Power to the Bump
As someone who has had five pregnancies whilst trying to progress a career I am very excited to see Jacinda Ardern, the newly elected New Zealand Prime Minister announce her pregnancy.
I’m pleased for her personally of course, as there is a no more exciting time in your life than expecting your first child, but also delighted for the message that this sends to the many women around the world who feel forced to choose between kids and career.
On a much less significant scale it makes me think back to when at age 21 during my final year at University and having just been selected to stand for Cardiff Council, I found out I was pregnant which was not planned and at the time devastating, but in hindsight was the making of me.
I won the seat I finished my degree and had my first baby all in a three months period. It was tough but there is nothing that maketh the woman like having baby (not party) induced sleepless nights in a student house whilst trying to work out the standing orders of the council and saving the local park.
But looking back on my worries at the time and the latest reports on pregnancy discrimination which suggests that a staggering 3 in 4 women are still experiencing some kind of pregnancy discrimination, the challenges for women who have children whilst trying to pursue a career are very real.
It’s understandable why women themselves will often feel that they should put their career on hold or take a back seat while they have babies, especially when there is often an unwritten expectation from employers that that’s what will happen; this is why it’s so important to see role models such as Jacinda Ardern doing exactly the opposite. In doing so she’s also promoting the role of Dads as main carers even in those early months which in my view is critically important in shifting enduring societal views of men as bread winners and women as caregivers.
In Wales we have new statutory duties under the Well-being of Future Generations Act. The act sets out seven national well-being goals for a prosperous, resilient, healthier, more equal Wales which has cohesive communities, vibrant culture and thriving language and is globally responsible. Whilst the Act doesn’t apply to the private sector they do apply to all our key public bodies in Wales. Achieving our national goals must be at the heart of what our policy makers do in order to ensure that we achieve the Wales we want for current and future generations.
Making progress on women’s positions in the workplace is clearly important to meeting our goal of a more equal Wales but its wider than that. We need to be putting the skills of half our population to best use if we are to be prosperous. And given that evidence suggest that women’s earnings are increasingly important for households with children, our goals for a healthier Wales where every child has the best start in life will be easier to achieve in a society where women can earn as much as men and where they don’t have to endure the loss in income currently associated with having children.
Women in decision making roles is also crucially important where policy is being developed or services delivered. Our interests and passions tend often to reflect our personal experiences and so we need to make sure that those personal experiences are as relevant as possible to the wider public.
Having babies, juggling childcare, using public services, experiencing harassment, breaking through skills stereotypes are all issues more likely to be experienced by women and so it is right that the people taking decisions understand what they’re dealing with from a real-life perspective. When having a baby prevents women from reaching these decision-making positions then our whole society loses out.
If being a mum of five has taught me anything it’s that the things I’ve learnt in this role are just as important to carrying out my job as Future Generations Commissioner for Wales as anything I could learn from university, books or professional experience.
I have watched with interest over many years the women who are using these experiences to change Wales for the better and watched with frustration at the many struggles they and others have had in doing so.
Let’s hope the whole population of New Zealand gets behind Jacinda Ardern and celebrates the power of a Mum who can make a difference; and let’s also hope that her story inspires mums in Wales whose talents we need at the top.