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A conversation with Pregnant Then Screwed

On Wednesday the 4th October AXIS had the pleasure of hosting Joeli Brearley, the founder & CEO of Pregnant then Screwed and Mike Killeen, VP of operations for Serica Energy. The event was hosted by Susan Grayson, founder of Younique inclusion. The Full Video can be found on our Youtube.

To kick off, Joeli was asked what is pregnant then screwed and what is the motherhood penalty.

Pregnant then screwed was founded in 2015 and the project quickly grew to being a charity dedicated to ending the motherhood penalty.

She began by explaining some of the successes they have achieved so far:

  • Took legal action against the Government for indirect sex discrimination, and in the Court of Appeal, we proved that the Government discriminated against new mums in the calculation method for the self employed income support scheme

  • Pregnant then Screwed work gets mentioned every 10 days in parliament.

  • Provided free legal advice to 70,000 women in 2022

But, what is the motherhood penalty?

Joeli explained that the motherhood penalty is ‘the systematic disadvantages that women encounter in the workplace in terms of pay, perceived competence and benefits compared to their childless counterparts’, in other words, the gender pay gap. Joeli explains this penalty exists because of the ‘hundreds of barriers that women headbutt every single day when trying to have children in a career, most of those barriers are completely pointless’.

Mike was asked for his thoughts on the motherhood penalty and what he has seen from his position within the industry. He recounted a number of stories where he had observed subtle discrimination, one example was where management had made assumptions about a woman's opinion on relocating for work, because they had children, without having an actual conversation with them. Mike then pointed out the unmistakable bias that men in the industry also have children, yet don’t get asked these questions, because women are still seen to be the primary caregiver. In addition, Mike noted how the industry has not yet latched onto the idea of job sharing for onshore roles, with the most ironic thing being that the only regulated role in the industry, Offshore installation manager (OIM), is a job shared role as it is an offshore rota. So, the big question is, if OIMs can job share, why can’t we?

Next, our conversation delved into Joeli’s book ‘The motherhood penalty’. In Joeli’s book she references how the the system is set up to favour the unencumbered worker, this is in reference to the idea of the 1950’s model that the man goes to work and the mother is waiting, looking after the home & children, with a beer fresh out the fridge for the man when he returns. Which of course is no longer the reality, three quarters of mothers work, however we have not adapted our systems or markets to work with the new family structure. Joeli then moves onto the gender pay gap and the fact that a large contributor to this pay gap is actually the motherhood pay gap. She tells us how in our current system women who are pregnant or have children are viewed as being distracted and uncommitted to their work, which lowers their value to the business; whereas men with children are viewed as ‘reliable’ and it increases their value. Part of the reason this bias is seen is from the antiquated parental leave system in the UK.

Women receive nine months maternity leave, whilst men only receive two weeks, with ¼ men not even taking those two weeks because it is only paid at £172/week. Shared Parental Leave was designed to tackle this issue, and whilst it does show a lot of improvements, the system has its flaws and only 2% of eligible dads take it. This results in the mother being forced to take the extended time off work, whilst the man continues to work and progress, essentially like they haven’t even had a child. This often becomes the start of the woman being seen as the primary caregiver, which typically leads that woman shifting to either part time roles or requesting a flexible working schedule on returning to work, and for business this request can be viewed as being uncommitted and ‘difficult’.

We asked Mike what Serica does to try to combat the gender pay gap. In response, we learnt that despite Serica not being legally required to publish the gender pay gap numbers, they still publish them .They also do regular assessments of their employees pay and why any gaps exist; making sure jobs aren’t paid more purely due to which gender dominates. An example he used is cleaners; street cleaners in Iceland were paid more than office cleaners as office cleaners are predominantly female, this is a bias Serica is trying to tackle. Mike also mentioned how Serica has retained its flexible working policies following COVID. This flexibility has allowed families opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have had, because they can now better balance their work and home life. In addition, the business gains the advantage of retaining their talent.

Throughout the chat Joeli & Mike answered questions, however due to time restraints we were unable to answer all of them. The questions that were not answered will be followed up.

How can we make shared parental leave more attractive?

In order to allow men to take the appropriate leave you need to ring fence it, protect it & pay it properly. A prime example being Norway which in the 70’s did one month paternal leave at 80% pay. In the UK the issue is its not shared parental leave, its shared maternity leave, where it requires the mother to give away a portion of her leave, it also isn’t paid properly to make it financially viable for most families.

Not to mention the benefits; men who take parental leave tend to have more equitable splits of chores in the house, 40% less divorces, mothers have better mental & physical health and reduce the gender pay gap by ~4%. Mike also shared his experience of the difficulty mothers have and lack of support in returning to work.

Next, the conversation dived into intersectionality and how women who have children with a disability, black or ethnic minority mothers and many other demographics are likely to have an even worse experience of the motherhood penalty. One example being Pakistani women may not find childcare to suit their needs and are more likely to work in less flexible jobs meaning they are left with little choice but to quit their job. A shocking statistic is that 84% of women who have children with a disability do not work, compared to 39% of mothers with non-disabled children. To take this even further, only 3% of women with disabled children work full-time. This all rounds back to the fact that the current system in place is inflexible. Mike provided his perspective of the way his company is tackling the issue of intersectionality by bringing in experts such as AFBE, InterEnergy & AXIS to provide knowledge & experience, following that assessing the flexibility and updating their roles to allow a more modern day system and getting the best employees available to work their best.

The conversation finished off with Joeli’s favourite topic, childcare. Childcare is the biggest issue holding women back from their careers. In addition, Childcare is not just babysitting, but a pivotal part of child development, well-being and educational outcomes. 98% of childcare workers are women and it is appallingly funded and employees are not sufficiently paid for the pivotal role they do for society. We should see big reform after the next few years with 4 million in funding, however at the moment the current plan isn’t workable, with the promise of additional free childcare, which is going to require 38,000 new childcare workers and at the moment there is no answer as to where these new workers are coming from. Currently, pregnant then screwed is lobbying for no individual paying more than 5% annual income on childcare, childcare workers get more than the national living wage, nurseries only get funding if they can prove they are looking after staff.

AXIS was very happy to host Joeli & Mike who provided some great information and insight into these very important topics.

As mentioned, Joeli & Mike answered questions during the panel, A separate blog post will be sent out for questions answered.



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