Categories
Business And Careers Parenting

Is the Media Driving a Divisive Culture? Where does Equality fit in all this?

Once upon a time, many years ago, I used to be a journalist. We’re going back to when I was in my mid-twenties. While the basics of a job in the media have remained broadly similar, the news industry has changed massively since then and not all of it for the better. In fact, I feel very sorry for journalists, especially those working for major news networks because they seem to get blamed for everything bad going on in the world and it’s simply not justified.

The Responsibility of the Media

One of the big issues that comes up from time to time is the responsibility the press has to promote equality. I’m prepared to say something controversial here: The media has no responsibility to promote equality.

The media has a role to play in questioning inequality and reporting on equality issues. To give an example, there is a duty on news outlets to report on the number of white men who attended exclusive, independent schools who are in Boris Johnson’s cabinet.

If media personalities cross that line and actively promote equality they’ve gone beyond reporting on the news. That would be campaigning, not reporting. It’s the journalist’s role to inform the news consumer, not influence them.

So what drives the media and what they can publish? Let’s just be frank and concede it’s primarily cash. News organisations are businesses and a newspaper article about a premiership footballer’s threesome will shift more copies than an article about gender equality. That’s a sad fact and a reflection of one of the more negative aspects of human nature.

The Impact of Social Media

It’s impossible to write about this subject without mentioning social media. Social media has had a negative impact on news reporting. Journalists are forever being shouted down on social media by people who don’t like the way they report on the news.

If you really want to go down the rabbit hole, go take a look at the things said online about BBC reporter Marianna Spring, who specialises in reporting about online conspiracies. Some of the comments made about her are truly vile and just how negative the social media bubble can be.

Representations of Mums and Dads in the Media

Let me take one particular equality issue that means a lot to me: The way mums and dads are represented in the media. This sometimes causes me concern. I think we’ve come a long way since I launched my blog a decade ago, but there’s still some way to go.

Going back a decade, it really wasn’t rare for parenting magazines to feature one token image of a dad. He would be white and clearly in a heterosexual relationship. By contrast, if a major news outlet reports on a parenting issue in 2021 and doesn’t include a male voice, it will be publicly called out for doing so (one of the benefits of social media is being able to connect with major news organisations and highlight when they have fallen short).

In fact, I once remember having a chat with someone about work life balance. He remarked that if the flagship BBC Breakfast show ever reported on work/life balance, it would only ever invite mums to discuss the issue while sat on the bright red sofa of its studios at Media City in Salford.

Rather amusingly, a short while later I found myself appearing on that bright red sofa myself. The issue I was discussing with Naga Munchetty? Work/life balance!

Of course, it’s not simply mum v dad representation. I see a lot more representation of same sex parents in the media than I used to. It says a great deal that Olympic swimmer Tom Daley was chosen to be an ambassador for Pampers back in 2018. Not only was he a dad, but a dad in a same sex relationship!

My real frustration is that dads are all too often represented in the media looking after babies or toddlers. There’s very little representation of dads dealing with schooling, their children’s physical and mental health and so on.

Look on any library bookshelf at the parenting titles and you’ll see what I mean. The books for dads are overwhelmingly a) Writing in a tongue in cheek style and b) they don’t exist for any dad whose children are over the age of 5. Seriously, it’s like dads disappear once their kids hit primary school age.

As for mums, well mums can’t win. They’re either letting their families down by being working mothers. Or they’re letting the sisterhood down by not having a job. As I say, we’ve come a long way, but there’s more to do.

Driving a Divisive Culture?

Moving on from equality, is the media divisive? As I said at the start, the media should report on the news and represent society. It should not cross a line and start telling consumers what to think.

There is no question, the media has become more divisive. We saw this throughout the Brexit campaign and this has continued during the COVID pandemic. We all know that certain newspapers and broadcast journalists are pro-facemask while others are not.

Are these titles encouraging division or simply reflecting what’s going on in society? In reality, I think various media outlets fan the flames of the “Culture Wars” as they can be called.

What does this mean for reporting on equality issues? It’s hard to say. At this point in time the media seems as happy ever to report on equality issues. Aside from anything else, the pandemic has forced every family with working parents to think about its approach to equality. And that’s hard for the media to ignore.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens post-pandemic. If the media looses interest in equality, then we’ll all need to worry.

Categories
Flexible Working

Changes To Working Culture During Lockdown

When Coronavirus hit and lockdown was introduced, I made a prediction. I said there would be numerous academic studies into how it would impact on children, home life and working culture. The impact of the lockdown was the instant introduction of remote working for huge swathes of the workforce combined with homeschooling.

It turns out my prediction was bang on. I know of three academic studies that are already underway.

The academics will come to their own conclusions. I have some of my own thoughts as to how home working over recent months has been different to home working pre COVID-19 and what the long term impact may be.

Homeschooling Has Made It Tough

Let me just get right in there with the most obvious point. No one in their right mind would attempt to homeschool children. Especially primary school children, while also trying to do the day job!

Speaking from my own experience, this has been incredibly tough. After three months of trying to homeschool and work from home, I will freely admit I was totally drained. Natalie Costa, a confidence coach who works with children and founder of PowerThoughts, put it to me very bluntly: “This is not ‘homeschooling’ that we’re doing as that is a choice. At the moment we are trying to manage and survive in a crisis, so be kind to yourself.”

I have worked from home for a few years now. The absence of school and childcare options means that what we’ve experienced over recent months has not been a typical home working experience at all.

Dads Are Doing More Childcare

According to the charity the Fatherhood Institute, it turns out dads are doing lots more childcare. The charity claims the amount of unpaid childcare done by fathers has rocketed up by 58% in just two months. Yes, mums are still doing more than dads, but this is an enormous step in the right direction.

No Commute = More Work Getting Done

I am basing this claim on personal experience, but without the commute, are workers more productive?

I take my wife as an example. She has been home working for months and most days she logs on by half seven in the morning. She’d normally be on a train at that time of day but instead she works. This surely is a positive change to our working culture.

The other huge benefit of this has been environmental. While traffic levels seem to have crept back up, the lack of cars clogging up the roads has been very noticeable, not to mention the lack of aircraft. Have we all got used to using Zoom and Microsoft Teams instead of doing lots of avoidable business travel to meet people face to face? I’d like to think so.

What Will The Future Hold For Our Working Culture?

In addition many of us are dedicating more time to exercise. There is also evidence that people are eating more healthily. But what do I think the long-term impact of lockdown will be?

There is already evidence of this. Both DaddyJobs.co.uk and LinkedIn are seeing more people applying for flexible roles. Crucially, employers are increasingly advertising rules as flexible, so it seems everyone is seeing the benefits.

Remote and flexible working was unthinkable by some employers and considered impossible in some industries. The past few months have proven that’s not the case.

I don’t think we’re going to see the end of office life. But I think it’ll be much more common for people to work from home two or three days a week. Or that the office will become somewhere you visit once a fortnight. What I’m hearing from various people is that they like home working, but they also like the social aspect of the office environment. So I think a mix of the two is highly likely.

Following on from this, flexible working will be much more accepted as the norm for men. A man’s request for flexible working has historically been twice as likely to be rejected as a woman’s. With both genders being forced to work flexibly, I very much hope that mindset has been consigned to history.

With men working remotely, we’ll hopefully also see greater gender equality both at home and within workplaces.

I am hopeful for the future. I think there’s a risk we could slide back to old ways of working, but I very much hope flexible working stays the norm for the majority of employees. A permanent positive change to our working culture is long overdue.