Why females with or without kids can never win.

sonya barlow
3 min readApr 6, 2019

As a 20 something year old in business, I’ve often found myself discussing more “grown up” topics at our monthly Like Minded Females (LMF) brunches.

Topics seem to include the notion of career advancement; marriage, kids, family; though more times than none these ideas are followed up with comments such as : “How will this impact my career?” “Where are the role models leading businesses who can’t afford a full time nanny?” “I can’t possibly be doing that before I’m 30”; “My employer makes me wait 2 years before I am even entitled to maternity pay” and “Here’s to the gender pay gap becoming even wider” …

With fewer than 1 in 5 women feeling confident to return to work after having kids and 1 in 3 women having a lack of confidence in the work place at any given time; the notion of kids just seems like it adds extra pressure to my future dream of becoming an all rounded CEO.

However, this article is less to discuss the pros and cons of having children and more to discuss : How as females we can never win — if you have a child, your career seems doomed; and if you don’t have a child, there’s constant questions AND people assuming you have no life or responsibilities!?

Running LMF initiatives have provided insight into conversations which I thought only occurred in male dominated spaces such as tech and banking, however they occur across the board.

I’d like to share my top 7 (in no particular order):

  1. Being told that your career can possibly halt when one has a child
  2. Being told that you can’t take off the half term because you don’t have a child
  3. Assuming that you can work 16 hours a day because you don’t have a child and clearly a life or hobbies
  4. As a junior member, managers questioning by you are leaving earlier of working from home (though there’s a flexible policy) as you children to pick up from school
  5. Assuming that you aren’t married or don’t have kids because you are a lesbian
  6. Being called selfish for putting your financial needs before that of the CHOICE of having a family
  7. Being reminded that the gender pay gap will only widen if you have a child; and if a man doesn’t take your job, a robot surely will

And here are some favourable options to tackle the above (in no particular order) :

  1. Creating maternity policies which do not subject females to staying in a company for 2 years before they have a child, yet creating open relationships to allow females to have a child when they want and be comfortable enough to return to work
  2. Have a return to work program, where females are not expected to go straight into the client side yet eased into the workplace by working on internal projects
  3. Designing the flexibility policy as a way to trust employees, rather than holding it over their head as leverage
  4. Re evaluating pay on an annual basis to make sure that men and women are paid equally
  5. Asking all employees if they are okay with client travelling, staying over night or getting involved in after work curricular rather than assuming because they have no children
  6. Holidays being approved as first come first serve
  7. Take into consideration their culture, heritage and family responsibilities. This is why it is SO important to have a diverse senior leadership team and head of diversity who is culturally educated (this is an 8th point in itself)

Overall, there are many instances where it seems like companies are taking these steps on the surface but when you discuss with the cohort, it doesn’t seem to be trickling down especially to those who are still junior in their career.

These junior members are the future leaders; so if it wasn’t important before, it’s even more important now to understand, appreciate and involve them — as we know, loyalty no longer pays the bills!

Like Minded Females is a community and diversity initiative created by Sonya Barlow in May 2018. For more information, follow @LMF_NETWORK or email likemindedfemales@mail.com

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sonya barlow

Award Winning Entrepreneur, Author & Traveller, BBC Radio Presenter. sonyabarlowuk