Celebrating the end of the #genderpaygap – with Barbie

Celebrating the end of the #genderpaygap – with Barbie

The UK government has announced that the gender pay gap has been closed and that all female workers are now paid at least as much as their male counterparts in all areas of work, if not more in certain key areas such as healthcare and STEM roles. Hailing this as a triumph for his government’s policies, the UK Prime Minister commented that “casting sunlight on the discrepancies”  had proved to be such a success as a political strategy that he intended to use it as an approach in other areas of policy and urged future USA President Trump to follow his lead. The House of Commons burst into spontaneous applause across all party benches when the announcement was made,  with many MPs commenting, approvingly, that fixing the gender pay gap a mere 46 years after the legislation to do so was enacted showed great dedication to the cause of pay equity.

The Secretary General of the TUC commended the Prime Minister on his continuing support for gender equality and noted that telling women to “calm down, dear” was indeed the best way to address female colleagues.

Mattel New Male BarbieMeanwhile, in a continued effort to make its iconic line of dolls more representative of today’s culture, Mattel have announced the release of its first male Barbie, which it hopes will inspire girls to dream about what it’s like to hold a top-ranking job in the workforce.

A spokesperson commented that:

“Girls will have fun imagining the new Barbie make an unimpeded climb up the corporate ladder” and Mattel executives have also announced plans for a boardroom play set that lets multiple male Barbies sit around a conference table making long-term strategy decisions while a regular female Barbie sits nearby keeping minutes of the meeting. “Since 1959, Barbie has been inspiring young girls and sparking their creativity. We believe that by introducing a male version of the doll, girls will be able to see that every opportunity and every avenue for success is open for them to imagine. Now, girls can truly envision being anything at all,” he added.

Mattel later confirmed the new male Barbie will only be available in white.

wp-1458909288347.jpegAll of the above? Just fiction, courtesy of my imagination and that of The Onion.  Happy April 1st

Back to business as usual …

PS: this is my 200th blog post! How apt.

Four Things I’ve Liked This Week

Four Things I’ve Liked This Week

Here we have a Buzzfeed-esque list of “4 Things” which have caught my eye of late: things which made me laugh, made me (fleetingly, before I remember the weather, #8monthsofsnoweachyear) want to emigrate to Canada, made me mentally crown a member of the British Royal family this week’s #HeforShe champion and made me recall an early brush with a culture very, very different from my own.

Meme riposte to can anyone stop HillaryFirstly,  this meme response to a Time magazine cover from 2014 made me laugh.

“Can Anyone Stop Hillary?”  was the question in a televised debate: and here we have the great reply.

 

Justin Trudeau UN WomenIn my 2015 round up of people and stuff I loved, I referenced the then newly minted Canadian leader Justin Trudeau as a hero for saying, in a very matter of fact way “Because it’s 2015 …” when asked why he had a 50/50 gender split in his cabinet. He’s gone on to consolidate his feminist credentials; Fortune magazine did a nice round up of five times that he’s been a feminist hero and I especially like this quote, from JT’s recent editorial in the Globe and Mail:

“Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities for men and women, about everyone having the same choices without facing discrimination based on gender. Equality is not a threat, it is an opportunity.”

So yes please Mr Trudeau, do please keep saying you’re a feminist.

Prince Harry on feminismAnother, perhaps unlikely, bloke was outed as a gender champion last week when Prince Harry visited Nepal and spoke in support of gender equality at the Girl Summit. I would love to see him do more of this type of work – I think he has huge influence and reach and,  removed from the burden of pressure to be a future monarch,  he could really build his own portfolio and platform in support of women, girls and education.

“There are way too many obstacles between girls and the opportunities they deserve,” the 31-year-old prince told the crowd [at the Summit]. “We need to acknowledge that so many countries and cultures are failing to protect the opportunities of young women and girls in the way they do for boys,” he continued.

The royal, who admitted he has not spoken out on the challenges of young girls in the past, embraced the opportunity and encouraged others to do the same.

“We won’t unlock these opportunities for young women and girls unless we can change the mindset of every family and community. To achieve this, it cannot just be women who speak up for girls,” he said.

Finally, a recent story in The Observer took me back in time and reminded me of my first foray into volunteer work when I was still at school. We currently hear so much about refugees from Syria but the paper went to catch up with a number of Vietnamese refugees, who found themselves in the UK in the early 1980s after their rescue from terrifying boat journeys (hence being referred to in tabloid terms as “the boat people”) and subsequent re-homing in Peterborough.  At the time,  the Cambridgeshire city was dubbed a ‘new town’ and was in the throes of expansion and development; businesses were lured there with cut price offices and rates and new housing estates seemed to spring up almost overnight.  The then Mayor made some of these new properties available to a number of Vietnamese families and I came to know them when I spent two afternoons a week with them as part of my volunteer work (in lieu of playing hockey!) at school.

