Monday 8 September 2008

Women at work - there's got to be more

Rachida Dati is pregnant. Big deal. But as a government minister and, yes, a woman, it gives the media a chance to discuss whether this is a big issue. It's true even in progressive Western Europe we don't get to see many pregnant government ministers - it is still a novelty. And although for generations men have been aware that women can work and have families, the idea somehow sets heads, and pens, wagging. Janine Di Giovanni thinks the French media is more evolved than the British, and heaven forefend, the Americans, in letting women getting on with their private lives when they have a high profile public role. And if they are, good for them. Although it seems that the gradually, and with the help of Sarkosy, the idea of politicians as celebrities is awakening in France.
Last week a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that there had been a fall in the number of women in top jobs over the last five years. Fewer than 20% of MPs are women and 9% of top judges. Of course, that's not good enough. Why aren't things improving? Childcare is still an issue. Women with small children, and it is still usually them, still struggle to juggle getting their children to school or nursery before getting to work on time. Until we make it easier for parents to get affordable childcare close to home at times that suit working people, parents, but more usually mothers, will find it harder to go back to work after they finish maternity leave.

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