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Monday, 12 June, 2000, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Are women undervalued?

The idea of the "superwoman" who effortlessly juggles a successful career with family life is simply a myth according to a recent UK study.

62% of women say they are overworked and three quarters think they are underpaid and at "breaking point" from stress.

The majority of women say that they have to work much harder than men to get a promotion and that having a baby damages their career prospects.

Working mothers feel that stress of work is reflected in their home life and that they are emotionally damaging their children.

What do you think, are women undervalued? Are working mums damaging family life? Are managers and spouses to blame or are working women trying to achieve the impossible?

Send us your views and experiences.

HAVE YOUR SAY

Can a woman have a successful career and raise a family too? She can if she has a lot of support from her husband and her employer

Richard, USA
It may be easier for a middle-class woman to be both a successful career woman and a mother as they are more likely to be able to afford childcare costs. For poorer women, this balance is rarely achieved. I think it is almost impossible to be a successful mother and a successful career woman at the same time without a lot of help from others, financial, practical and emotional.
Clare Fitzpatrick, England

As the UN reported in 1980, women constitute half the world's population, perform nearly two-thirds of its work hours, receive one-tenth of the world's income and own less than one hundredth of the world's property. I doubt if much has change since then.
Derek O'Brien, Northern Ireland

Women's lib is no friend of women or children. Can a woman have a successful career and raise a family too? She can if she has a lot of support from her husband and her employer. If you look at the hardcore libbers are, they are usually older women with no children at home, or single women with no families to worry about.
Richard, USA

Women get ideas about work being good and men having all the fun. However, when they get a job and find out it's hard work, they complain because all they really want is to be treated like kids and be mothered all the time.
Philip Johnson, England

I received an E-Mail comment recently, which I think sums the situation up rather nicely. "Women will never be equal to men until they can stagger down the street, wearing ill-fitting clothes, with a bald head, a beer gut and still think they're beautiful!"
Rex, English, Norway

This raging topic never seems to progress positively. Perhaps the best answer to this is to turn to India and Hinduism. We have goddesses who are revered and worshipped. In some Hindu communities, women hold the purse strings and play a dominant role in a family. Justly so as such families thrive and survive well. In my opinion women above 35 who have done with rearing children prove to be better administrators and stronger minded than most men. No wonder India has produced women like Indira Gandhi, and today's Maneka Gandhi!
Viji Varadarajan, Chennai, India

Let's just look at the terminology here. Why do women have to be classified as "career women" or "working mums"? You never hear people talking about "career men" or "working fathers". Why can't a woman just do whatever she wants, without being sneered at or criticised - nobody tells men that they are bad parents because they go to work, or that they are freaks because they choose not to have children. Give us a break!
Angie, Australia

I believe that men are as capable of women as looking after children, but do they really want to? I think we have a long way to go until men willingly take on a fair share of the domestic workload. Unfortunately this problem is perpetuated by the attitude of a lot of women - I know several highly intelligent, successful women who firmly believe that their partner is utterly incapable of coping with a child by himself. This results in the woman stopping paid work, or opting for part-time lower level work, even where the woman has a much better job than the man. This makes no sense to me at all. However I think it will be a long time before these attitudes change.
Ann, UK

Women who are 30ish who want to return to work after having children are an untapped and undervalued resource. Their ability to cope with important decisions and organising nine different things at once, which is a normal days work for a mother, are perfect attributes needed for a business manager. Let's give these ladies a chance and get them back to work!
Chris Horner, UK



Career women have lost the plot - most are driven to succeed and only give birth to children to satisfy their biological instincts

Barry Hammond, England
Stay at home mothers have been downgraded by career women. They ask "so you are just a housewife then" Well let me say that a housewife with children has the most important job in the world.
Career women have lost the plot. Most are driven to succeed and only give birth to children to satisfy their biological instincts. Most do not know how to love and have got their priorities all wrong. These smart people ask their children's opinion on everything except "should I go to work kids"
Barry Hammond, England

I have to go back to work after the birth of my baby in order for my family to survive - 'wanting it all' has nothing to do with it, I'd rather stay at home if I could. The dual role that women struggle with today is not a recent phenomenon! We have juggled work inside and outside the home for thousands of years.
Ingrid Solberg, UK



