Sorry if I’ve told you this story before, but I’m going to tell it again today because Margo James, an MP, has called for “zero tolerance” on workplace maternity and pregnancy discrimination and that’s great and important and everything, but back to my story.
It’s one that will feel familiar. You’ll be well versed or you’ll quickly know what’s coming like a shitty romcom on Netflix that has been recommended to you because you watched The Good Wife and The Good Wife has the word “wife” in it.
It goes like this: in my friend’s office of 25 people, two were recently made redundant. The office is largely made up of women but the two women who were made redundant were the two young mothers. Cuts needed to be made, the bosses said. They were looking at who was most essential to the business, they said. Their jobs weren’t vital to the company, they said.
Or was it because she’s made her bed so she’s got to go lie in it? How dare she think she can have a family and a career?! What a fool! This is her choice, her problem. Your hands are so clearly tied. Nope. No siree. Nothing you can do
I hate to put words in anyone’s mouth but I’m going to anyway (I’m at the “zero tolerance” stage too, Margo). Wasn’t it more because they came in at 9.45am and left at 5.30pm (and never took a lunch hour), because they had to do the childcare because women are still expected to do the majority of the childcare, even when their liberal boyfriend swears he’s a feminist?
Or was it because they are the most likely person in the room to call in sick because their toddler is ill or got whacked around the head by the nursery bully and the teacher calls them first and not their partner who insists on wearing his This is What a Feminist Looks Like t-shirt, but only when he is not at work?
Or was it because they might have baby number two and your big company isn’t in the business of covering maternity any more, so quick, get them out now before they bleed your international corporation dry? (I’d suggest looking at your CEO’s expenses for other money saving measures).
Or was it because once a woman has small children, she stops being a dynamic member of the team and deflates into a mere “mum” – and not a time-defying, hyper-efficient asset but a slightly lazy, not-so-committed, unimportant what’s-her-name-again who we look down on because a woman’s work has no value?
Or was it because she doesn’t get involved anymore? Because she’s got four days to do five days work so she can’t hang around having a chat in the kitchen because she’s on the clock? Is it because she’s stopped gossiping, bitching, ass-licking because she’s more busy than you'll ever even imagine?
Or was it because she’s made her bed so she’s got to go lie in it? How dare she think she can have a family and a career?! What a fool! This is her choice, her problem. Your hands are so clearly tied. Nope. No siree. Nothing you can do.
Or maybe it’s because the system was bloody hard for you so you’re not giving anyone a free pass? Like hell you are. She can suffer just like you suffered. This is a survival of the fittest, or so the bosses on the board have told you so many times whilst their wives are cooking dinner and raising their children. This is just life.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s because you're not really that keen on women getting promotions and becoming increasingly senior and looking like, before long, they might step on your toes? And if we push them off the boat in their 30s, we can keep the world's equilibrium of men in their 40s and 50s running it all? Because giving up your power is non-negotiable, but here’s your diversity policy, if we’d like to take a look?
Or maybe it’s because you just don’t take women seriously – and a problem that affects only women, such as procreation or periods or pink or the price of hairdryers, just isn’t a real concern. You let them go because, hey, their career was probably just a hobby until they found a man and had a baby. And look, they are having the baby so really you are doing them a favour...
And that was my story. And I will continue to analyse the real motives behind these characters, like the final scene in every Hercule Poirot episode until I'm blue in the face, but it doesn’t take a fucking world-class Belgian detective to figure out what is really going on.
Yes, we need “zero tolerance” on this. Let's hope Margo James’ government feels the same.