At a recent event to promote gender equality for women, British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed that working mothers were being unfairly discriminated against during “early evening socialization.”
“The behavior of companies that encourage an ethic of early evening socialization in order to promote themselves in the company benefits men who don’t feel the need to be home looking after their children, and it discriminates against women who want to obviously look after the children that they’ve got,” he said.
Corbyn calls it a “subtle discrimination as well as the most overt discrimination that has to be dealt with.”
Grace Dent, a U.K. journalist at The Independent, agreed with Corbyn and called the after-work drinks culture “toxic” for women. “The issue of who exactly is at home between 5 and 8 p.m. on weekdays, wiping [kids’ rear-ends], helming the sippy cup and finding [pajamas] is indeed steeped in sexism,” she wrote.
But what is to be done?
“How on earth do we police that?” Dent asked. “Do we ask tavern keepers to cease serving any gang of four or more men with slightly unloosened ties, seeking to fraternize in a manner which upholds the patriarchy?” she added. “Should all after-work groups, by law, contain at least two women or at least one gender fluid person identifying as female? Should all men simply be instructed by law to go home at 5:30 p.m. and spend time with their children?”
The solutions are ridiculous — because the idea is ridiculous.
“Work happy hours aren’t discriminatory against mothers, any more than they are discriminatory against fathers, dog owners, and anyone who has something else that they want or need to do after work,” said Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women’s Forum and a mother of five.
“Working mothers face plenty of challenges — and yes, that balancing act means that we can’t take advantage of every socializing and networking opportunity. But that’s a pretty small obstacle in the scheme of things and hardly amounts to discrimination.”
Some working mothers find after-work socializing over drinks is not the only place where work can get done.
“Today, soccer practices, preschool pickups, and PTA meetings can be just as advantageous as yesterday’s Happy Hour if not more,” conservative commentator Scottie Nell Hughes told LifeZette. “A person can often feel more comfortable doing business with someone when they are more familiar with what their life is like at home and in the office.”
Mercedes Schlapp, former White House director of specialty media under President George W. Bush and wife of the chairman of the American Conservative Union, believes “the days of the ‘Mad Men’ with martini lunches might be over” because more working moms are using other day parts and activities to accomplish the same goals.
“Sometimes I feel that it would be a lot easier if we could skip the happy hour and have the business associate meet me at the soccer field,” the mother of five joked.
“For Matt and me, it’s a definitely a partnership in terms of being able to balance the kids and socializing for work proposes,” Schlapp said. “And sometimes we both have to go to a business event together, which is actually more fun. It’s our version of date night!”
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Torie Clarke said the larger issue is not sexism but finding the right spouse. “Choose your partners carefully,” she said.
“Sometimes you need to watch the kids while your partner leaves early for a business breakfast; sometimes he/she needs to get home so you can do happy hour with colleagues or customers,” said Clarke, the author of “A Survivor’s Guide to Washington.” “It’s a constant balance and compromise.”
Both fathers and mothers sacrifice career advantages to be there for the children. Some jobs do not require such socializing — but in others, it is vitally important to create relationships, build understanding and trust and otherwise grow closer to those with whom we do business.
We all have responsibilities that can distract us from finding time for a cocktail with a beneficial professional contact. And patriarchal stereotypes may have some influence on why women think they — rather than their husbands — have to sacrifice happy hour socialization to get home and tend to the kids.
But for most couples, it’s simply another small issue to work through, and the decisions are made based on the importance of the meeting to possible future income — not gender. As more mothers enter the workforce, they are getting more creative and efficient with how they use their time to socialize with colleagues, friends, and business associates.
“Corbyn’s comments are extremely condescending to women and insulting to men. Women aren’t feeble creatures,” said Julie Gunlock, mother of three boys. “They can figure out how to juggle multiple tasks. They do it every day with no help from government bureaucrats,” added Gunlock, a senior fellow at Independent Women’s Forum.
“And studies show that men are increasingly helping with household duties and child care. Corbyn should try to focus on issues that matter to the British public rather than pandering to his make-believe victim class.”