While I’m getting used to a constant state of disappointment in the way our country is being run, one thing I wasn’t prepared for last week was the way I would feel when Ruth Davidson quit as the leader of the Scottish Conservative Party. Regardless of her politics, I’ve long admired Ruth as a strong, well-respected female leader, with a fantastic attitude, so when I heard the news that she was stepping down, I was really sorry to hear it. When I read the official statement the following day, I couldn’t help but feel a little let down by her reasoning.
In her statement, Ruth explained, “I fear that having tried to be a good leader over the years, I have proved a poor daughter, sister, partner and friend… The arrival of my son means I now make a different choice.”
As a working mum, this single paragraph summarises the reality of life, and that of almost every other working mum that I know. Whether you lead a political party or have a part time job in a café, being a mum and having a job is hard. You find yourself trying to please everyone and never quite feeling like you’re succeeding.
In a week where I had to leave my children in tears at nursery; walking away from them feeling like a bad mum; and spending a day at work trying my hardest not to be a bad employee, I couldn’t help feeling that Ruth didn’t help the cause as she could have done. The thing is; I totally get it. I wouldn’t want to be setting off on a campaign trail and leaving my kids behind; and if you’re going to be away from your kids to do your job, you have to really believe in it. My bad feeling towards Ruth wasn’t that she decided to step down, it was that she didn’t use her platform to do more to help.
By using her family as a reason, she may have stayed faithful to her Party, but she misplaced her loyalty to the sisterhood. The news of her resignation received massive news coverage. Why couldn’t Ruth use this as an opportunity to say that the working world needs to change? That we need flexible working; better child-care options; more support for parents; help for mums returning to the workplace? Rather than simply reinforcing all of the myths and stereotypes about women losing their work focus after having children and that they can’t hold down senior positions.
I wonder why we rarely hear of men standing down from senior positions because they want to be better fathers. When Gordon Brown resigned as Prime Minister in 2010, he made reference to his family, indicating that his wife and children were always his priority, but he didn’t say that he would now be a better father. There was no suggestion that having children made him any less of a leader.
We need more women – and mums in particular – in positions of power, especially in government. We need people at the top who can do more to ensure that women don’t feel like they have to give up their jobs to be a ‘good mum’. If the system isn’t working to allow women to be leaders and mothers, it needs an overhaul. Our country can’t afford to lose intelligent, talented women from the workforce because they feel like they can’t be good mums and do their jobs well.
I am one of the lucky ones, because I have an understanding workplace and an invaluable support system at home. Being a working mum is tough, but I work hard to do the best I can in my job, while also being the very best mum that I can, because it’s part of what makes me who I am. I love my job and am proud of the work I’ve put into getting to where I am today. I want my children to grow up knowing that it’s normal for both Mummy and Daddy to go to work, and that Mums can do anything Dads can. I hope my son shares parental leave and I well expect my daughter to rule the world; but most importantly, I want them to be proud of me.
Ruth, I wish you all the best with your lovely family, but please do what you can to make the system better. Don’t let our children grow up to live in world where people are still asking why there aren’t more female leaders.