So what about 'superwoman'? She can only exist when 'superman' comes home from work and does his fair share of the housework

Keith Lomax, UK
In my 16-year career so far I have worked for three companies. All have practised fair recruitment policies and all have roughly proportional numbers of women up to middle management. The very senior management are still male dominated, but this is because these levels are mainly fed from people who have been working for 30+ years who joined before enlightened recruitment policies. This will change in time.
So what about 'superwoman'? She can only exist when 'superman' comes home from work and does his fair share of the housework.
Keith Lomax, UK



The reason that women of today are so stressed out is that they are fighting against nature

W. Hammond, England
The reason that women of today are so stressed out is that they are fighting against nature. They should look after their children until they are 5 years old at least. 30 years of feminism will not change inbred instincts that have formed through millions of years of evolution. Men and women are different so why can't we celebrate this fact instead of trying to make both sexes the same?
W. Hammond, England

Give us a break, everyone is overworked, stressed and undervalued. Why does it always have to be a 'woman's issue'
Gerry, Scotland

As a working Father of three I can sympathise with the sentiments expressed in the study. If one parent remains at home the other must work. This is typically a man's role yet we are expected to be perfect Fathers and New Men as well.
Juggling work and family life means an 18-hour day and more than occasionally 20 hour days. If my wife returned to work it would not halve the work we do it would increase it as more of our individual time would be taken with child care.
Dave Barlow, UK



I've just changed jobs, and I live in fear of getting pregnant within the next 2 years as I will not qualify for my company's maternity pay

Christine, UK
Maybe this wouldn't be a problem if the British government was prepared to do as much for working mums as other European governments. I've just changed jobs, and I live in fear of getting pregnant within the next 2 years as I will not qualify for my company's maternity pay. Nobody seems to care that I've already worked for 5 years.
Women in certain other EU countries could change jobs tomorrow and still get a full year of 90% maternity pay. I think that if you allow women enough time off when the baby is born, to bond with the child, get over the pregnancy, breastfeed as long as they want to, more women would be happier, less stressed and, most of all, less guilt-ridden when they go back to work.
Christine, UK

It's all about choice. I personally sympathise with mothers who have to work for financial reasons but would rather stay at home and look after their children. For those who believe they need to have kids AND a career in order to be "fulfilled", stop whining and get on with it - no one said it was going be easy.
Maura, UK

My dear John S
So you think the whole reason women are complaining about the lack of time with their children is because they just want to pat them on the head and then get back to watching the footie or going to the pub as the typical dad doe. Yes I agree men never have spent much time with their offspring. Even when they had it - after all kiddies aren't their responsibility are they. All the dad needs to do is get the little woman up the duff and then he can forget about it all.
Woman, my dear boy have been trying to work and actually spend real time with their kids, to educate them, to encourage them. If women did as you evidently do then the human race would die out. Children are a responsibility to both parents, not just one. And it's about time you realised that.
Sara, UK



So women find it difficult to do both, well all I can say is 'welcome to the real world'

John Martin, UK
I can't see what all the fuss is about, men have been doing two jobs for years being both a wage earner and father. Unless of course you chose to believe all the anti male rhetoric coming from Women's Lib. So women find it difficult to do both, well all I can say is "welcome to the real world".
John Martin, UK

As far as I can tell, most women want five things: satisfying relationships with the men in their lives (father, brother, son, husband); one or more deep relationships with women; the joy of bearing and rearing children; a place to call home; and meaningful work only they can do.
These elements can be blended, but only if we live by truth, commitment, and sacrifice. Women have been betrayed by feminism's promises. In spite of thirty years or more of progress, women remain deeply disillusioned. They fail to realise how powerful is their need and desire for permanent relationships and for children. We've been looking for joy in all the wrong places for a very long time.
Rebecca, USA



Most working women I know (the lower paid ones) would stay home with their children if they could

Davanna Kilgore, USA
Having a demanding career and trying to run a household and rear children are conflicting goals. Something has got to give. The solution is 1) hire domestic help 2) one partner or the other stays home and takes care of things or 3) neglect it all and let everything go to hell. I believe only the upper echelon of extremely well-paid women actually want to leave the home. Most working women I know (the lower paid ones) would stay home with their children if they could.
Davanna Kilgore, USA

