The growing number of women parliamentarians in this country, among others, has prompted scholars to explore political workplaces through a gendered lens. Are legislatures meeting the needs of these parliamentarians and are there barriers to participation? The authors of this article examine these questions with a particular focus on work-life balance and parenthood. While questions of work-life balance affect all parliamentarians, parents raising young children – for whom women have historically assumed greater responsibility – have particular demands on their time. The authors survey recent scholarly research on women and the political workplace and find that while state support for working families appears to be valued around the world, changes to institutions and policies that would facilitate women’s and mothers’ political work, and especially their political careers, have not kept pace. The authors conclude we must rethink the way we “do” politics in order to ensure that this unique workplace is accessible for individuals across all walks of life, and at all stages of family life.
Political moms have always captured our attention. From Margaret Thatcher’s assertion after her maiden speech that she could not take on more responsibility until her children were older,1 to public interest in Julia Gillard’s decision not to have children,2 women in politics’ parental status easily makes the news. Even though she was not elected herself, Michelle Obama’s role as a mother was raised in relation to Sasha Obama’s absence from her father’s farewell speech in January 2017. Sasha had an exam the next morning, stayed home to study, and this was seen by some as proof of Michelle’s focus on parenting. Twitter was full of comments like that seen here: