On the loose with a hot iron;Opinion

22nd January 1999 at 00:00
I HEARD my four-year-old son ask his elder sister: "What would you like to be when you grow up?" "A supply teacher," she replied without hesitation, "because then you don't have to go to work."

For three years my wife has job-shared, supplementing her half timetable with supply work at her own school. Now, despite the fact that I am a reasonably willing duster, ironer of clothes, cook and so forth, it never occurred to either of us that I might be the one that should job share. I believe the reasons for this run deep.

A great deal has, quite rightly, been done to encourage women to go for promotion (though why are the strongest advocates of assertiveness training always the ones that need it like I need baldness training?). But why has nothing been done to encourage men not to go for promotion?

I have asked this in public a couple of times and get the reaction that "society" places tremendous "pressures" on women to devote themselves to their families, leaving the promotion field wide open to the shaving sex. If you toss in the concept that the same society puts tremendous pressure on men to be the chief breadwinners, you risk an "aw-haw-haw poor wee soul under pressure" backlash.

To be fair, this sort of thing only really gets said in good-natured discussions or television shows featuring 100 unrepresentative Scottish females, a sheepish looking man and a power-dresser presenter. To be even fairer, there seems to be a movement among the assertiveness crew to include everyone.

Right, that's enough of fairness. Where's the fun in balance and impartiality? Let's get opinionated again.

Have you heard this one: it's harder for women to get promotion because they have career breaks when children come along? Misdirected whinge, if you ask me.

The properly directed whinge is that it is unfair that men do not get paternity leave. There may be a fair number of fellows out there extremely grateful that men do not get paternity leave but I, for one, would have both welcomed and (I think) enjoyed it.

It is time that the sex that rides bikes with crossbars was given something of value in the equality drive.

"Where would we find the money for paternity leave?" I hear some cry. How should I know? But here's a start. Cut the funding for assertiveness training.

After all, anybody assertive enough to say they want to attend such a course obviously doesn't need to go.

Gregor Steele doesn't really believe that last bit either.

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