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How have things changed for women?

(29 Posts)
LaraGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 08-Mar-18 10:58:32

Happy International Women's Day! We thought it would be interesting to find out from you how you feel life has changed for women (your daughters, your granddaughters) compared to when you were growing up? What's your personal experience? Opportunities? Experiences? Pressures?

OldMeg Thu 08-Mar-18 11:11:17

My mother (born 1919) was one of 6 sisters all of whom were encouraged to take up careers. I went to an all girls school until university. Therefore I was unprepared for the blatant sexism in the world of work.

But, probably because of my earlier upbringing, I was able to stand up for myself in the work place against bullying men and the ‘boys club’ culture that existed at the time. It certainly didn’t make me popular but I persevered.

I’m pretty sure I was promoted (with good references) to get rid of me in several instances when I made life uncomfortable for these dinosaurs grin but it paid off at just about the time women were starting to break through those ‘glass ceilings’ in some professions.

I think our generation did much to help our daughters and granddaughters in this respect though there’s still a way to go.

tessagee Thu 08-Mar-18 11:18:42

The 'boy's club' culture still exists and the glass ceiling is thicker than ever particularly in the world of business as well as academia.

OldMeg Thu 08-Mar-18 11:24:41

That’s why I said some professions tessagee. In the sciences I think there’s been quite a revolution considering the way things were before.

M0nica Thu 08-Mar-18 11:34:27

Those of us who chose to tread other than well worn routes lacked all the help and support that is available now. No mentoring, help or special schemes. We just got on with it.

As I have mentioned on another thread I had the benefit of being brought up with a sense of entitlement, that, as a woman the world was my oyster and my career prospects were the same as a man's and that was immensely helpful. I never expected to be discriminated against and just walked over it, unconcernedly, when it happened. It didn't always work but it did usually.

Most of my working ife was spent working for companies in the engineering and construction industries, so I worked in predominantly male environments, often the only woman who was not a secretary so I didn't choose an easy row to hoe. I do not think I faced anymore unjustified setbacks in my working life than DH has done.

The biggest obstacle I faced, which women today do not face, was the complete lack of any support for working mothers. when I became pregnant I left the work force and did not return for over 7 years. Maternity leave was non-existent as were child friendly working hours or any form of childcare, unless you had able and willing grandparents nearby, not common, or could afford a nanny. This has changed beyond measure, although the result has been that mothers are now expected, almost forced, to return to work and the assumption that a household will have 2 incomes to finance a mortgage has contributed to the rise in house prices.

This is my first contribution to this discussion. More will undoubtedly follow!

OldMeg Thu 08-Mar-18 11:42:35

After reading your post Monica let me substitute ‘the sciences’ for STEM. It’s women like yourself who have ploughed a path (wider than ‘hoeing a row’ I’d suggest) in these areas.

Agree about the support or lack of.

Goodbyetoallthat Thu 08-Mar-18 11:48:45

What an interesting discussion! My MIL (can I mention hergrin? Quailified as a solicitor just after WW2. She was the first woman solicitor in our small city.
I qualified in the 1980s & it was about 50- 50 men to women.
I now teach in a law School & would say that about 2/3 of our students are female. Progress has been made.
But when we look at female partners in legal practices (especially the City) it is a different story altogether!
From a personal perspective I thoroughly enjoyed having a few years off with my children, a luxury not afforded to my daughters.

Grandma70s Thu 08-Mar-18 12:44:48

In my family, things haven’t changed much. My mother (born 1907) was a university graduate, as am I. Her mother was a college-qualified teacher. The generations before that were different, I think. I don’t have daughters myself, but my granddaughter will, I’m sure, have a good education and many opportunities.

If there were misogynistic elements in the university department I worked in after I graduated, I didn’t notice them. I think I was very confident, and not once in my life have I felt being female was a disadvantage. I do realise that not everyone is so lucky.

Grandma70s Thu 08-Mar-18 13:03:33

It’s occurred to me that I might belong to the last generation who had the freedom to stay at home with the children, as I chose to do. My DIL could afford to, I suppose - their house is paid for now - but I think it would be considered pretty extraordinary if she did. Once children are at school it is now assumed both parents will work. My life was much less rushed and stressful in that I wasn’t constantly worrying about ‘childcare’. I was it!

Nonnie Thu 08-Mar-18 13:12:21

Things I am glad to see the back of:

My father believed that 'women should be pregnant and in the kitchen' so I was only allowed to stay on at school for 0 levels and then had to get a job. Thank goodness that attitude has changed.

When I married I was my husband's possession from an income tax point of view.

Many of us paid married women's NI stamps which disadvantaged us when it came to collecting our pensions. We were never told.

