Mother Pukka talks fighting sexism in the workplace as we celebrate International Women's Day

Mother Pukka talks fighting sexism in the workplace as we celebrate International Women's Day

Anna Whitehouse - also known as Mother Pukka - is a multi-hyphenate if ever we saw one.

She's a London-based journalist, blogger, presenter, mother-of-two, and a powerful advocate for flexible working for parents. Her hugely popular blog is geared towards "people who happen to be parents", and it's her commitment to providing a relatable, honest, and often rip-roaringly funny account of the realities of motherhood that has made her such a powerful voice on social media today.

We spoke to Anna as part of our International Women's Day campaign: Overheard at Work, and she touched on everything from her experiences of sexism in the workplace, to the one word she wants erased from the male vocabulary.

Mother Pukka Credit: Supplied

Four Nine: Do you have any stories of sexism that you’ve experienced in the workplace?

Mother Pukka: "What I have experienced a lot is the use of the word "just" - "she's just working part time" for example - and it's never something that would be said about a man. I noticed that when I did work part time there was a sense that in a female role, you're just a "part time", which has quite a negative connotation. 

"I've also been talked over a lot in meetings, not necessarily in terms of the words used but by the bullish approach used to elbow someone out of the way, and it made it seem like women have to shout twice as loud to be heard."

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Four Nine: What advice would you give to a woman who is experiencing discrimination at work?

Mother Pukka: "It is very easy to leave, and I left my employer, so that's one option. But it's not something I would advise, because these issues are entwined in nearly every business out there, so you'll just experience slightly different issues in another place. 

"The best advice I can give is to take that sexism and discrimination and twist it into something positive internally, like set up a gender network or a working families group. Make your voice heard in a way that people can listen to because if there's a way of changing the mindset in your company, you ultimately come out stronger because you're not just thinking about yourself, you're shifting things for everyone, and that's something I wish I'd done."

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Four Nine: In your experience, what unique burdens do mothers face in the workplace that fathers don't? 

Mother Pukka: "One thing I'd highlight is infant sickness. The burden of childcare is still firmly strapped to female shoulders; one in 10 flexible working requests goes through for men, and four in 10 go through for women. So while we're enabling women to work more flexibly, they still continue to carry the bulk of the childcare burden.

"I heard something from a male follower recently. He's a father and had to leave work early because his child had a temperature. When he told his boss, he replied "can't your missus do that?"

"Why is this still viewed as a female responsibility? It's a parenting issue, not a mothering issue."

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Four Nine: How has your experience of sexism at work changed since you started your career?

Mother Pukka: "There's a lot more conversation around flexible working for mothers. Companies are really opening up about what the term means and being honest about where they stand on it, but still, no one is getting it particularly right.

"The thing we're seeing is flexible working being used as a PR puff piece - it's all words, but where are the actions?"

Four Nine: What's one word that you want banned from the workplace? 

Mother Pukka: "Feisty. I heard this from a male CEO at an event where I'd been discussing the Gender Pay Gap. He said, "you're a feisty one, aren't you?"

If you want to find out more about Anna Whitehouse and what she's up to, you can visit her website, or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.