Helping us to help ourselves

PUBLISHED: 11:07 15 March 2007 | UPDATED: 11:40 06 May 2010

Juggling families, careers and homes can put huge pressures on women

Juggling families, careers and homes can put huge pressures on women

I THINK something we re all guilty of from time to time is failing to remember how lucky we are compared to previous generations. For me I know I take for granted the freedom and opportunities I have as a woman – opportunities that would have been unheard

MP Barbara Follett – telling tales of sexism in the House of Commons

I THINK something we're all guilty of from time to time is failing to remember how lucky we are compared to previous generations.

For me I know I take for granted the freedom and opportunities I have as a woman - opportunities that would have been unheard in the generation or two before me.

I was reminded of this last weekend when I went along to the International Women's Day event at North Hertfordshire College.

Barbara Follett gave a very interesting talk about her life in politics, including telling some truly horrifying tales of the sexism female MPs faced when she first started out.

She also reminded the audience that it is within her lifetime that women could not get a mortgage or a bank account without a signature from their husbands.

It's that kind of fact that really hammers home that women of my age and younger have no idea how much things have changed since our mothers' or grandmothers' childhoods.

For me, being a woman does not restrict me in any way, either personally or professionally.

I earn the same as my male colleagues and banks and credit card companies always seem very keen to have my business, without a signature from a man.

There are still ways in which we need to strive for complete equality - as the current issues to do with equal pay for men and women in local councils shows - but I would say that, in my personal experience at least, we're doing quite well as a society in treating both sexes equally.

This does not mean, however, that the lives of women in my generation are without problems.

Because we can do so much, we try to do everything - to have a career, to raise a family, to be beautiful and well-groomed, to have a home worthy of an appearance in an interiors magazine, to be green goddesses and have a network of lively, fabulous friends.

I currently only aim for some of these as it's just my boyfriend and me so we don't have to worry about a family, but already I can see how exhausting it must be to try to do it all.

There are things that can be done by employers and the government to help ease some of these pressures, in terms of increasing access to flexible working hours and childcare.

But some of it has to come from within ourselves and from other women.

Women have a tendency to be highly critical of themselves and each other and to view other women as competition.

We all need to work on this to create an environment in which we don't feel under such pressure to be perfect all the time.

We need to support rather than criticise each other, unconditionally.

Modern women can lead hugely busy lives but with a bit of solidarity and a bit less pressure, we could be a lot happier and even have time to count our blessings.


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