I took over a man's job (which he had left in a mess) and was paid just over half what the company had paid him.

No maternity leave, had to take holiday for maternity medical appointments.

No nurseries.

Had to save with the building society for 3 years before they would consider giving a mortgage.

Food, clothing, furniture all much more expensive.

Shared telephone lines (party lines)

No IT, had to write letters.

No direct debits, had to wait for bill to come in and then write a cheque to pay it.

No central heating

Things which are better:

Nurseries
Maternity leave and pay
Equal Pay
Competition from mortgage lenders
Inflation much lower
Food, clothes and furniture much cheaper (especially school uniforms)
Personal taxation
Pension equality
Female political party leaders
Breakfast and after school clubs
Online banking
IT
Mobile phones
Central heating

Things that are worse

Women feel obliged to go back to work after giving birth
Parents who stay at home to bring up their children are undervalued.
It feels as if people now seem to feel entitled to so much and think of what they can get rather than what they can do for themselves to improve their lot.
Final salary pensions have disappeared outside the public sector.
Being guilty because you have been accused before any court case or proof.
Trial by media.

Probably a lot more !

Blinko Thu 08-Mar-18 13:36:20

There's a price to pay, isn't there, for the opportunities afforded by both partners in a relationship working?

Back in the day, unsung, women provided childcare, and also cemented local communities by building community relations 'over the garden wall' at the local shops, schools and at mother and baby clinics.

Families now struggle with the costs of childcare even when it's subsidised; and who looks out for the elderly and infirm?

Much, if not all of these roles fell to the lot of women who stayed home. Unpaid and undervalued, certainly. Nowadays, as successive governments have found, you can't put a price on it.

Blinko Thu 08-Mar-18 13:37:32

Many, not much...of these roles. Doh!

Telly Thu 08-Mar-18 13:49:04

This is an interesting post. From my observations although women to have more opportunity now, there are still may professional women who choose to stay at home after having children. This does surprise me but in some ways the changes might not be as great as you might think. My own daughter has stayed at home until her children were old enough to look after themselves as she believed this was better for them. I actually think she has been proved right when I look at other GC who have attended nursery from an early age. Still there was the choice. When my children where born there was no choice, they only available care were childminders who at the time had a poor reputation.

sodapop Thu 08-Mar-18 15:04:48

We did shifts so my husband & I worked opposite shifts with a bit of interim help from my mother in law.
I couldn't be sterilised without my husband's consent in the late 1970's. but he could have a vasectomy without any recourse to me .

eazybee Thu 08-Mar-18 15:39:44

Labour saving devices which were luxuries in my time as a young wife and mother are now an entitlement: washing machines, tumble driers, dishwashers, freezers; instant meals, late-night shopping, home delivery, online shopping, mobile phones, computers and the whole world of technology; all of these make it easier to work,pursue a career and run a home, with or without male help.
Many more opportunities to study for qualifications in later life to change/start a career.
Very few jobs closed to women.
The choice of working full-time or not with children, (up to a point).
Care for the elderly is now a problem because women are no longer available at home to do it, as was expected of my mother's generation.
Our generation had it good; we were trailblazers for women's lib, equality, equal opportunity, if we chose; but our salaries were not essential in the way they are now. I never encountered any sexual discrimination through out my career, but I did encounter ageism.

Humbertbear Thu 08-Mar-18 16:56:17

My mother left school at 14 and was sent to work in a factory. My mother in law was luckier in that her family allowed her to train as a secretary. Both should have gone to university. Both were full time mothers and worked incredibly hard. Cooking three meals a day, everyday (we came home from school for lunch) and doing all their own housework.
When I was a teenager I was told off for beating a boy at table tennis (really) and was told it was a good idea to train as a teacher as I would be able to keep myself till I got married. Anyone remember the days when girls didn’t phone boys and you had to wait for them to call?
When I worked for a large multi national we weren’t allowed to wear trousers to work and once I was pregnant I was asked when I was leaving - no maternity leave. And yes, women weren’t paid as much as men but we were allowed time to touch up our make up before we left the office! In the 50s it was really Mad Men and the women were expected to wear hat and gloves!
Let’s not forget how the Pill and the Abortion Act have changed women’s lives allowing them the freedom to do more than breed.
The best thing that has happened for women is that they have access to education and good jobs. Many are able to earn their own money and that gives independence. On the whole Women in developed countries don’t have to marry in order to have someone to support them and don’t have to put up with unhappy/ abusive relationships. I can only hope that access to education and paid work will spread around the world.

trisher Thu 08-Mar-18 17:10:32

Oh I'd forgotten I was once shut in the staff room for the day when I turned up to teach in a trouser suit. I was new to the school and the old head teacher didn't approve of women in trousers-seems unbelievable now.
One positive thing is I think the way dads now are able to care for children and share their care. As stay at home mums the majoriy of the care fell on us, but working mums share the load (I watched my DS doing my DGD's hair before she went to school today)
One unfortunate development is the constant strive for physical perfection. My friends and I liked to look good but we accepted a variety of shapes and sizes and didn't expect everyone to have perfect figures and faces. Botox and plastic surgery Yuk!

