Do women face a concrete ceiling?

(23 Posts)
cmotdibbler Fri 05-Sep-08 15:00:33

Anniemac - I did it before we had DS, and work circumstances meant that I had to start travelling again when DS was 6 months old, so we just got on with it. Maybe with time we'll have to have an aupair to cover things, but I'd really rather not.

We run a strict diary policy where anything that requires us to not be around at drop off/pick up time means a diary check with the other before accepting. In 2 years, we've only had one total clash, and fortunatly the inlaws covered that - otherwise we just get on with it.

I do notice that if we are away in a group at a conference that the women will all be on the phone checking up on things in their home time zone evening, chasing the teens about their homework, checking the arrangements about pickups, and doing an online grocery shop in a spare moment. The guys just go away and phone home to speak at bedtime.

nooka Fri 05-Sep-08 14:52:37

Yes, and I think it leads to more productivity too. Working long hours to me shows poor time management (I only do it when I manage my time badly!) and has been shown to have safety issues, as well as burn out and contribute to low production values. I have worked with people who did ridiculous hours, and then seeing them dropping off in meetings etc.

anniemac Fri 05-Sep-08 14:50:10

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cmotdibbler Fri 05-Sep-08 14:36:26

Nooka - thats exactly the sort of attitude that makes everyones working lives better. I notice in Sweden and Finland that there is a totally implicit attitude that you come to work, work hard in those hours and then go home to your family. I have been equally likely to hear male or female, senior or junior announce that the meeting must end at 4 as they have to pick up their children from nursery. So its not something that anyone makes a fuss about, or discriminates on the basis of.

WheresTheAuPair Fri 05-Sep-08 14:30:42

In my previous life in insurance/financial project managing the women were routinely paid less then the men. Dh recently got his first job in the city after graduating and is paid £9K more than my starting role which is incredibly similar in company and job spec! hmm saying that tho I got an excellent maternity package and bonus structure so i guess it does balance out. Only the managers that were of post childbirth age seemed to get a similar deal to the men.

My mum is of the generation that maintains that women can't have it all in terms of pay as it has to come from somewhere when they are on paid leave.

nooka Fri 05-Sep-08 14:20:43

I work in the NHS and there are plenty of senior managers that are women on the community side, but many fewer in the acute (there should be far more as the NHS employs more moment than men). I would assume this is to do with work life balance, as hospitals are open 24/7, so it is incredibly easy to get sucked in to working crazy hours, especially like many senior managers if you are emotionally committed. I did some Improving Working Lives (a HR initiative about fostering good working environments) inspections and found that the worst group for long hours were senior operational managers, even though they often valued the concept for their teams.

I know some very admirable women who have been successful (not sure if they would count using the EHRC classifications) and they have not had the traditional family set ups, often having supportive family (behind every great woman...). Personally I have struggled to get the next job (Director level) but I don't think this has anything to do with being female, there just aren't that many jobs at this level to apply for.

I also had a very successful boss (CE by the age of 36 for a Strategic Health Authority) who told everyone on pretty much his first day that he would be leaving early twice a week to pick up his young son from nursery (and did). So I think in the right environment you can be successful and have a good work life balance. You may have to be exceptional to make it work though.

WilfSell Fri 05-Sep-08 14:02:21

good grammar is probably a factor blush... simple

WilfSell Fri 05-Sep-08 14:01:13

I work in a university - typically fairly family-friendly, yet even there the majority of senior women either don't have children or have managed to succeed once their children are older.

I still don't think the issue is entirely about gender. Or rather it is by default. It is about having children. Yes, mostly, it is women who are responsible for children; but men who take an equal or majority share of childcare issues suffer in the same way.

And the reasons are simply IMHO. To succeed at most senior professional jobs, including academia, law, media professions, long hours are expected and it is the work 'outside the office' that often brings the most reward in my job. People with children simply do not have those extra hours, especially when they are very young.

I try to catch up on essential work in the evenings (this is why my PC is permanently on with MN in the background after 8pm) but I am typically interrupted by a crying or poorly or BF child; or they are ill and I am using evenings and weekends to catch up on the many days of ordinary work I am behind.

