections for women in 69 of the world’s poorest countries.

The BBC describe ‘Sayana Press’ as simple and pre-packaged so doesn’t rely on preparation by health workers; reducing risk of spillage or dosing errors. The device is single-use so cuts infection due to needle-sharing and works for 3 months.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates 222m women in developing countries would choose to use contraception but don’t have access. Only 26% African women use contraception, a figure that’s doubled in the past two decades – but remains low for a region where women want safe, affordable and reliable contraceptives.

Kadidia Diallo, a midwife in Burkina Faso, West Africa, the first country to be offered the pilot contraceptive injection spoke to the BBC saying: ‘Normally for injections you have to put them in someone’s bottom, or the top of their leg, but with this – you use the arm. That’s an advantage for women living in the bush. Many women don’t come forward for injections if they have to pull their dresses up – this is more discreet.’

Basic health, prosperity, equality and access to contraceptives are essential to secure a sustainable world. Head of Global Development at the Gates Foundation, Dr Chris Elias, said in The Independent: ‘When women are able to plan their families, they are more likely to survive pregnancy and childbirth, to have healthier newborns and children, and to invest more in their families’ health and wellbeing’.

It’s a sentiment shared by the women demanding contraceptives themselves. Rahimata Tiendrébéogo, who is 18 and from Burkina Faso, wants to attend university to study English: “It’s not good for people to have babies so young because they are students…they don’t have money or the means to bring up children. I’m independent and I want to be responsible.” More women like Tiendrébéogo can take control of their bodies and choose to use birth control, something we in the West take for granted.

Ban Julien “rape evangelist” Blanc from UK – Sign the Petition

 As the 21st November draws near, we are watching carefully to see if the UK will follow the good examples of Australia and Brazil to take a stand against the sexist, misogynistic and racist Julien Blanc. The ‘Pick-Up Artist’ is due on our shores this week. He hosts ‘dating advice’ events where men pay up to £1,250 to learn how to emotionally, and in many cases, physically manipulate women into having sex with them. Teaching harassment is not a skill the UK needs. It’s bad enough that one in five British women have been victims of sexual violence since the age of 16. With tutorials that will only contribute to a culture of this violence, Blanc is offering a pick-up seminar in London on November 21 – dismally, it’s already fully booked.

Blanc provides seminars to “make girls BEG to sleep with you after SHORT-CIRCUITING their emotional and logical mind into a million reasons why they should”. One of Blanc’s tactics for ‘breaking the ice’ is to grab the heads of female strangers and thrust them toward his crotch. Another of his ‘approaches’ is to grab women in a choke-hold, while he puts his finger on his lips and whispers ‘Shh’. We don’t need more misogyny on our shores. According to The Ministry of Justice over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year in England and Wales.

Anti-Blanc social media campaigns have gathered pace in recent days, with Twitter users sharing pictures of his hand around the throats of women posted with his disgusting hashtag #ChokingGirlsAroundTheWorld. Online petitions are putting pressure on the Home Office and Theresa May to deny Julien Blanc a UK Visa. More than 150,000 people have signed a change.org petition, drawn up by a city worker using the pseudonym Caroline Charles to protect herself from abuse, and over 129,000 the avaaz.org community petition. Forced to cut short a visit to Australia following widespread protests, Blanc was subsequently denied visas in Australia and Brazil for his misogyny and racism.

As yet there has been no official comment from The Home Office but Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary and Lynne Featherstone, have added their voices to the calls with Featherstone telling The Guardian: ‘As the Home Office minister with responsibility for tackling violence against women and girls, I am extremely concerned by the sexist and utterly abhorrent statements Julien Blanc has made about women’.

We don’t normally advocate for petitions, but knowing that a man who routinely advises his audiences: “If you’re a white male, you can do what you want. I’m just romping through the streets, just grabbing girls’ heads, just like, head …on the dick’ means action must be taken. Please sign one of the above petitions as the UK is better off without Blanc’s ‘lessons’. The UK must show more respect for women and follow Australia and Brazil’s lead; let’s ensure his visa is revoked.

Are all the misogynists working in technology?

techonologyOur sister company, The InclusIQ Institute’s inbox was inundated with comments about a technology site ‘codebabes.com’ that aims to reward novice coders with page 3 style photos for every piece of new code they learn. No prizes then for guessing that sexism is a major problem in the technology industry. Headlining the website are hyper-sexualised women who remove a piece of clothing on the successful completion of a test like, ’Where to stick your CSS’. It’s actually advertised as ‘educational’ with a byline of being ‘awesome for Learning to code & Checkin’ out babes’. While sites like this are clearly offensive to women; they are patronising to men as well.

It reminded us of a MassChallenge Business Start up we attended a year ago. Everyone pitched their business concepts; looking for strangers to join them over the weekend in turning their idea into a reality. A number of young guys presented concepts for website or apps that rate local parties by the quality of the women attendees- ‘so you always know ‘which’ party to go to’. Dismayingly, these proposals got selected whilst projects by the few women who pitched potential websites where parents can rate babysitters in their local area, were largely ignored. What a missed opportunity for crowdsourcing great information for which parents would gladly pay.