M0nica Thu 08-Mar-18 17:13:21

Nowadays it is normal for both halves of a couple to work and for the women to be in professional jobs. Not when I married. Both DH and I had working mothers and DH's mother was the main wage earner in the family, so we have always had a partnership of equals, but colleagues he worked with couldn't comprehend that he was unworried about a business trip abroad at a critical point of a house purchase because I was quite capable of dealing with everything in his absence.

A male work colleague of mine told me he believed in equality in the workplace but who was in charge when I got home. He couldn't get his head round the idea that a marriage could be an equal partnership.

Telly Thu 08-Mar-18 19:16:28

The key question is who cleans the toilets? I wonder if you did a straw poll over all levels of education and job categories what the percentage of m v f would be? I know where I would put my £

nightowl Thu 08-Mar-18 19:56:35

I find it interesting to think that things that were very new in my day are now taken for granted. I certainly couldn’t afford to stay at home with my children; our mortgage was based on both salaries (or a proportion of mine) and I returned to work after maternity leave. I was however the first married woman to do so and my manager expressed great surprise when I told her I wouldn’t be leaving. I was also the first person in the department to do a job share basis but had to find my own job share partner and write our own contract, which was ratified by HR (or personnel as it was called then). These were relatively new options in the public sector and I realise they were probably not available in the private sector.

Child care depended on child minders, there were no (or very few) day nurseries. I’m not sure whether we (and our grandchildren) have lost or gained from the change. I was very fortunate that my mum provided free childcare and love that I couldn’t put a value on.

Mortgages were certainly a different kettle of fish back then. I remember one of my university lecturers in 1977 being outraged after she was refused a mortgage by a building society that promised ‘mortgages for professionals’. She came into a tutorial and asked ‘what do you think is the definition of a professional? Apparently it’s a man.’

M0nica Fri 09-Mar-18 07:00:29

Why this obsession with cleaning toilets? It has come up in other threads, a trivial and not arduous job. I can see that outside the home it can be noisome and unpleasant, but in a normal household where family members obey basic hygiene manners, no worse than cleaning the wash basin. In fact sometimes better.

Nonnie Fri 09-Mar-18 09:59:56

Humbert beating a boy at something, yes I had forgotten that. I had brothers so didn't see boys as anything special but I do remember lots of things which amounted to not damaging male egos.

M0nica Fri 09-Mar-18 10:31:58

As a child/adolescent I cannot ever remember anyone suggesting that in anyway I should give way to a male or in any way defer to them or massage their egos.

I remember with delight when in a debating competition among the schools in my town, our team of convent girls, which I was in, won the trophy, being judged better than the local private boys school who had won the competition without break for years. Our pleasure was not just winning but beating the boys from that particular school. We were used to debating better than boys because our school's team usually made the finals.

Witzend Fri 09-Mar-18 11:29:08

In the late 60s or early 70s I applied for a job with the Immigration service - I thought I'd be able to use my languages.
There was a reply to say sorry, but the job was not open to women, because it would be necessary to travel around the country 'and even drive a car' !!

A few years later I joined an airline as cabin crew. It did change shortly after I joined, but at the time they would not take on married women. What would your husband do if you had to be away, as we often were? Who would cook his dinner and iron his shirts?? (No mention of what he might think of randy first officers slipping notes under your hotel room door, saying, 'The door is open, come and kiss me goodnight.' 😀)

Also I remember my mother being incandescent sometime after she'd gone back to work in the 60s, after phoning the tax office about a refund she was due. She was told that 'this isn't your money - it's your husband's.'
GRRR! RAGE! MAD! ANGER!! - as they used to say in the Beano.

stella1949 Fri 09-Mar-18 14:27:48

When my mother ( born 1914) got married she had to give up work on that day, and never worked again, though in a fair world she should have had that choice. When I left school I went nursing - choices of work were limited but better than in Mums day . My daughter became a teacher, then went into robotics and now teaches robotics to high- achieving girls , an area which was unknown in my time. I'm now glad to assure my granddaughter that she can aspire to any profession that interests her - a great improvement in a couple of generations.