In 1979, after three years of study for a PhD in modern European history, Juliet Gardiner was interviewed for a job at BBC Radio 4. She was doing rather well, she thought, until the final selection board, at which she was asked by a ‘silkily spoken suit: “if you came into the office one morning and were told that you had been booked on the noon flight to Kosovo, could you be on it?”’
Truthfully, she replied, ‘No’, thinking of her three children. She was by then living apart from her husband, the Conservative MP George Gardiner, and knew that an order to drop everything would involve complicated childcare arrangements. Not surprisingly, she didn’t get the job.
But, she asks, ‘Was that a sexist question? … Nowadays one would like to think that a man, who was also a father, would be asked the same question and some would have to say that their parental responsibilities made it … impossible.’ My view is that a