The programme was nominally about teaching the adults English,  but in reality it became much more about learning life skills and how their new life and society actually worked. So whilst we did spend time sitting in their kitchens doing English lessons together (numbers, colours, names, food and drink, and putting stickers up on items around the house – door, chair, TV, sink, fridge) we also went out and about together so that my new friends could learn how to use public transport,  how to use the public library, what to do in a shop (how to queue, for example … I remember this causing much puzzlement), how to sit in a café and order from the waitress.

I did this for nearly two years before I left Peterborough to go away to university and I loved it – and I know that I learned as much from my new friends as they ever learned from me, not least the capacity to look at life through a different lens and see things from another point of view. It was wonderful to read the article and learn about how the families settled and became successful; there is one very successful young woman featured in the article and I wonder if I met her when she was a child.

Weekly round up: anyone for tennis?

Weekly round up: anyone for tennis?

tennis money shutterstockAs Adele would say, hello. Ahead of a long (in the UK, at least) weekend, here’s my round up of gender related news, plus a recommendation for a novel.

There’s still lots of noise around the gender pay gap. And I feel that my prediction earlier this year that it’s THE human capital news story of 2016 is very much the case. The Huffington Post askedjust how persistent is the gender pay gap? Apparently, even companies that practice “salary transparency” – making all employees’ salaries publicly available – may end up paying men more than women.  And a report by the UK Women and Equalities Select Committee said the government has failed to close the pay gap and called for action on what it dubbed the ‘motherhood penalty’.

Meanwhile, anyone for tennis? The sporting pay gap story of the week played out in a series of comments, resignations and backtracks. Firstly, Indian Wells Tennis Garden CEO Raymond Moore’s allegation that female tennis players “ride on [the] coattails of the men” hit the tennis world like a bombshell, prompting his subsequent resignation. While Serena Williams called his statements “mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate,” Novak Djokovic firstly took the opposite view, saying he believes there is data to support the notion that men bring in more fans, swiftly followed by HIS backtrack,  claiming he had been misunderstood and that it wasn’t his “intention” to cause offence (thus proving my oft-repeated point that it’s never about intent but always about impact). Game, set and match to Serena Williams and Andy Murray, I think,  who both come out of this debate with dignity and gender equity support intact and consistent.

In US politics, The New York Times reported on how white men are pushing back on supporting Hillary Clinton, whilst Donald Trump’s “problem with women” may cost him the Republican nomination (and that would be a real definition of soft power,  if it happens).

“To win the White House Donald Trump will have to accomplish one of the great political seductions of all time. Having insulted the women of America as bimbos, fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals, he will have to persuade them to vote for him.”

(I can’t actually bear to illustrate this story with a relevant image,  so please use your imagination, if you can stand to do so.)

Thanks to ELLE’s Hannah Swerling sharing the details of it with us at Soho House last week,  I finally caught up with this New York magazine story on why and how young single, female voters hold the power in 2016 – why the shape of marriage and family life is changing and how the practicalities of female life independent of marriage give rise to US demands for pay equity, paid family leave, a higher minimum wage and broadly accessible reproductive rights; many of these are issues that have, for years, been considered too risky to be central to mainstream Democratic conversation, yet they are policies today supported by both Democratic candidates for president.

Last week, Sheryl Sandberg celebrated the two year anniversary of the release of the Lean In Collection on Getty Images, a library of thousands of creative images devoted to changing the portrayal of women and girls in media and advertising. In the past year, searches for “woman entrepreneur” have increased by 402% on Getty’s website — and searches for “empowered women” increased by 772%. As Sandberg shared on Facebook, “We also need to broaden the images we see of men, and there are signs that these depictions are changing. In 2007, the most downloaded image of a father was a dad playing football with his son. In 2015, the most downloaded image showed a dad reading a tablet with his daughter. They say a picture is worth a thousand words — and in an age where visuals are everywhere, it is so important to think about the messages those images are sending.” This link shares what role imagery in advertising can play, so that we can “be what we can see.”

It was reported in the UK that the so-called “tampon tax” (wherein sanitary protection products are taxed as a LUXURY item) is to be abolished and chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver came out swinging in favour of breastfeeding, saying that “we need to support the women of Britain to breastfeed more, anywhere they want to”, although he then ran into a wall of criticism, mostly from women who felt that it wasn’t down to a man to “mansplain” such a female function.

