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.