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The announcement of new flexible season tickets on the trains sounds like tinkering. In fact it shows a route to gender equality
I’ve mentioned it before but there’s power in being a man. And that brings a responsibility to use that power for good. The latest example of this? Train tickets.
This week the government announced a shake up of the rail system. They defended privatisation for years with a blanket ‘Remember how bad British Rail were?’ (To which the correct answer is: not that bad actually). And now they are setting up Great British Railways to run the show instead. The fact that the words British Rail are literally in the new title suggests there’s an element of trolling going on there.
But more interesting than the overarching changes was a much smaller but significant new policy.
Flexi season tickets are coming. That means folk that commute by train will no longer have to fork out for a ticket that covers them five days a week. Currently anyone who works less than five days a week has to pick between buying daily tickets or going for the whole annual pass knowing some days will be wasted.
And it’s good news for those that have to choose between driving or taking the train as it’ll increase choice.
Flexi season tickets are a good thing.
But there is a gender equality angle.
We know women have long dominated among those that work part time and flexibly. Groups campaigning for women’s progress at work have asked for some time for a flexi season ticket. Hasn’t happened. So what’s changed now? Men. Huge numbers of working dads have been working from home since the pandemic hit. And we know they want to keep that option. Survey after survey of employers and employees points to hybrid working being the norm going forward. Working from home some days, going into an office as necessary or preferred.
It’s at best disappointing and at worst outrageous that it’s taken the needs and demands of men for government to act.
But it shows that when men are affected by the same issues that’ve hit women for years suddenly policy makers perk up and pay attention. See also the realisation last year that working from home can impact opportunities for promotion and training. Women have known this for years (as has anyone who cast a passing eye over the gender pay gap stats) but only once men discovered the same did the wonks start trying to cook up solutions.
But this need not be a story of despair.
We can use that power for good. If men demand more paternity leave for example then government will listen. Making the case for a measure like that is simple. The more time men spend with their newborns the better they get at parenting, the more equal the split of domestic labour in the home, the more opportunities for men and women to progress their careers equally. Men who are more involved in family life are happier, healthier and more productive. Their wives are happier and richer. Their children are smarter and less likely to get in trouble with the law.
The case is overwhelming. And it’s clear that if we make it loud enough and in sufficient numbers we’ll get a hearing. Let’s get to it. It’s our ticket to a brighter, better, more equal future for everyone.