It brought to mind an article: ‘Technology’s Man Problem’ in the New York Times. Two TechCrunch Hackathon entrepreneurs showcased their ‘Titstare app’ – which ostensibly offers bare-chested women the opportunity to take photos of themselves in the mirror. Thanks, but no thanks.

Not surprisingly, participants were shocked and it sparked a massive online backlash on Twitter. One attendee, Elissa Shevinsky, co founder of Glimpse, was disgusted and started a Twitter blogpost :“I thought that we didn’t need more women in tech. I was wrong.” TechCrunch published an apology; ‘Any type of sexism or other discriminatory and/or derogatory speech will not be allowed. You expect more from us, and we expect more from ourselves. We are sorry’. As purveyors of ostensibly the newest and best in technology, we do indeed expect more.

Parity between the genders in the technology sector feels a long way off. Every small step counts. We support organisations who strive to make tech a safer and more inclusive place for everyone, such as the one mentioned above and others: womenintechnology.co.uk, The Representation Project #NotBuyingIt app, and womenwhocode.co.uk, Black Girls Code , Girl Develop It, and Girls who code.

 

Soft-Porn Construction Hoardings: Just who does Malmaison think it will attract with it’s “Dressed to Drill’ imagery?

The picture on the hoarding of the Malmaison hotel, Manchester.Jeanette Winterson, author of the hugely successful ‘Oranges are Not the Only Fruit’ who’s been awarded a role of Professor of New Writing at Manchester University, is well-placed to comment on the building hoardings she sees outside her former hotel of choice; the Malmaison. In The Guardian: she asks: ‘How pretty do you have to be to work on a building site?’. The hotel is currently fronted by construction hoardings with soft-porn version of ‘women at work’ a blonde, skinny model donning a strapless dress, full make-up, hard hat and wielding a drill.

Feminism has supposedly triumphed, but as Winterson points out: “Yet the pay gap is widening; reported incidents of rape and domestic violence are rising; women are not getting to the top of their professions; anorexia and self-harm are increasing. When we talk about sexual abuse, largely we are talking about men abusing women and girls.” Wanting to see what the public at large felt about the advertising, Winterson then conducted a straw poll outside the hotel.

She explained: ‘Some taxi drivers, parked opposite, liked the hoarding. A few people said they didn’t notice it because the images are “normal”. Some thought it was a joke. Maybe it is a joke. The joke is that as Britain falls down the equality ladder behind Rwanda and Nicaragua, and Victoria Beckham is named entrepreneur of the year for dressing us all in size zero – some great clothes, but the same skinny models, the same skinny message – the nearest most women will get to being on the board is a strapless dress and a hard hat outside Malmaison.”

My next trip to Manchester certainly won’t include a stay at the Malmaison, which is a power we forget. Women have power as consumers to not just avoid certain brands, but tell them why we won’t be buying. Malmaison should work with their construction company and advertisers to create imagery that is appealing to both genders rather than patronise men and alienate female travellers. A progressive message for a brand that claims to be at the forefront of modernity and great customer service – neither of which it shows with these hoardings.

Egg Freezing Debate: Fantastic Perk or ‘Hard-Boiled’ Corporate Greed?

working motherAs you can imagine, Facebook and Google’s announcement they’d pay for the freezing of eggs of female staff (and the partners of male staff) has drawn both advocates and critics. Some see it as a valuable perk and an extension of reproductive rights for an expensive process. We at Female Breadwinners see this as ‘corporate creep’. As Harriet Minter succinctly put it in The Guardian: ‘Rather than saying, “have your children in your own time and we’ll support you with well-paid parental leave and subsidised childcare”, they’re saying, “work really hard through your most fertile years and then when you may not be able to have kids anymore, you can give it a shot with the eggs we froze for you as a perk”.

Surely, these firms would be better off creating a culture where people don’t have to chose between family and a career at the same time. The unspoken threat is: ‘Don’t say we didn’t offer to support you get to the top; it’s full steam ahead or a family’. Plus what happens to the women who opt to freeze? Their chances of success are slim – only 2000 babies have been born this way; only 20 in the UK. Plus, we suspect women may feel a psychological pressure to carry on working, or stay in a bad situation with their employer, rather than starting their family simply because they have eggs in store.

The fact that this ‘answer to women’s woes’ comes from the technology sector is particularly rich. It’s an industry where women have less than a 15% chance of reaching a senior position – about the same chance of a successful pregnancy for a 40 year old who’s frozen her eggs. From our point of view, while early 20’s is the ideal time to freeze eggs, most 20-somethings are optimistic they will find the right partner, have kids and live happily ever after in their ideal order – egg-freezing seems implausible and pessimistic.  Interestingly, there may be another seedier and simpler motivation why this ’solution’ has come out of Silicon Valley as described by one insider in Newsday: ‘Something about this policy feels like Silicon Valley men plotting to get the women off their backs about marriage, so they can go back to their video games.”

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