The Pool shared some revised ideas about what dressing for work now looks like and discussed how women’s wear has evolved over the last fifty years. And Lauren Laverne used the site to urge us all to speed up the pace of change.

Finally, books.

The Observer ran a nice piece on Caitlin Moran talking about her new book, Moranifesto and the same paper’s This Much I Know column featured feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

After the Last Dance by Sarra ManningI read and enjoyed After the Last Dance by Sarra Manning; it tells the story of Rose (set in 1940s’ wartime London) and the (initially unlikeable) current day Jane, slowly unfolding their connection. A beautiful woman in a wedding dress walks into a seedy bar in Las Vegas and asks the first man she sees to marry her; in 1943, Rose runs away from home and ends up in London where she volunteers at Rainbow Corner, a nightclub for American GIs. It’s a slow burning read but I enjoyed it – perfect for a rainy afternoon and a hot cross bun.

 

Thanks to Sphere and NetGalley for the chance to read After the Last Dance.

 

The #WE Party on the gender pay gap

The #WE Party on the gender pay gap

Gender pay gap_coin stackThere are currently so many new stories and angles relating to the gender  pay gap that I think I’m going to have to use a #PowerofThree approach of my own and just cover three at a time.

So, in the week that the Women’s Equality Party launch a gender pay gap shaped campaign (details and video link below),  here are the three (and a bit) main stories on this ever evolving topic which have caught my eye in the global media in the last few days.

Straight in at Number One with a bullet,  we have the New York Times reporting that as women take over a male-dominated field, the pay drops, indicating that work, when done by women, is less valued and therefore less well paid. Historically,  this may not be new news; I seem to recall that clerical and secretarial work was, in the 1900s, always done by men and was considered of high status – until the First World War brought women out of the home and into offices and hey presto, the “just a secretary” movement was born.

“A striking example is to be found in the field of recreation — working in parks or leading camps — which went from predominantly male to female from 1950 to 2000. Median hourly wages in this field declined 57 percentage points, accounting for the change in the value of the dollar. The job of ticket agent also went from mainly male to female during this period, and wages dropped 43 percentage points. The same thing happened when women in large numbers became designers (wages fell 34 percentage points), housekeepers (wages fell 21 percentage points) and biologists (wages fell 18 percentage points). The reverse was true when a job attracted more men. Computer programming, for instance, used to be a relatively menial role done by women. But when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige.”

Next, we have two areas of the gender pay gap topic covered in the Harvard Business Review, who share the real reason why 30-something women are leaving their employers – and guess what,  it’s nothing to do with “family reasons” and everything to do with cold, hard cash. So,  where women can vote with their feet and leave the much-lauded talent pipeline for more money elsewhere: they will. And also in the HBR is a feature which indicates that our new (UK) pay gap legislation will also increase employee performance. Pay transparency empowers workers and enhances fairness. “When people know where they stand and know what it will take to move up, they’re more motivated to work to improve both their performance and their standing.”

Finally, the CIPD reports that short men and overweight women appear to suffer from unconscious bias affecting their pay, according to a study from the University of Exeter. The results showed that men who were shorter than the national average and women who were heavier earned about £1,500 less annually than colleagues. It’s suggested that leaders should acknowledge the unconscious bias that leads to this pay discrepancy and work to remedy it. Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: “We have known for a long time that both [quoted forms of discrimination] are truisms. If you are a shorter man, with the same qualifications as a taller man, the tall man will get the job. By the same token, an overweight woman will earn less. It is awful but true.” Fry said he believed employers were acting on unconscious biases, rather than outwardly discriminating: “We are brought up to think that if you are fat you are less than perfect and that it is really tall men who are commanding. It is discrimination and, from an employment point of view, there is no reason for it. If you can do the job, you can do the job, and you should get paid equally.”

(I’ll reference the still-evolving story about gender pay gaps on the tennis court – and the charmless comments made therein – in this week’s end of week round up).

So now to the Women’s Equality Party, who are celebrating March – the first month of the year women actually get paid – with a new campaign and video.

“Forty-five years after the Equal Pay Act, women still earn 20% less than men. This means that, in effect, women have to work until March before they start getting paid for the jobs that they do. Women earn less per hour, less per job and less overall. This is not only hugely unfair on half of the population, but it also has a detrimental effect on the country as a whole. If we unleashed the potential of women, the economy could grow by an extra £180 billion. That’s £2,850 for each and every one of us. If you want a party for equal pay, support the Women’s Equality Party.”

