Tag Archives: Politics

On the gender pay gap: do you work for free?

31 Aug

Sometimes you meet someone and a throwaway remark turns into a full on conversation and a really solid connection.

Last year, I was at an event, got chatting and happened to mention the time at which I arrived at a very senior leadership team meeting (of twelve biased men and true) to present my deeply optimistic proposed diversity strategy, only to be greeted by the Chair with the profoundly unhelpful words:

“Here she is – it’s Diversity Barbie!”*

(* not the worst thing I’ve ever been called at work, but certainly not the best of gate openers, either).

My new friend suggested that it would be a great title for my memoir (I can see the pink cover now …) and thus was our connection forged.

We’ve kept in touch and a few weeks ago, I was delighted to be asked to join a panel that she’s convening to discuss the gender pay gap – coincidentally, a topic to which I’ve given a lot of thought of late, given the amount of recent press coverage discussing the issue. For instance, take a look at this article from The Atlantic, in which the idea that asking female interview candidates about their current salary point is mooted as an act of bias – does it have the (possibly unintentional) result of just further double glazing the glass ceiling of pay gaps?

(c) The Fawcett Society

(c) The Fawcett Society

Anyway, I’m looking forward to discussing this topic,  given that, as the Fawcett Society states, “the gender pay gap remains the clearest and most dramatic example of economic inequality for women today.”

The UK government is now pressing ahead with plans (or, as PM David Cameron rather lyrically put it, casting “sunlight on the discrepancies”)  to force large firms to disclose data on the gender pay gap among staff in companies with more than 250 employees;  the PM believes that this will eliminate the gender pay gap “within a generation.”

Which would be A Good Thing, when we consider that (all info below courtesy of the Fawcett Society‘s website) :

  • The UK passed equal pay legislation in 1970 and the USA in 1963 … but working women in the UK and the USA are still paid a fifth less than their male peers (22% in the UK, per The Guardian link above, or the equivalent of working for two hours a day FOR NOTHING);
  • 62% of those currently paid below the UK Living Wage (as at August 2015, £7.65 per hour) are women;
  • Primary causes of The Gap include – the motherhood penalty, leading a higher proportion of women to work in part-time, lower skilled roles due to childcare responsibilities. Then, on their return to work after a career break, reduced opportunities for career progression may force women to take up less senior and lower paid roles;
  • Occupational segregation – as the Fawcett Society confirms, “jobs traditionally done by women, such as cleaning and catering are typically undervalued and paid less than jobs traditionally done by men, such as construction and engineering. Women make up 78% of those working in the low paid sector roles of health and social care, whereas 88% of those working in the highly paid STEM industries, are men.” 
  • Outright discrimination – it’s been over forty years since the Ford machinists took the industrial action depicted in the film Made in Dagenham – but both direct and indirect discrimination still persists in the workplace.

I need to do more research, but I’m looking forward to the event next month.

And here’s my proposed mini bio:

“Cleo is a diversity and inclusion professional who maintains a successful senior corporate career alongside a freelance writing, blogging and social media habit at www.thegenderblog.com. She has worked for companies which include PricewaterhouseCoopers,  Credit Suisse, Australian engineering conglomerate WorleyParsons and AXA and is the recipient of a 2011 World of Difference award from the International Alliance of Women for her work in supporting the economic empowerment of women and girls around the world.

“She believes that impact is more important than intent, often wears pink and would like to ban the word “banter” in the workplace.” 

#WE: celebrating the Women’s Equality Party online today

19 Aug

WEP membership cardMy shiny new Women’s Equality Party “Founding Member” card arrived last week, just in time to join in today’s online celebrations for #WE and to get #WeAreWe and #WEPnesday trending.

The card arrived with a matching WEP sticker and we were asked to “put the sticker on your phone, take a picture in the mirror and post the picture on Twitter and Facebook as the clocks strike noon. If WE all post at the same moment – WE will be noticed!”

I have zero talent for taking selfies, with or without stickers, so I did my own take on the suggestion:

WEP launch selfieAnd indeed, we are being noticed – #WE is trending, alongside the announcement of the latest recruit to this year’s Strictly Come Dancing celebrity roster.

Great people to follow on Twitter for more WEP (@WEP_UK) details include founders @catherine_meyer, @sanditoksvig and leader @sophierunning – and there’s lots more detail about the WEP (the what and the why) on my blog post from last month and their website.

