Earlier this month a Scottish golf course announced that it’s all male-membership had voted against allowing women to join. Stories from Muirfield were quick to emerge. Male golfers can take their dogs into the bar whilst their wives aren’t permitted to join them. A female senior executive in the Open Tour was told that she couldn’t eat in the club house because she had a vagina (I paraphrase but that’s the crux of it). She was made to sit in the kitchen. Apply this to any other group in society and there would be uproar.
However, there are clubs up and down the UK that are shunning women. These clubs – also known as the work place – are discriminating women in a way that is destructive to modern society. Whilst few women will be sad to hear that they can’t join an elitist golf club which costs thousand of pounds per year to join, I can’t imagine there are many women who choose to forsake their career (including those who are caring for their child full time) when they choose to start a family.
As the Muirfield story broke, I was on day three of my research phase for my book on maternity discrimination. I had read countless anecdotes from women who have gone through this and had spoken briefly to women I know. My understanding of maternity discrimination was solid prior to the interview process beginning, or so I thought. Now that I am ten days in to this I am seeing the workplace for what it really is.
Many women (not all) can be who they want to be and do what they want to do until they decide to start a family. At that point the workplace becomes an elitist members only club. The ‘lucky’ ones – and after talking to many women in this situation they do think of themselves as fortunate – will take a pay cut and work in a job they don’t want and are over qualified for. Thousands upon thousands more will be kicked out of the club and made to feel worthless, that the workplace is not a place for them.
It’s very early days and yet I am seeing similarities in the accounts that I have heard. I’ve interviewed women in many sectors already and there are patterns emerging in every account. There are lessons to be passed on that are common across the industries and crucially employers are making the same mistakes time and time again, but because women aren’t able to share their experiences publicly, employers are getting away with it.
If you have an experience you’d like to share please get in touch.