What I find absolutely staggering about the gender pay gap issue is the chorus of disagreement which it provokes every time it gets mentioned on social media or in an article.  The internet is awash with comments like: “Every job that I have worked my female colleagues have earned exactly the same pay as me, so where are these places that pay less for the same work?” and “But there isn’t REALLY a 20% pay gap is there … it’s all just rhetoric and manipulation….”.

So not only are we faced with fighting for parity,  we’re also having to challenge people who seemingly haven’t heard  of the concept that the plural of anecdote isn’t evidence, who were fortunate enough to ACTUALLY KNOW the full details of their colleagues’ salaries or who are clearly in utter denial as to the validity of the evidence.  Do they really think that any Government would have created new legislation to tackle this if the gender pay gap wasn’t a very real, known, documented issue?

 

News round-up: Michelle Obama, women cricketers flying in economy and washing powder for men

News round-up: Michelle Obama, women cricketers flying in economy and washing powder for men

Michelle Obama at Mulberry School for Girls LondonAnother varied week in the global gender newsroom – here were just some of the stories which caught my eye.

As the Obama presidency comes to an end, the BBC used the occasion of International Women’s Day to examine Michelle Obama’s legacy. I think the fact that the word “legacy” is even being associated with the First Lady’s work is testament to her skills, smarts and passion to make the world a better place and not just be a passive partner or a clothes horse.

“It is her work on economic, social and racial inequality that most animates her and sets her apart. It is also this work, particularly the education of girls of colour in the United States and around the world, that is most likely to define her post-White House life.”

And still on the topic of FLOTUS, Nicholas Kristof noted in his weekly newsletter that:

“International Women’s Day came and went [this week], and it’s remarkable and reassuring to see how much more attention global women’s issues are getting. Michelle Obama has done a fine job promoting girls’ education, and President Obama says all the right things about how this is a security issue as well as a justice issue. But while the issues are getting more attention, they’re not getting adequate resources. President Obama promised when he was running for the White House in 2008 that he would start a $2 billion global education fund, and he never followed up — and it’s not as if Republicans have been interested either. One of my conclusions from spending a lot of time since 9/11 in conflict areas is that we overuse the military toolbox and underuse the education and women’s empowerment toolboxes. In short, educating girls and empowering women isn’t about helping half the population, but about helping everyone.”

Over in Turkey, The Observer’s Catherine Bennett dubbed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan one of the world’s “greatest misogynists” in her article on Turkey potentially joining the EU.  And we learned of the female cricket team flying in economy whilst their male counterparts are up in what my former Australian colleagues used to refer to as “the pointy end of the plane” (business class).

The BBC shared an interesting trio of stories written by their pan-Asian team: the amazing adventures of ‘Sue in Tibet’ and her creator; how Indian women are fighting back against the prevailing preference for fair skin (as exemplified by the fact that every Indian cosmetics range has a skin lightening cream available, even ‘western’ brands like Clarins and L’Oréal) with the social media campaign which celebrates dark skin via hashtag #unfairandlovely; and a profile of Ladakh’s all women trekking company.

This year’s global teacher prize of $1 million was won by Hanan Al Hroub, who grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp and now is a teacher of refugees herself. She specialises in supporting children who have been traumatised by violence.

And this week’s #HeforShe hero is “Star Wars” director J.J. Abrams, who has announced that his production company, ‘Bad Robot’, now requires studios to submit female and minority candidates in proportion to their representation in the US population. Speaking at the New Work Summit conference, Abrams said the new hiring system is meant to increase diversity behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera. However, Fortune reported that a new survey finds that 67% of men believe “men and women have equal opportunities” in most workplaces. Not surprisingly, only 38% of women agree that’s the case.

Meanwhile, The Atlantic examined the USA gender pay gap, referencing that it’s now the narrowest it’s ever been, and yet it’s still 2.5 times the size of those of other industrialised countries – so they framed a few potential solutions.

I doubt that creating a washing powder aimed at men will help, but Leif Frey thinks that a new product (with a “cologne-inspired masculine fragrance of oak and musk”) will help break down stereotypes about who should do which household chores.

Stress Stricken Dad from man who has it allFinally, the ever on-point ManWhoHasItAll has a helpful recommendation as to how to break down structural inequalities – just smile!

