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Employment Lawyer Samantha Mangwana thinks PM should lead by example

By Principal Lawyer, Employment & Partnership

It is encouraging to see the Prime Minister admit his failure to bring more women into Cabinet. This is a failure replicated in boardrooms throughout the country and simply makes the problem worse. Until women are visibly represented at senior levels in sufficient numbers, talent will inevitably be diverted away to what feels like a better 'fit'.  

From my experience as an Employment Lawyer representing clients in Sex Discrimination cases, the major career blockers relate to Maternity, compounded by pay.

The most widespread problem I tend to see are the rapid changes in fortune for female high-flyers before and after Maternity Leave - the first time for many their career commitment is ever questioned. For some, roles are ‘restructured’ out, with mothers made Redundant and their maternity covers retained, while for countless others who do return, progression and promotion opportunities fall away.  

Combined with persistent pay disparity between men and women, this can become the crunch point in female careers. When women are routinely paid less than their partners, it all too often makes more sense for career to give way to childcare.

No-one would think to describe a man as 'having it all', simply for having a career and a family - it is just a normal expectation of life. Leaders need to demonstrate real mettle to level the playing field so women can have normal expectations of life too. 

By Employment Lawyer Samantha Mangwana.