Gimme a break! Thirty years ago women decided they should all get jobs. Fine. Children are warehoused in daycare centres. Salaries for both men and women are lower than they were, in real pounds, 30 years ago because the economy had to absorb all these newcomers. And now they are complaining. The pay sticks, the jobs are mindless and the stress is horrible. Now you know what we guys have been putting up for centuries!
Peter C. Kohler, USA



It is true that it is hard to have children and a career, but my parents took the task of raising children as a partnership

Paula Josiah, Kenyan in USA
I am a working mum! I employ a childminder. OK, there, I have said it. Should I hang my head in shame? Why is it assumed that I be the one to stay at home? Nobody ever uses the term "working father". Is it their right to work and not look after their own children?
Marina, North Scotland

It is impossible for working mums to give 100% to their children AND 100% to their jobs - it cannot be done. This is why the severe stresses build up in women's lives today. When I worked full-time I tried to give my job full priority but now as a mother of two I am at home for my two boys aged 4 and 2. This afternoon I took the older one to his "toddler gym" session and then all three of us went swimming together. Working mums - are your kids getting these activities in their office crèches?
Dee, Switzerland

As a working mother, I have often been told that I should quit my job for my children's sake. Curiously enough, my husband - who makes less money and has fewer benefits than I do - has never been asked to do this.
Nancy, USA

My mother was a working mother and I do not think that I came out too badly. I had to learn, at an early age, that the world did not revolve around me. I take my hat off to my mother because she not only reared 4 children to adulthood, she was also one of the first people (not just women) in the information technology field in Kenya. Out of the five children that she raised, three are at university, one is on her way and the fifth has a budding career in the music industry. It is true that it is hard to have children and a career, but my parents took the task of raising children as a partnership.
Paula Josiah, Kenyan in USA



We talk about a career woman as if she was a typical example when it is really restricted to the upper ends of the society food chain

Ruaridh Shuttleworth, Scotland
I wish people would wake up on this. The vast majority of people in this country, whether male or female, have dull boring jobs, they simply work because they need the money and increasing both members of a couple have to work to make ends meet.
We talk about a career woman as if she was a typical example when it is really restricted to the upper ends of the society food chain. Couples who both have to work and have children I take my hat off to them, it's hard hard work.
Ruaridh Shuttleworth, Scotland

There is a difference between constructive criticism and mere whining. Considering the rates of advancement in all aspects of human rights and individual freedoms, the general outlook should be optimistic. The quality of life for all people is measurably better than at any other time in history.
And never forget that it is the wise and humane use of technology which has been the great liberator for all. In this case technological advancements will continue to ease economic pressures and free up more time and resources for parenthood.
Michael Katter, USA



Just like GM food is changing nature, women are too - it is not their nature anymore to bear and care for children

Manisha, UK
You know, if women cannot manage to work and get paid handsomely and are stuck in their childbearing and caring roles of course they will be undervalued. For this reason I choose not to marry so I won't have a husband who will demand this. Women will feel much more valuable with jobs than children - I know that is a terrible thing to say but that's how I feel. Just like GM food is changing nature, women are too - it is not their nature anymore to bear and care for children.
Manisha, UK

Those survey results do make women seem like whingers, which might explain some of the irate reactions I have read so far. However, surely it's not just victimisation or false perception or laziness! Why is it that in other countries there is more support for mothers who wish to continue with their careers (childcare facilities, but also mentalities)? And does that not make the women less stressed, as well as more successful in their careers?
Sanda I, UK



Relationships are what matter in life, not promotions and raises

Nathan, USA
While it is true that some women choose not to have children, these are a separate case altogether and cannot be considered within the context of this discussion. At issue here is whether women should be putting themselves or their children through the stress of trying to "have it all."
If God had meant for a nanny to take care of our children, why didn't he give them to the nanny instead of us? Whatever became of laying down your life for the ones you love? This goes for fathers and mothers who put their work before their children. Relationships are what matter in life, not promotions and raises.
Nathan, USA

The lifestyle that people expect to have these days needs two salaries to fund it! I am a person, not just a baby-making machine, and I want the fast car and the nice house just like everyone else. I have a right to earn these things just like man, and I do not expect to have the job of child-rearing dumped upon me. It takes two to make a baby - the stork doesn't really exist, you know!
Jo Persaud, UK

