If you want it all, then don’t have children

Date: January 1, 1970
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The story discusses how the practice of women empowerment has affected perceptions of motherhood.

 This article may be used in training to:
1. Highlight the importance of multiple source stories and use of data.
2. Exemplify how subtle stereotypes often affect well-intentioned stories dealing with the experiences of women.
Trainer’s notes
The writer sets out to discuss how women empowerment has affected perceptions of motherhood but it is limited in the following ways:
a)       The piece is a single source story. The writer quotes only one woman (Saira Khan an Asian Muslim business woman who was a runner-up in The Apprentice) and uses her as the benchmark for her argument. She does not talk to other single career women to get their views on the subject. It would also have been interesting to interview successful working mothers on their perceptions of work and motherhood.
Use of data:
a)       The writer does not quote any conclusive evidence to support her arguments and in some instances relies on stereotypes to push her argument. For example, she writes that “there is no room for Asian women who have not married and procreated by 25”. Saira is 35 and childless. Is there any research that supports this assertion? If women are making inroads into the world of work, how has this affected the Muslim/Asian communities’ views on women and marriage?
b)       Another example where data would have come in handy is in explaining whether indeed motherhood does reduce women’s earning power and what exactly does this mean. If indeed this is the case, how does it compare with the experiences of men who are fathers (and possibly those who married to housewives)?
c)       The writer claims that if a woman has a child at 24, she will lose about £54 000 (about R574 000) but does not give the source of her information or explain how she arrives at this figure.
As a result of the above limitations, the story lacks depth and context. Consequently, it leaves the impression that motherhood is a liability in the working world and further perpetuates the stereotype that career women cannot be good mothers. It also carries the connotation that a mother (who is or is not a professional) is somehow inferior to other professionals.  
Discussion Questions
1. Does the story reinforce or challenge any stereotypes about women?
2. What stereotypes are perpetuated in the story?
3. What messages does the article send about women, motherhood, career women?
4. What information should have been added to the story? Why?
5. If students were writing the story, who else would they interview? Why?
6. What kind of data would they use? Why?
Training Exercises
1. Divide the students into groups and ask them to choose one soap opera and discuss how career women are portrayed in it. Discuss the findings with the whole class.
2. Ask participants to write a story on fatherhood and work. Interview men and women who are parents and also have careers. Discuss the differnces in gender roles.
Links to resources
GL’s training manual, Business Unusual, Gender and the Economy, provides many exercises on challenging gender stereotypes in the business world. Ask participants to have a look at some of the materials produced during the training on  https://www.genderlinks.org.za/page.php?p_id=310, and to find examples of “gender benders.” In what ways do these change the lives of both women and men?

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