Thursday, July 19, 2007

Oxford - City of Mums?

News flash: the whole women-with-careers thing is over. It was fun while it lasted eh? But now we've all decided we want babies and OBVIOUSLY we can't have both. Well that's the news according to today's Independent anyway, which reports female students at Oxford are literally queuing up to "choose having a family over having a career".

Now the whole article is a series of specific examples, there are no actual statistics involved which already has me smelling the sweet smell of Eau De Rat.

I went to Oxford ten years ago and my female friends from there are now:

Alison - teacher, married, no kids
Sam - lawyer, married, one kid, going back to work as soon as maternity leave's over
Susie - accountant, married, one kid, now back at work
Laura - works for a charity in Kenya, two kids, still working
Plus me - stand-up comic, no kids

So, err, I guess that's enough research for my own article on "Oxford Women NOT Rushing To Quit Their Careers".

Now maybe my friends are freaks, or maybe the "trend" has changed in the last ten year. Maybe even the women still at Oxford are young and haven't experienced the thrill of having their own jobs, their own steady income and making their own choices in life. But then if you're going to start an article claiming to have identified "a trend", wouldn't you want to ask why that trend is taking off?

Firstly the article doesn't question why women should feel they have to choose. When I was a student we were all set to do battle with anyone who said we would have to choose. Secondly I always hear this posed as a "give up" your career thing. Unless you plan on home schooling, why not "take a career break" and return to work when, for example, the youngest child goes to school.

And then there are some really bewildering lines from the interviewees:

"She believes women with children often find themselves sidelined or opting to stay at home, and that we should acknowledge that fact." I don't think anyone has failed to acknowledge that some women choose to stay home when their kids are small, but if we acknowledge that some women with children are sidelined at work then we should be kicking and screaming and demanding fair treatment.

"Female students believe that it remains more difficult for women to balance a family and a job because society still assumes that women will do the child-rearing." And why exactly do female students believe that they have to do what society assumes they will do? When I was a student we wanted to do anything and everything we could to upset the apple-cart. (We still do!).

"When you are in a career for a few years, you reach a point when a possible career change or pay rise comes up ... Then you have to choose whether you want a family or not." Really? Yeah it could be so hard to have a family if you were earning extra money. I guess that'd be all those hours counting it and putting it in the bank. What?!

Sad to see the Indie publishing piffle again. If young women out there do feel they can't have anything and everything they want in their lives - then our universities (not to mention media messages) are failing them.

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