On discussing the #genderpaygap at Soho House

On discussing the #genderpaygap at Soho House

So the UK had another Budget Day earlier this week and, in amongst the slash and burn policies (the Fawcett Society were profoundly unimpressed) and the sugar tax, was a fleeting reference to the gender pay gap – a comment which was not well received on George Osborne on the GPG 2016 budgetsocial media.

That same evening, I appeared as part of a panel event to discuss said pay gap at London’s Soho House,  a follow up to the event we ran last September at Shoreditch House. The panel was moderated by writer and producer Deborah Coughlin and with me on stage were Hannah Swerling from ELLE magazine and Reni Eddo-Lodge, a freelance journalist who will be publishing her first book, on politics and race, in 2017.

As before,  Deborah ran us through the data, including sharing the fact that the gender pay gap starts with pocket money, and we then discussed:

  • Who amongst us has been affected by the pay gap?
  • What does the pocket money issue tell us about how women and girls are viewed?
  • Millennials are doing better – but are they? Who is doing well and who isn’t?
  • If the pay gap widens at 40, what are the issues? Maternity? Child care? Paternity? Added to which –
  • The issue has actually got worse for women in their 50s. WHY?
  • What effect will the government’s new transparency law have?

Hannah talked about the continuing work done by ELLE magazine to make feminism accessible and relevant to their readers and we showed their #morewomen film:

“There are too many instances in business, music, art and media, where women are represented by a single female.

Women rarely outnumber men.

Why aren’t there #morewomen making it?

There is room for more of us at the top.

One woman’s success makes EVERY WOMAN STRONGER!

More women for #MoreWomen

As before,  we had a very spirited debate with lots of questions from the audience, around such issues as: targets vs. quotas – what could make a difference? What’s the business case for having a more diverse work force? What proportion of women in leadership can make a difference in an organisation? (Answer: 30% will give you critical mass, improve your decision making capabilities AND improve the bottom line. PDF info here.) How to best use maternity, paternity or parental leave?

Also as before,  I shared my tactical tips for practical steps which women can take to help them close their own pay gap,  which are:

  1. Know your own worth: research the hell out of your market sector (whether freelance or employed), find out market values and hold your ground when in pay based negotiations.
  2. Remind yourself: that men are apparently FOUR TIMES more likely than women to ask for a pay rise or negotiate a higher starting salary or signing on bonus. Consider your actions and think about challenging that number. Ask.
  3. If the above two points feel really uncomfortable as ideas for you: consider working with a coach on negotiation skills, confidence building or whatever else might make you feel more inclined to haggle and get paid what you’re truly worth. Regard the cost of the coaching fees as a major investment in Team You – you should easily earn back the costs over time.

20160316_193946.jpgHere’s a  photo of me and Reni in action; when I shared this image on social media with the caption “And the gender pay gap is THIS big!”, one of the comments was: “I thought you were just demonstrating the necessary anatomy to be paid fairly”. Make of that what we will.

Have a great weekend; the next post will be a news roundup, published on Monday.

 

I’m still #mindingthegap: a summary of recent activity on the #genderpaygap

I’m still #mindingthegap: a summary of recent activity on the #genderpaygap

Fawcett Soc_IWD  2016_01I’ll be speaking about the gender pay gap at an event kindly hosted by Soho House in London tomorrow night, where we’ll share the current figures, ably summarised by this Fawcett Society graphic (in a nutshell: the current UK gender pay gap is 13.9% and, at the current rate of progress, it will take us FIFTY YEARS to close it) and then discussing – what can both employers and members  of the workforce actually do to challenge the status quo, close the gap and, critically, achieve parity before we reach 2066?

(Or even, 2133, based on the ever-cheery World Economic Forum’s forecast of The Gap needing 118 years to be closed at a global level).

Ahead of my end-of-the-week report on the event, here’s a summary of the last time I spoke about the gender pay gap, and a reminder that it apparently starts with pocket money.

Since Beyoncé and I took to the stage at Shoreditch House last September, we have new legal reporting requirements in place,  as summarised here in an article written for the blog by an employment lawyer and expanded upon in greater detail,  from the point of view of the employer, by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD).

There’s been a lot of news stories on the topic recently and I did a summary of them for you last month – here.

Gender pay gap (c) Matt Daily Telegraph Feb 2016I’ll close for now with another outing for my favourite #genderpaygap cartoon, © Matt and the Daily Telegraph … one picture, many words and a 13.9% gap.

And I look forward to meeting anyone who’s at the event tomorrow night- please feel free to ask questions, live Tweet us using hashtags #genderpaygap and/or #mindthegap and come and say ‘hello’ afterwards.