Why do we expect that "Women should have it all", when we don't expect the same for men? I.e. Women seem to be expected to strive to have a family and a career, possibly as a single parent, but a man's only role only runs as far as having a career.
Until it becomes socially acceptable for men to take a more active role in the family, such that the vital job of bringing up children becomes more highly valued compared to work, none of these problems will go away. (For example, increase paternity leave!)
Matt, UK



It is the norm for both parents to work, but it is still the main responsibility for the woman to maintain children, house and job

Jane Reynolds, UK
My experience of bringing up two children and holding down a job has highlighted that women are definitely underpaid, underrated and when it comes down to child welfare it is always the mother's who step in. It is time that employers appreciated the difficulties of balancing work and family life.
It is the norm for both parents to work, but it is still the main responsibility for the woman to maintain children, house and job. Why should men change this status quo - it is not in their interest and as the majority of company heads are mails it will not change - even politicians in the main are males and do not give high priority to redressing the balance.
Jane Reynolds, UK

With regard to work, my experience is that men routinely undervalue the contribution which women make. Men regard themselves as the thinkers and ideas-people and women as the plodders. Often their ideas are ill-thought out and rashly pursued - an often not that brilliant in the first place. But men take each other far more seriously than they do women - whether consciously or subconsciously. A man will be listened to and respected automatically where as women cannot depend on that at all.
Miriam Cotton, UK



They complain that they don't have time to spend more time with their children - welcome to the world men have been living with for decades...

John S, UK
Women wanted to leave the "housewife" existence and get onto the corporate ladder. Now they have that, they complain that they don't have time to spend more time with their children. Welcome to the world men have been living with for decades...
John S, UK

Everybody (male and female) in the world has different skills, strengths and weaknesses. People should be employed on these attributes alone.
Gender should not come into it - in either a positive or negative way. Someone should not be refused a job because of their gender, but neither should they be given a job because of their gender. Trying to meet quotas for "women employed", "ethnic minorities employed" etc is only going to lead to resentment from others.
M Pearson, England

Frankly I am ashamed of some of the comments expressed here by British men. This issue cannot be dismissed as an act of nature. Both sexes should have equal employment rigths: women should be paid the same as a man in the same position, and conversely men should be able to claim parental rights similar to his spouse.
Single mothers should get the support they need to balance work and family, and single fathers should get the same support. Both mothers and fathers have the same level of responsibility to their children. The only crucial difference is the pregnancy and the aftermath, where obviously women are entitled to more rights; they bear the pain after all.
Nik Kraakenes, UK



Each individual, female or male, must make their own priorities and focus on what's best for them and their loved ones

Catherine Penfold, UK in New York, USA
It is a fact that women with children take more time off. Most of this is "unofficial" via an hour here and there, the odd "sick day" when the children need caring for. Also, women sometimes don't return to their jobs after having children yet the employer has to keep the job open for them just in case. It's no wonder employers prefer employing men to women.
Aidy, UK

I couldn't hope to juggle my intensely stressful job and a family. I am a senior art director at a busy advertising agency in the fastest paced city in the world. When I finally have the mental blowout that I'm heading for, I shall tackle the truly challenging career of a family. I wish I could do both at once, but in my field it is all or nothing. Each individual, female or male, must make their own priorities and focus on what's best for them and their loved ones. In the future we'll see more stay at home dads and more female CEOs.
Catherine Penfold, UK in New York, USA

I work in a Japanese company which employs one Japanese woman. She is 33 and has been working for this company for about 3 years. Her direct superior left on the 1st of June leaving his position vacant. Since she has a law degree and experience with the organisation, one would think that she would move up the ladder. No, the decision was made to get a 27 year old Japanese guy from Japan who has just finished law school and has far less experience with the company then she has. Nevertheless, he became her boss. I asked her whether she thought that was fair. She answered; "I am a woman, it's our system". Shameful.
Jose, Netherlands

Women may feel overworked and underpaid but the truth is that they are advancing in the workplace at a much faster rate than, and at the expense of, men. As a result many now face the pressures traditionally borne by men and this is the price to be paid for material gain. Unfortunately it is only when relationships break down that there is a realisation the price has been too high.
John, UK



If you have children then it stands to reason that you can't dedicate as much time to your job

Laura P, UK
Is it really not possible to take the pressure OFF women, so they do not have to work and try to raise a young family at the same time? The problem of low salaries and job insecurity in Britain is forcing women to work, when perhaps they might even enjoy their children. Give them a break! Change the tax system so it is not necessary for both parents to work, and give a reasonable right to return to work after a few years - or would this interfere too much with the precious "market'" which can so wreck family life? Give women a real choice, and remember that no family has the right to two high incomes until all families have at least one living wage.
Ken Beach, Germany

It is a very difficult juggling act when both parents have demanding careers. And, when push comes to shove, most likely it is the female half of the alliance who gets tapped to shoulder more responsibility for the house and the children. I tried the career track with two small children and a husband with a demanding job and my sanity almost gave out. I opted for a lower pressure, lower paying job. The esteem and paycheque are a lot lower, but it is a small price to pay compared to a nervous breakdown. Also, another factor that is rarely mentioned is the pressure that a husband puts on his wife to get out and earn a paycheque, however large or small. This takes the pressure off of him to be the sole supporter, but he rarely makes up for it in household/child raising duties.
Faye, USA

Since when have "women" and "family" been one and the same?? It irritates me that companies aim to employ more women by becoming "family friendly" - it's about time the two were separated! Not all women have or want children, and conversely, there are many fathers who would choose to stay at home if they could. If you have children then it stands to reason that you can't dedicate as much time to your job. I believe in equal work for equal pay. Since I choose to be childfree, I feel just as valued as anyone else in my line of work. Why demand equal pay/rights if you're not as willing to put in the same amount of time in your job as your childfree co-workers?
Laura P, UK



Perhaps the women should consult their counterparts in developing countries

AG, Kenya
The women who are most undervalued are those who choose to remain at home and raise their children, rather than delegate this task to assorted nannies. crèches and other substitute mothers. I value my wife highly. Clearly the government does not or else it would not have abolished the married couples' tax allowance.
Chris Klein, UK

Let me assure you that men would say similar things about many of these issues if anyone ever cared to survey them for a change.
Godfrey Joseph, UK

Women are not undervalued. They have a natural responsibility to children which they seem to not want to take the burden for. This role provided by nature must come first for the species to survive. Unfortunately women try to place a "dollar" man-made value on that primitive responsibility. In this sense, they undervalue themselves.
Jason S, UK

Frankly, there is little work that is done by both men and women in the UK owing to flexibility. Women work more depending on the task, and if they have to add on top the family commitments, it is surely a lot. But still, you find them lazing around in bars smoking. This is the price of being developed. Perhaps the women should consult their counterparts in developing countries.
AG, Kenya

Women undervalue themselves. In trying to live up to the spin that society puts forward as the "correct" way to live your life, they heap untold pressure on to themselves. The nuclear family always has been and always will be the ideal model and the sooner women realise that the better. Men have never tried to "have it all" so why should women think they have to?
Mark Dickinson, England

Women always have been undervalued, most of all by themselves.
T.J. Cassidy, USA



It may be very old-fashioned but I can see nothing wrong with women electing to take a lower-paid, less-stressful job to be able to devote their commitment to their children

Jenni, UK
The most important job a woman can do is to bear, raise and shape the next generation. For it to be part of a 'juggling act' does not give child-rearing the credit and importance it deserves. Never has the next generation been so badly brought up, spoilt, materialistic and selfish (yes, I know there are exceptions which prove every rule).
It may be very old-fashioned but I can see nothing wrong with women electing to take a lower-paid, less-stressful job to be able to devote their commitment to their children rather than trying to compete with those (male and female) who have no child-rearing responsibilities which made demands upon their time and energy. If women choose to do so, that's their decision and they should stop whinging about it.
Jenni, UK

Whereas only 10 or 15 years ago women were still generally frowned upon for being working Mums, the expectation is now that they should have a career AND run a family just as well as if they weren't working. However, more and more people accept that domestic duties aren't necessarily just for women, and that they can be successful in their chosen careers. Of course women are undervalued and the situation is not perfect, but it's getting better all the time and people's attitudes are changing, slowly but surely.
Katherine Cookson, UK


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