#WE: I’m in.

27 Jul

#WEP logoTo possibly the surprise of, oh, pretty much nobody,  I’ve just joined the newly-minted Women’s Equality Party as a founder member. After a year out of work,  I haven’t yet started earning again (that comes next week,  when I start my new job)  but somehow,  paying to support and join a party which has women’s equal participation as its sole manifesto feels likes something that I want to do now that I’m in a position to do so. I felt so frustrated and disillusioned with the way in which the main political parties approached gender issues during the most recent UK election that being a positive part of a different way forward feels like something that I can really get behind.

One of the things that I didn’t predict happening when I moved out of London in 2013 was how very isolated I would feel, politically. I’ve gone from living in one of the most diverse cities in the world, in a Labour held constituency with female and Asian candidates on not only my own constituency’s candidate list but also on the lists of the adjacent constituencies,  to being an invisible resident in a location where every single candidate who was fielded here on May 7th 2015 was a white man.  My general voting approach,  if I’ve been after a tactical plan rather than voting for the majority candidate,  has been to consider voting for the female candidate on the docket – but here,  for the first time in my entire voting life that I can remember,  there was no female.  I did get quite excited when I saw that the Labour candidate was called Kim – but no, Kim was a bloke too. I did vote for him,  as it happens,  along with a few hundred others but it made no difference,  either to Kim, the constituency profile or of course,  the majority Government.

So. A new way forward.  Although I loathe everything they stand for,  UKIP have shown us that being a single issue party can be a platform on which to build success and a profile and what could be a bigger single issue than bringing about more equality for 51% of the population?

Repeat after me: “Women are not a minority …”

Here’s the link to the BBC story on the party being set up by Sandi Toksvig in May. And here’s the #WE party objectives:

Our objectives

#WE are pushing for equal representation in politics, business, industry and throughout working life. 

#WE are pressing for equal pay and an equal opportunity to thrive. 

#WE are campaigning for equal parenting and caregiving and shared responsibilities at home to give everyone equal opportunities both in family life and in the work place. 

#WE urge an education system that creates opportunities for all children and an understanding of why this matters.  #WE strive for equal treatment of women by and in the media. 

#WE seek an end to violence against women.

“Feminism is the unfinished revolution …”

13 Mar

– declared Natasha Walter in The Guardian earlier this week,  in her column about the centenary of International Women’s Day. Meanwhile,  back in my spiritual home of India, Dr Elizabeth Menon‘s piece in The Hindu reminded us that equality for some is still very elusive.

For me,  IWD was all about spending the day at a university,  at which I spoke and chaired an event called “Breaking Glass”.  I heard about the glass ceiling as it exists within academia and learned,  not altogether surprisingly,  that the issues faced by female staff at universities (reasonably high numbers at entry level, falling away at a career mid point,  subsequent difficulties in progressing to the top tier) mirror almost exactly those faced by their sisters in the corporate world.

I used the centenary of IWD to structure my talk around the way in which the world has changed for women since 1911 and the key events and people who have made those changes come about.  My brief had been to “make it light”,  so I peppered my slides with a few key quotations – some of which I share now.

“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women …”

– Madeleine Albright, the first female US Secretary of State, 1997 – 2001

“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what a feminist is.  I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”

– Rebecca West, writer, 1913

“Well behaved women seldom make history …”

– Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, professor at Harvard University

“I wanted to work there because I wanted to become a writer. I was quickly assured that women didn’t become writers at Newsweek. It would never have crossed my mind to object … It was a given in those days that if you were a woman and you wanted to do certain things, you were going to have to be the exception to the rule.”

– Nora Ephron – writer, novelist, film director [on starting her career in 1962]

My favourite quotation,  which I didn’t use because I hadn’t then read the originating article,  comes from Mariella Frostrup in The Observer,  who,  in a blistering and truly excellent piece of journalism, reminded us that the struggle is far from over and that,  within the closed world of UK politics:

“… there are more blokes called Dave and Nick in government than there are women MPs. Women continue to hover at a steady 19% in the chamber, put off perhaps by a testosterone-fuelled climate where the last two prime ministers’ wives have given up high- flying careers to support their husbands or simply to satisfy the perceived demands of middle England.”


