Gender, parenting and work: getting a healthier balance

Professor Tina Miller

When people have children their lives change profoundly. Professor Tina Miller’s work seeks to shine a light on how these changes still play out along gendered lines and what can be done to support more equality around family and caring responsibilities.

At its heart, her long-term research challenges the idea that caring responsibilities are essentially female and looks at the forces underlying this view. Her findings have transformed public policy on a number of levels. They have also changed public perceptions of gender equality, and how caring and paid work is organised.

Bringing about change

Drawing on her in-depth research of how caring takes place within families, Tina proposes alternative ways of organising roles around childbirth, caring and paid work. Her research has shaped policy and practice both nationally and internationally. Collaborating with the World Health Organization, she contributed to guidelines on safer practices around traditional birth attendants to improve the wellbeing of mothers in lower income countries. In 2017, this led to a key publication on practical ways to promote partnership between traditional birth attendants and skilled practitioners.

Within the UK, Tina has been appointed in an advisory role to work with lead charity for parents, the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), contributing to two major reports on the support needs of new parents. Since 2015, these reports have shaped NCT’s advice to new parents via their website, publications and courses.

Tina’s advocacy at policy committees within the UK and the EU has led to important changes to parenting rights and gender equality. In 2017, at the Parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee’s enquiry into fathers in the workplace, she argued that fathers should be entitled to non-transferable parental leave. Her statement directly informed one of the six recommendations made in the final report, with her call being covered in The Guardian and prompting more than 400 comments on their social media.

Within EU policy circles, she has also influenced the debate. As the only invited UK independent expert, Tina presented the UK situation on paternal involvement in family caring at an EU Gender Equality meeting in 2018. Tina’s contribution was featured in the summary report, in particular her call for childcare to be recognised and promoted as something of value. 

Influencing public debate

Tina’s media work across TV, radio and popular media has engaged people both in the UK and internationally, sparking fresh debate on the role of fathers, better support for childcare and much more. In her own programme for the BBC Radio 4 Analysis series in June 2020, she focused on modern parenting, exploring why more time and money is being spent on children than ever before, and what this tells us about our cultural values and parenting practices. As well as reaching over 1 million listeners, it prompted fresh debate and parents’ reflections on Twitter and other social media.

Debating on air with politicians has also boosted the impact of her work. During the 2015 election campaign, Tina debated government parental leave policies and the high costs of childcare, with then Minister for Childcare, Sam Gyimah (BBC Radio Oxford and BBC TV, 2015).

Using the arts to engage at a community level has also extended the reach of Tina’s research. Her detailed study from 2005, Making Sense of Motherhood, became the basis of a play by Sue Bevan. The award-winning Mum’s the Word contrasted a woman’s idealism before motherhood with her early experiences as a mum. Supported by Arts Council Funding, it was performed in London and the Isle of Wight as well as being performed as part of Oxford Brookes’s ‘Think Human’ Festival followed by community workshops. 

Family roles

“[The Policy Lead for ‘Family Friendly Policies' in the Government Equalities Office has acknowledged] the significant impact Tina's work has had on the development of policy here in the Government Equalities Office... enabling us to develop a much deeper understanding of the parental leave system, its history and its policy impact.”

Policy Lead, Government Equalities Office

Podcasts

BBC Analysis: Modern Parenting

More time and money is being spent on children than ever before. What does this trend tell us about what society now values and what unintended consequences might result?

BBC CoP Show: Expert Women

This podcast hears from three guests who examine the challenges of being an expert woman in the broadcast industry.

Impact on many levels

Making Sense of Parenthood book cover
"Making Sense of Parenthood" book cover (Tina Miller)

Tina’s work as a researcher has shaped policy and debate on parenting, equality and alternative ways of organising caring and paid work. She has become a key influential voice on this important topic, both nationally and internationally. Equally importantly, she has given voice to parents’ everyday experiences, and has transformed public conversations on these important areas.

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