I sometimes think going part-time is the answer but in reality, the volume of career-building tasks that one needs to do to make Professor for example, does not decrease with a decrease in hours.

Until this can be managed in some way in these kind of professions, we have no hope of parity. Senior managers and HR depts committed to equality HAVE to address this key issue somehow.

anniemac Fri 05-Sep-08 13:53:36

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Poppycake Fri 05-Sep-08 13:48:06

I moved from a capital to the provinces and found the w/l balance much much better - and my boss has 2dds just like me and is so relaxed about the sudden illnesses, pick-up crises etc. Is marvellous and I wish I'd done it years ago!

HuwEdwards Fri 05-Sep-08 13:44:48

I was fast-tracked by my IT company prior to having children.

They are very leading-edge when it comes to flexibility; I work 4 days a week, I work from home generally, 2/3 days travel to Europe once maybe twice a quarter - but when it suits me and my salary is ok - not brilliant, but ok.

I could get back into pushing my career quite easily and the company would support me, but I honestly don't believe I could do this without taking on a nanny - as my DP has a job with frequest travel.

I don't want a nanny and I work long enough hours as it is, so my career is a lot more slow-moving. Not sure how the company could resolve this in all honesty.

MrsMattie Fri 05-Sep-08 13:33:48

In the area of journalism/broadcasting I worked in there were very few women with children working at senior level.

anniemac Fri 05-Sep-08 13:32:11

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anniemac Fri 05-Sep-08 13:31:39

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anniemac Fri 05-Sep-08 13:30:48

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cmotdibbler Fri 05-Sep-08 13:26:58

Again, depends what you mean by top job really - is it Xenia's job we are talking about ?

I have a great job -manager, international travel etc - but I don't think I'm the sort of person they count. However, what I certainly experience is constant negativity about my job. From other women (SAHM, PT WOHM, even other FT WOHM who don't travel), from family, from men I work with - they all constantly question how I can travel, how I can work FT etc etc. DH, who does UK travel, and has a full on job, never gets these sort of questions. Its constantly undermining the confidence to say 'yes, I can do this, and take it further'

I'd venture to suggest that its possibly more the outside work culture of the professions you mention that put women off wishing to reach senior levels - the routine drinking, emphasis on client entertainment etc that women with children mostly just don't want to do

anniemac Fri 05-Sep-08 13:16:49

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JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 05-Sep-08 11:05:25

I think that's a good point anniemac - many of women blanche at the thought of having lives like those few women who have got top jobs - we're ambivalent because we recognises all the compromises they have to make to get there. Adjusting the top job to suit the candidate - the Karen Brady idea - is what really needs to happen I think - that and men getting more involved at home so they too demand/what some flexibility. That's probably the only way women will get it.

anniemac Thu 04-Sep-08 15:10:11

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jojosmaman Thu 04-Sep-08 14:45:06

Have just seen an interview with Karen Brady on the news about this and she called for diversity and accepting that men and women are different. I think she was basically implying that the top job in question has to be adjusted to suit the candidate so it benefits both the employee and employer. Not sure how this would work in some professions and I don't have a top job so can't comment from experience but she seemed to be saying she has a happy balance of life and work and a top job so it can be done.

The other interviewee was a woman from Figleaves who effectively said women do face a concrete ceiling but then said that she didnt want the top job hmm so how can she say she couldn't get?

LackaDAISYcal Thu 04-Sep-08 14:40:06

Depends on your home life and support network I suppose, and whether you are reconciled to missing out a lot of family life to stay at the top of the tree. Lots of women do it, whether they are happy or not is anyone's guess.

<whispers....are the boards not feisty enough at the minute, that you have to start your own "guaranteed to get heated" threads wink>

monkeymagic Thu 04-Sep-08 14:38:01

Surely it depends what you mean by a top job. If I couldn't have a family & be happy as well, then it would by definition be a crap job.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 04-Sep-08 14:33:21

According to the EHRC the number of women holding senior posts in politics, the law and the media has fallen compared with last year after a few years of rising.
Is it really possible to have a top job and a family and be happy?

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