7 Charlotte Gascoigne on men, women and mothers


Fundamentally we wanted to know what the position of women was in the industry, and also to look at how things might change.  We wanted to kind of gather best practice in terms of equal opportunities and publicise best practice.

And yes, we had this chapter called ‘Men, Women and Mothers’, because it became pretty clear early on that the publishing industry was fine with having women in senior positions as long as they didn’t have pesky children to look after. [Laughs]

So as long as they behaved exactly like men then that was perfectly fine for women to be in publishing, but the minute you wanted to work part time or take time out with your children you were less committed, less well regarded, assumed to be less ambitious and so on.  So we had this chapter called ‘Men, Women and Mothers’, which was really dividing the world into men and childless women on the one side and mothers on the other side.

And just looking at the quotes from the interviews, I mean there are some fairly startling quotes from managers, seniors managers, directors who claimed to consider men and women equally for all positions but in fact, there’s a quote here from a male manager: ‘If a woman had small children I think it would concern me. The demands we are making in many areas wouldn’t be compatible with bringing up small children.  I’d be very suspicious of placing a woman with children.  I’ve got to admit it worries me a lot unless a woman has done it and proves she can combine the two.’

Another manager says: ‘If you come right down to brass tacks, I resent the fact that our director is on the main board. She’s a woman and she’s a mother. My personal feeling is she should be at home looking after her child.’

‘Women around the age of 30 without children are likely to be viewed with caution when they’re being considered for a job that requires a fairly long and committed timescale. There’s a niggling thought that they might have kids.’

Exasperation over maternity leave.  A male director voiced some of the exasperation managers felt over maternity leave.  ‘I can’t handle women having babies. I can’t deal with it. It winds me up. It’s a bloody nuisance.  Some women are career girls and they don’t have babies.  We can’t run on a sensible number of staff and have women leave to have babies.’

[Laughs] So these were fairly common attitudes, these are not, you know, we’re just going back 20, 30 years, this was the big issue.  You know it was very fringe in those days to have it all, to have both – the stellar career and the babies.  And freelancing was the way that most women dealt with it.  You know, they’d have children, then leave work and go freelance.  That was the standard route.  And freelancing generally doesn’t lead back to a corporate career and moving up the hierarchy.  It leads to other types of career development but not the kind of getting to be managing director.  So once you’re out it’s quite hard to get back in again, I think, or it certainly was then, ’cos you weren’t regarded as serious, or committed or ambitious, or any of those things the minute you went freelance, you were, OK she’s now a woman with children and she’s a different animal.

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