Over the last decade, iKNOW Politics has spoken with many women leaders around the world about the challenges they face in political life. Women interviewed often speak openly about the difficulties of combining a political career with family responsibilities, and in particular, the frequent travel required to meet with constituents or attend parliamentary sessions and committee meetings, usually held away from the family home, in the capital. This travel necessarily involves leaving family members – young or old – in the care of others, such as partners, parents and professional carers (e.g. nannies, child care workers, nurses, respite careers).
Some women politicians also expressed concern for their family members who become endangered when as MPs they are seen to be “too outspoken” on sensitive issues.
In this discussion, we want to hear about good practices in improving work/life balance for women and men MPs, and parliamentary staff who can also work the same long hours as MPs and who frequently travel with MPs in support of committee meetings.
Measures to encourage work/life balance
• What measures have MPs personally put in place to balance work and family responsibilities?
• What measures have been put in place by the political workplace (be it the parliament, the local council, the government department/ministry) to ensure work/life balance?
Transforming social norms and gender stereotypes
• What attitudinal barriers do women face in trying to balance work and family?
• Do men face the same attitudinal barriers?
• What good practices are evident in transforming social norms and gender stereotypes about women’s role in public life?
The impact of work/life balance on the political career
• What are the research findings on the impact of work/life balance on political careers of women?
• Is work/life balance a consideration for both men and women when deciding to embark on a political career? Why or why not?