How many times have I listened to politicians and business commentators state with passion and conviction how important it is to recruit and retain women in the workforce.  How as a nation we are missing out on so much talent and how women are going to be our economic rescue.  I so wish I could believe their perfectly written and delivered speeches but sadly I can’t…  Why?

Well what we do know, for sure, is that, not only are women not entering the workforce they are choosing not to return after having children and many are leaving corporate jobs due to lack of flexibility and parity, lack of alignment with personal values, lack of progression, impossible work patterns and hidden discrimination to name a few.

But the biggest killer of anyone’s motivation and incentive must be the lack of reliable and/or affordable childcare for the under 5’s.  I am astounded at the cost.  In my home town, a decent nursery place, if you can get one, for one child can cost anywhere between £10-£14k a year.   Are you kidding??  Where is the incentive to work if it costs this much to put one child in a nursery for a standard 8-6pm day?  As a working Mum the guilt and military style organisation necessary to get back to work is stressful enough but then to know that your childcare is costing as much as your mortgage is not exactly making you feel like you have made the right choice or that your employer values your return.  It would be interesting to see how many men would work at the same punishing corporate intensity if we docked their salaries by £10k a year??

Yet we expect working Mums to be fully engaged, 100% motivated and just as willing to work out of hours,  go the extra mile for promotion and travel as the guys, who in 95% of cases  do not accept the same level of responsibility for said child.  Are we mad or simply deluded?

There are now more women working in Germany, France and the Netherlands than in the UK.  This is a complete turnaround from the eighties when exactly the opposite was true.  So, ask yourself, what are they doing that we aren’t?  Better childcare and better work conditions for working parents – it’s that simple.

It is time for a rethink people.  We cannot simply write off working Mums, our economy needs them.  We have to accept some women, in fact rather a lot of women will, at some point in their journey give birth, it is the natural order of life, they should not be penalised for it.   In order to recoup the investment we need to encourage them back to work, be it as employees or entrepreneurs and to make this a more realistic and frankly a more attractive option, we need better, more reliable and more cost effective childcare along with more flexibility in working patterns and more feminine leadership styles.  Until we do this, as opposed to talk about it, the rescue is on hold!


  1. Jaishree Dodia

    I totally agree with your comments – I have been raising my 3 children age range from 4-11 I have been looking for a part time job for last 8 months and yet not one reply!!! Looking for admin work as this is what I did before having children but just proving difficult – cannot afford to put my child in full time nursery until I get a job which is flexible. Just so saddened and frustrated with job hunting.

  2. Green Shoots Coaching

    A great awareness raising piece Jane. I have run workshop for and work on a one to one basis with women returning to work, this focussed attention certainly gives them an advantage but until the issues you discuss are addressed they will have challenging times ahead. Michaela

  3. Jo

    Jane, this is so true. I am a single mum to 3 children, since my marriage fell apart I have been working full time as well, oh yes, and I am studying for that degree I never did after A levels because I was too busy being the best wife and mother I could. Life is immensely difficult, and I sometimes feel that no one, not even those closest to me, get it. We need to do something to make policy makers aware of this – Tax credits are a godsend, I literally could not work without them, but I am grilled every year about my childcare costs and have to provide every single receipt for every single place I use to look after my kids in order to remain entitled to it. Another issue that it often overlooked is the fact that one family may be forced to use multiple childcare providers (I use 6, OR 7) simply to cover everything that I need….. and don’t even get me started on snow days! And, then there is the disadvantage to my children from not being able to have their friends around for tea or take part in after school hobbies like their peers. I try to construct this as useful – my 11 yr old son is quite adept and disciplined at coming home to an empty house and getting on with his homework until I am home with his sisters, and when necessary he can get dinner started, but really I’d feel far less guilt if he didn’t have to do this every single day of the week.

    1. janekenyon

      Jo, I get all of this but be kinder to you, not necessary to beat yourslef up about what you do to make your family work – your kids will develop resilience and self sufficiency and I am sure they are proud of Mum!

  4. Zoe Hanks

    It may seem naive and completely incomprehensible to some, but I didn’t really consider the full ramifications of childcare costs before I started having children. I have 3 kids (only 1 of school age) and during term time it COSTS ME £100 PER DAY to go to work, rising to £120 during the school holidays, and that’s just in childcare fees (let alone petrol, parking etc). Based on 5 days a week that’s about £2,500 per month to fork out before I have earned a single penny. It sounds ridiculous but what option do I have? I want to instil a positive ethos into my children when it comes to working at their own destiny but that comes at a significant cost!! No wonder so many rely on handouts….I don’t condone the so called benefits culture but its easy to see why people find it so difficult to get out of…


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