Check it out – one of the best and most impassioned articles on feminism you may read.

So when you blog and Tweet about …

21 Aug

… the current Australian Prime Minister …. I guess you shouldn’t be surprised if she then decides to follow you on Twitter:

Twitter.com

Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) is now following your tweets (@TheGenderBlog) on Twitter.

100242-005_gillard_normal
Julia Gillard
Canberra, Australia
136 29,286 44,568
tweets following followers

The BBC are reporting,  as of this Saturday evening UK time,  that it’s going to be a hung parliament in Australia,  much as we’re currently enjoying here.  Nail biting stuff.

(If you’re following it on Twitter too, #AusVotes is a good hashtag).

Is Julia Gillard heading for the Glass Cliff?

20 Aug

(c) BBC

Tomorrow sees a general election in Australia, and the two main parties are currently neck and neck at the polls.

Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female Prime Minister, is facing a fight to the finish with conservative coalition leader Tony Abbott.  Ms Gillard became Prime Minister in June after ousting her predecessor, Kevin Rudd.

But reports say that she faces a backlash at the ballot box over a range of issues,  including the way she replaced Mr Rudd as head of the Labor party and her policy directions on climate change and immigration.

If the Labor party,  currently just ahead in the polls at 52%,  does lose the election,  what will this mean for Gillard’s career? Will she be left to carry the can and blamed for the loss?  Or will there be an appreciation for the political status quo that she inherited so recently, at a time when the Labor Party’s popularity was sliding in the opinion polls?

Apparently, say the BBC, Kevin Rudd “surrendered without a fight” after realising that his support amongst government colleagues had collapsed.

That sounds like a poison chalice of a job to me – in fact,  it sounds like the roles described by researchers at the University of Exeter in their paper a few years ago as the “glass cliff”,  in which they suggest that senior women are:

“… more likely than men to find themselves in positions associated with a high risk of failure and are correspondingly precarious. … A female candidate is overwhelmingly favoured if the opening is described as difficult and involving a high risk of failure.”

The paper,  entitled “The Glass Cliff: Evidence That Women Are Over-Represented in Precarious Leadership Positions”, summarises the glass cliff position as follows:

  • While men are given safer and more secure jobs, women at all levels often feel that they have been “set up to fail”;
  • Such leadership roles can lead to increased stress for women leaders, and can contribute to larger numbers of women departing senior management positions;
  • Glass cliffs may also have repercussions for organisations, leading to poor communication and decision making

The research,  conducted in 2005 and updated in 2007, was conducted across a range of sectors which included business,  the law and, crucially here, politics. Significantly,  Julia Gillard was not handed the role of Labor Party leader/first female Prime Minister,  but actively sought it out – so in that regard,  the concept of being appointed to  a doomed, risky role does not apply to her.

However,  should her party lose at tomorrow’s election,  the blame will undoubtedly be laid at her door and you don’t have to be psychic to predict that there’ll be a media firestorm suggesting that the Aussie electorate didn’t vote for her due to her gender,  and/or because they didn’t want to have an elected (as opposed to an appointed) female Prime Minister.

Whilst,  as outlined here in this guest blog for Catalyst,  Australia does have a relatively high proportion of high profile, successful women in senior political roles,  the amount of media attention focussed on Gillard over the last two months has been intense and has been largely centred on her gender and personal life.

So, irrespective of whether she strode to the cliff edge herself or was parked there – I see that Australia’s first female Prime Minister is  poised on the edge of the glass cliff at the moment – and only the Australian electorate can keep her there or send her tumbling over the precipice.

However, on a lighter note,  just as we had Paul the Octopus making (ultimately) successful forecasts during the World Cup last month,  Australia now has psychic crocodile Dirty Harry making election predictions. Of course,  given that crocodiles are a bit more vicious and unpredictable in their behaviour than are our eight legged “friends”,  the selection protocol is a bit more feral:  this time,  Harry has to indicate the electoral winner by lunging for some raw chicken hanging below images of Gillard and Abbott.

Watch the video link here to see who he picks – and may the best crocodile win tomorrow.

And the new Deputy Mayoress …

27 May

… of Ealing is my friend, neighbour, political campaigner/candidate and fellow blogger,  Rupa Huq.

Congratulations, Rupa!

Can we book you to come and open our street party celebrations for The Big Lunch next month, please?!

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