Thursday, 23 January 2014

Nigel Farage was not being unreasonable

You saw the headlines. You know the story. Did you watch the full piece?

There are a number of issues raised by what Farage said, so I'm going to look at them point by point.

Women biologically make different choices to men

I believe that some of the gap between women and men choosing to stay at home with young children is down to socialisation. But to suggest socialisation explains it all, and biology nothing, is just ridiculous. Carrying a baby, giving birth, breastfeeding - these all increase the likelihood that a woman will want to stay at home with her child.

No, a woman is not a bad person if she wants to go back to work ASAP. No, a man is not less masculine for wanting to be at home with the baby. But that does not man biology has no part in this.

Note: Farage is not talking about women who give up their careers. He is talking about women who take maternity leave, which is often six to 12 months. He references 2-3 years in the above video, talking about women who take two lots of maternity leave.

Being out of work makes your value decline

Are we really having this discussion?

Of course it does. If you spend a year out of work, of course you will be behind when you go back. Being off work to look after a child doesn't change the 'out of work' part of this.

If, over a 10 year period, you take two years in maternity leave, you should not expect to be in the same position as a man or a woman who has worked for all of those 10 years. They have more experience and have done more work.

We need to be honest with women: career breaks can be damaging. I think most of us know that already. But at some point individuals may decide that taking care of their baby is more important to them than working through those extra years.

Fair play. Just don't expect your colleagues or employer to treat you as though you continued working.

In the City

Farage was speaking quite specifically about working in the City. And very specifically about roles where client relationships are important. His argument is quite clear: in that business the worker is worth as much as the clients they have loyal to them. When you take a break (for whatever reason) those clients still need services, and so go elsewhere. They then become loyal to that person, not you. Obviously.

Bottom line

If you take time out of your career, you are going to be playing catch up when you return to work, and may well never be able to fully achieve what you would have without the break. Looking after children during your leave does not change this.

And why should you expect it to? What of the men and women who make different choices and don't take time out: why should they get the same career results for more work?

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