The cast of Suffragette has been gaining a lot of attention in the press on their journey to release, but this time, it’s not because of a controversial t-shirt. Rather, one actress takes issue with the fact that most sets don’t offer childcare services, thus making it that much more difficult for women in the industry.
Garai is best known for her role in the BBC television drama The Hour, and for her roles in Vanity Fair and Atonement. But she’s reaching mainstream American audiences with her role in Suffragette, and she’s using that platform to talk further about women in the filmmaking industry. What she’s saying makes a lot of sense.
Garai gave birth to a daughter in 2013, and if there’s one thing we know about Hollywood parents with high-powered careers, it’s that they usually employ a whole lot of help to raise their children and still maintain a working schedule. That, or take years off from working and risk damaging their careers with hiatuses.
Garai proposes an alternative: that sets should have daycare services, called creches in the UK, for working mothers, a solution that would allow hundreds of actress mothers to be more actively involved in the raising of their children.
Romola told The Independent:
“Sets never have childcare. I think it doesn’t happen because it hasn’t occurred to anyone. It’s stymying women’s careers. In an industry that has such a big problem with female representation, it would be such a support.”
Garai noted that she would have been forced to turn down her role on The Hour, which is her most famous, if she had been a mother before taking on the project. Her long hours mean that she is away from her daughter from before 6 in the morning until 8 in the evening.
“On The Hour, I was being called [to set] at 5.45am and [was] never home before 8pm. That’s routine. I cannot do that any more unless I’m prepared to relinquish raising my child to someone else. That’s not my choice.
I’m not criticising women who do choose that, but the industry is not allowing parents to work and be involved in raising their children.”
Romola’s comments call attention to another issue in the way Hollywood treats women. We’ve seen so many actresses lately speak out about the problems they see in the industry, most notably Jennifer Lawrence, who made headlines this week for her essay about the gender wage gap in Hollywood.
Garai’s co-stars have also spoken at length about the difficulties women in Hollywood face. Fellow Suffragette stars Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep often call attention to how women are silenced, underrepresented, and otherwise treated as unequal in Hollywood.
Romola’s issue, however, is an issue most normal women face when raising children. In-office childcare is rare in America, forcing a lot of parents—mothers and fathers both—to relinquish their childcare to a separate daycare service for which they must pay top dollar for most good services. If companies offered free in-office childcare, mothers could return to work and forgo, if that’s their wish, lengthy time on leave in order to adequately parent their children.
Garai is calling attention to this issue by supporting a campaign entitled Parents in Performing Arts (Pipa). She’s also currently performing in Measure for Measure at London’s Young Vic theatre. Suffragette opens October 23rd in the USA.