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  • June 10, 2014

    Girls, Careers and the Baby Race

    Tick tock, tick tock… Is that my biological clock ticking?

    According to Location, Location, Location’s Kirstie Allsopp I should be sitting up straight and taking notice. In a recent interview, the TV host and property expert had some rather perplexing views on women, having children and marriage:

    I don’t have a girl, but if I did I’d be saying ‘Darling, do you know what? Don’t go to university. Start work straight after school, stay at home, save up your deposit – I’ll help you, let’s get you into a flat. And then we can find you a nice boyfriend and you can have a baby by the time you’re 27.’

    I almost choked on my morning coffee. Wait a tick, I look around, I haven’t – traveled back in time – have I!?

    Now before I continue, let’s get one thing straight, I have no qualms with embracing motherhood at a young age or settling down in your twenties, if this is your desire and your decision. But what Allsopp seems to neglect is the fact that we are living in a time of great social change: we have a choice.

    As Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert points out,

    ‘We are the first generation of women in the history of mankind who have had freedom, autonomy, literacy, education, access to our own economic well-being, access to our own power – we’re the first ones!’

    We are learning, adapting, embracing our independence and challenging the limiting gender roles that have previously put a straight jacket on our personal and professional development.

    As society evolves each of us must be at the forefront of pioneering a more flexible and accepting quality of life for women.

    Allsopp talks about inequality when it comes to a women’s biology, compared with a man:

    ‘Women are being let down by the system. We should speak honestly and frankly about fertility and the fact it falls off a cliff when you’re 35.’

    Ironically her ideas embody the epitome of gender stereotyping by suggesting we should all shape our futures in accordance to our ability to pro-create – rather than look at our individual desires and ask ourselves whether we are ready for motherhood at this point in our lives.

    After all, life isn’t about us all having one check list to measure our success. Babies. Tick. Mortgage. Tick. Marriage. Tick. University degree. Tick.

    Most twenty-somethings are struggling to get on the career ladder at all, even with a degree. Many of us still living with our parents, and spending considerable amounts of time wallowing in the swaps of our own underachievement because we have failed to live up to the expectations of the generation before us.

    But this is the generation of change. Gen-Y is discovering we must create our own paths rather than settling for the narrow tracks that have been walked before us.

    When SlummyMummy and aliljoy.com blogger Emily MacDonald discovered she was pregnant at nineteen, she juggled motherhood, employment and education. Last year, Emily graduated with a first class degree. Her testimony proves that whatever your situation or circumstance, you can challenge the status quo by creating your own future.

    Being a mother does not mean you must compromise your education. Similarly, not having children doesn’t mean you have neglected your primal purpose in life.

    This is a time of innovation, not accommodation. And we women should be asking ourselves this important question: What do I want for my future?

    Society should be asking: how can we support women both in the home and in the workplace so they can fulfill their potential?

    In a recent survey released by Opportunity Now, currently 1 in 5 women admitted their employer was not supportive of working mothers. While 2 in 3 non-mothers revealed that they were expected to work longer hours because they did not have children. Instead of stepping out of the game altogether, we need to ensure equal opportunities remain on-target in the workplace.

    This is the time to empower girls to make their own choices in life and support them in their decisions. How do we do this?

    We educate, we create opportunity and we push forward.

    Yes, we can be wives and mothers, but we are more. Equality comes from empowering young women to make their own choices and by valuing the roles they assume whether they tick the single, married or it’s complicated box.

    Our futures are not set in stone, nothing is black and white. And our ability to adapt and develop into perceptive and daring individuals who dance to our own drum beat really is the key to winning at life.

    While I’m sure Allsopp means well, she forgets to acknowledge that girls and young women today are building bigger dreams for themselves.

    And as Eleanor Roosevelt said ‘The future is for those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’

    Written by Yazmin Joy Vigus

    Yazmin is a London-based writer and performer. She runs aliljoy.com a collective blog about love, life and finding joy.

    Follow her on Twitter: @aliljoy

    References:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/consumertips/10868367/Kirstie-Allsopp-I-dont-want-the-next-generation-of-women-to-suffer-the-same-heartache.html

    http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Elizabeth-Gilbert-on-the-Importance-of-Curiosity

    http://aliljoy.com/2014/04/my-journey-for-my-daughter

    http://opportunitynow.bitc.org.uk/sites/default/files/kcfinder/files/Diversity/28-40/Project%2028-40%20The%20Report.pdf

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