Career women make bad mothers


I noticed this poster on my way to work today and it made me double-take. Not least because there was a bloke up a ladder in the middle of Leicester’s current sub-arctic conditions. More substantially however, I double-took because that is exactly what the advertising agency who were employed to put together this campaign wanted me to do. The strapline is designed to provoke strong reactions and to get people talking. These ads are actually designed to show that outdoor advertising can still have an impact and I reckon that this one will do just that. The associated social media rant-fest probably won’t take off, but the owners of billboards will have made their point.

What really interests me however is the way that the idea of career is being used to provoke that kind of strong reaction. In the poster, career is being used a morally dubious activity. Career in this sense is seen as a primarily selfish activity, something that you do for yourself and which you potentially off set against your family responsibilities. Career is not something through which you pursue noble, social or family ends, but rather something through which you move yourself into a better position creating destruction all round you.

Obviously I don’t buy into this notion of career, but I suspect that it does have some traction amongst the general public. For me career is a much wider concept about how you decide to spend you life, how you balance work, fun, family and learning. It shouldn’t just be seen as getting ahead and winning over others. The question is really whether we can get the general public to understand this wider notion of career or whether we need a new word.

Any thoughts?


  1. sorry to wade in here so long after this was posted. I reckon there is a real feeling that persuing a career is a morally dubious activity. I think it is closely related to finding a life partner. Bear with me while I explore this one…. It strikes me that people frown on very active career building as we would frown on active husband hunting, Jane Austen style. People want romance and chance to be allowed to play some part in both, I guess. Is a career change like a second marriage? Are say medics, who persue their career from an early age, the equivalent of childhood sweethearts? People predestined to go into a career by expactations of their parents in an arranged marriage? An aquaintance of mine once told me that she decided very young that she wanted to marry a doctor to allow her the lifestyle and status she wanted for herself, and only dated medical students. She is now married to a succesful medic and they seem very happy. She has had to make some compromises along the way (he is non-English) but she is where she wanted to be. Although it struck me as pretty cold and calculating when I first heard, maybe she did the marital equivalent of career planning? hope that helps

  2. Feel free to wade in. We often talk about how career is not just about work, but also about learning, volunteering, leisure etc. The logical extension of this is that it is also about love and relationships. Your relationship choices undoubtedly have a massive impact on how the rest of your life is pursued, so perhaps we should more regularly talk about how love and work choices interact. An interesting line of enquiry….

  3. Tris, I meant it as an analogy to try and explain the idea you brought up about persuing a career as a morally dubious activity…. But yes, the influence of life partners on people’s careers is really interesting. The enormous boon of having a supportive partner or someone to do the bulk of the nitty gritty of childcare.

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