UK maternity provisions contribute to women leaving IT. Will we see a change in maternity laws?

The government has come under a lot of scrutiny of late, with public spending cuts not proving very popular. But there is a beacon of light in all the doom and gloom – Nick Clegg’s plans to reform maternity leave.

The deputy PM, who shares childcare responsibilities with his wife, a successful lawyer, was quoted as saying:

“Right now, when a child is born, fathers are entitled to just a paltry two weeks of paternity leave. These rules patronise women and marginalise men. They’re based on a view of life in which mothers stay at home and fathers are the only breadwinners. That’s an Edwardian system that has no place in 21st-century Britain.”

I have always maintained that the current maternity and paternity provisions in the UK are a significant contributing factor to the high number of women leaving IT and reaching senior positions – we have one of the most unequal set-ups in Europe, which must change.

At the moment, the majority of women that do reach the top either do not have families or they have partners who stay at home. But in 2011 why should we have to choose between children and a career?

At one of our past events, one female attendee said ‘In Sweden a guy can take up to one and a half years of paternity leave – there’s no discussion about who’s at home with the kids; you both are’ and I think that mentality is one that we need to work towards.

Women are a valuable asset to the business world but without drastic measures we’re not going to see much of a change. Allowing men and women to share maternity leave would mean neither would have to sacrifice their career, and would hopefully encourage employers to consider more flexible working options for their workforce.

With more part time work for both men and women, the IT industry will be able to retain a lot more of its talent.

So well done Mr Clegg, we applaud your efforts. Let’s hope that the plans materialse and make a real difference.

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Great points, Maggie. From our research into why women were leaving corporate lives at the pinnacle of their careers, the majority stated that a key ingredient to maintaining their economic power was equality in the home. The majority of the women who contributed to our research for our book Your Loss: How to Win Back your Female Talent (www.yourlossbook.com) indicated that caring and family responsibilities were evenly shared with their husbands.

We need to break the traditional stereotypes around home and family nurturing. Corporates also need to promote senior male role models in their businesses who espouse that flexible culture in their own lives. This will make it easier for men to also break the stereotype of the single-minded, workaholic, career-focused man being the only personality capable of making it up the corporate ranks.

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