I was invited this week to talk on BBC radio about equal pay for women. It was an interesting experience hearing myself on the radio. It also made me think. Until the question was raised by Nick Robinson about the difference in mine and my husbands pay I had never really thought about it. You see Mr Pud and I work in the same field so it’s easy to make a comparison between our wages. Obviously I don’t make as much as he does as I work part-time following the birth of our two children. It doesn’t worry me that he makes more than I do. After all he shoulders the majority of the bills and its ‘our’ money. But it did get me thinking.
Having our children was a joint decision. As was me reducing my hours at work to take on my new mothering role. However, I never really contemplated the effect going part-time would have on my career. It’s not just my monthly income. Being part-time means I am often overlooked for extra opportunities, such as training or extending my role into management. Almost like I am not considered a valuable member of the team. Not worth investing in because I am too involved in raising my kids. I can see that this is why my husbands role has far outstripped my own. The opportunities he has had would never be offered to a part-time employee. Don’t get me wrong he has worked so hard and deserves to be where he is. But what now for me?
I love my children, they are my world. But it does feel as though they are now the only world I am allowed to have. Labelled a part-timer and a mother. A label that on closer inspection is holding my career back. Perhaps I am to blame. In all honesty I don’t want to have to be out of the house longer than my contracted hours. Equally so I don’t want to stagnate in my role. Or to lose my passion and drive in a career that I have worked so hard to achieve.
For me it’s not about the gender pay gap. Of course my husband earns more than me, he works more hours than I do. But this feeling of being a lesser member of the team because of my reduced hours is damaging. I can feel my lack of confidence growing at work. The anxiety I have begun to feel about my job has made me reconsider my decision to work at all. Some days it feels that despite my best efforts I am failing. Failing at my career, failing as a mother and failing myself. I always dreamed that I would achieve great things. That one day I would be Chief Nurse in a forward thinking innovative NHS. I can’t even imagine that now.
It is not just the gender pay gap that is holding women back. How can we reach true equality for women when we cannot support part-time employees in the work place? I know myself that working part-time does not mean that a woman lacks passion or ambition. The biggest hurdle for gender equality is providing equal opportunities. Offering career pathways that include flexible training around reduced hours. Realising that part-time doesn’t mean less dedication. Equality is not all about the money, it’s about feeling equally valued in the workplace.