Dear Government: The 1950s wants its sexist comms back

One thing has become apparent to me over the past few days and that is how desperately our Government needs home-schooling.

The Government needs urgent home-schooling if it thinks sexist comms like this are OK, writes Sophie Raine
The Government needs urgent home-schooling if it thinks sexist comms like this are OK, writes Sophie Raine

A suggested sample daily curriculum could include: a lesson on the impossible realities of lockdown parenting; a seminar on how to communicate without patronising; and a tutorial on how relatable comms is key to driving behaviour change.

This was the week that the Government withdrew its breathtakingly sexist COVID-19 'stay-home' advert after criticism.

In case you missed it, the ad said, in effect: “Women: stay home, do housework, make man happy, look after children.”

The Government claimed the ad did not “reflect the Government’s view”.

So, just to check I’m getting this right… the Government commissioned this ad, then the Government approved this ad, then the Government widely circulated this ad on behalf of the Government, but it in no way reflects the views of the Government.

You still with me? Great.

This was also the week that Chancellor Rishi Sunak told MPs that “mums everywhere” are owed a debt of thanks for juggling childcare responsibilities alongside work.

Want to know why all this has cut so deep?

Because of the dire reality for working parents right now, and the well-documented, disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women.

We know that the lion's share of home-schooling has fallen on mothers. According to the institute of Fiscal Studies, for every hour of uninterrupted (professional) work managed by mothers, fathers get three.

An Ipsos MORI poll found that working mothers were 45 per cent more likely to have suffered mental health problems than the general population during the first two lockdowns.

But this iniquity – which, according to the UN, could wipe out 25 years of progress on gender equality – needs tackling, not reinforcing with a patronising pat on the back or a misguided advertising campaign.

Instead, how about you expedite plans to safely reopen schools to make working parents' lives manageable again?

Until then, why don’t you use social channels to share useful tips for working parents to occupy children at home and promote independent learning and play, rather than broadcasting visuals from 1950?

In tandem, how about you initiate a plan (with clear deliverables to hold yourselves accountable) on how you’ll tackle the lack of representation of women, and women from all backgrounds, in senior government positions?

Perhaps with a more diverse workforce, you’ll understand the role of the Government in setting expectations in society.

We’ll never be able to break down stereotypes of women at home if the Government itself is not reflecting this in its comms and policy decisions.

Sophie Raine is MD of consumer brands at Ketchum London, and a committee member of Women in PR

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