Ms-ing in action

It’s 2008.
We live in a society where there’s hardly any racism or homophobia, not many people drive drunk and grown up laws protect all kinds of people from unfairness at work. Babies don’t die from preventable diseases very often and it’s possible to buy strawberries all year round.
So this is progress – we’ve never had it so good. Have we?
Then today Dr Colin McKinstry, writing in the BMJ, claims that too many women doctors is going to bring health care to its knees. The poor things are going to want to be working part time, you see. And that’s bad news for sick people apparently. I’m not even going to point out to Dr McK that along with women being allowed to study medicine there have been innovations such as job sharing and flexible working and, heaven forbid, men who might want to work part time in order to spend more time with the family.
Meanwhile, yesterday I filled in a couple of on-line forms. You know the kind. They’re really clever, you just need to tell it your postcode and you don’t need to bother typing your address. The problem was that they only offered me the option of being Mr, Mrs, Miss or Dr. Where was the Ms? Ms might be a big unwieldy it’s the only tool for the job when you aren’t – or don’t want to announce that you are – one of the others.
Then I met a former colleague and friend for lunch and, as we caught up, the conversation was mostly about just how hard it is to be a working mum. How we laughed about the fibs we’ve told, the guilt we feel, the bosses and colleagues who don’t get it and how, ultimately, we’ve had to settle for second best.
I’m not suggesting we all sling our bras on the bonfire – good grief no! But perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that we haven’t made nearly enough progress and that it’s time to act.
The law is all very well, but why can’t we have the same shift in attitude about women at work as there has been about the unacceptable nature of homophobia, racism or drink driving.
Put it this way, it’s now utterly shocking to hear someone branded ‘paki’ or ‘poof’, but no one bats much of an eyelid when a woman of childbearing age gets passed over again.

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