Shocking, stunning, horrifying, unmissable. Guardian report on female invisibility.
Bidisha · 05/12/2011 00:00
The Guardian's Kira Cochrane has produced an exhaustive, serious and very informative, though devastating, study about the representation of women in all walks of life, from politics and the media to comedy. Full disclosure: I am quoted in it briefly. The article is the result of several months' study by a diverse group of researchers and gives a complete picture of just how strongly women are pushed out of the public frame - and how this impacts on girls and young women's sense of their own voices and possibilities.
I would urge anyone who cares about this to get onto the Guardian comment thread and talk, give your own experiences, encourage other women, participate positively and in solidarity. This is a hugely important article and it's all about us and our place and space. Don't let the derailers and trolls dominate!
Here's the article: www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/dec/04/why-british-public-life-dominated-men
Prolesworth · 06/12/2011 10:17
Thanks for sharing this article.
The only programme I can think of that regularly has >50% women is the Review Show (on BBC2 on a Friday night). Almost always a woman presenter and almost always at least 2 of the 4 guests are women.
MoreBeta · 06/12/2011 10:37
A good piece of research and a good article.
Another piece of analysis that would be fairly easy to do from Hansard is to calculate what percentage of Parliamentary questions and speeches are by women. Obviously, there are less women than men in Parliament, but if when they get there, their voices are also not heard because they are less likely to 'catch the Speaker's eye' or disuaded from speaking then that compounds the issue.
It is just as bad at the top of business and in the business world in general.
Xenia · 06/12/2011 10:45
I am afraid I am continously appalled by women including on mumsnet who choose ot be home cleaning up the house and wiping babies; b ottoms and leaving their husbands to advance to positions of power. Women will never never get very far at all as long as so very very many husbands have low or no earning wife at home or in part time pin money work and husband putting his all into a career. You need to take action on a personal basis today and aim to out earn your man
Also get much better at demanding more pay.
Self promote better.
I think I'm one of the best at what I do in the UK and I don't mind saying that. I might be expensive but I'm very good. Far too many women don't think like that.
People say to me on here well it's a personal feminist choice that I adore to clean floors and iron my husband's shirts and mind his children 2/47 rather than do his job but it's not a personal choice. It's a choice which has led to a position where women will lose gains they have made.
It is not hopeless. Many women encourage their daughters into well paid careers and to aim for the top rather than yes dear you'd make a nice hairdresser or care home worker but still not enough.
There is a good movement to ensure we have 30% of women on boards. We must keep up the pressure. When women are not unusual they make greater gains. I looked at a media board recently for some work thing and I tweeted to the MD why is there not a woman on your board (which is pretty appalling in that female type sector). Just keep making the points again and again.
Also put yourself forward. Since I was about 12 I've been writing to the press, wrote 30 books, I speak may be 50 days a year and even in my field you do find a lot of men speaking and not so many women, why? I am not feeling as hopeless as others on the thread. Every day I see good progress. On an individual basis women shoudl do their bit - ditch the cakes and get yourself on a board, hand the mop to the husband and get off out into Parliament (f you can afford to live on its low pay, I couldn't).
MandarinOrange · 06/12/2011 10:46
Thanks for posting the link Bidisha. It's only on seeing the numbers that I realise how normal it seems for men to make up 75-100% of people on the radio/ TV. I am constantly on the lookout for older, successful, female role models and this explains why I have only found a handful!
I've emailed the Today programme too. If the number of letters received on an issue represents how much of an issue it is felt to be, then I feel it's my responsibility to make my views known.
KRITIQ · 06/12/2011 10:48
Hackmum, I saw that documentary on Life photojournalists while visiting ILs (don't have a tv myself.) I did notice that it featured the "token woman" photographer (Margaret Bourke-White), and included the quite salacious comments from Ralph Graves (who was a "cub" when she was at the height of her profession.) It also noticeably included the "token Black," photographer John Shearer, focussing only on his coverage of the civil rights movement and Black gangs in New York. Stereotypes? Gee, not much.
I enjoyed the documentary as someone who both likes photography and enjoyed the retrospective of images from the magazine. It was, however, depressing to be reminded that an institution that made its reputation on being edgy and progressive was still as conservative and regressive in it's employment and promotion of anyone who didn't fit the white, male photo-hack model. It was even more depressing that the makers of the documentary were probably slapping each other on the back about managing to find a woman photographer and a non-white photographer to feature in the programme to give the appearance of "representation." But, that their "awareness" didn't stretch as far as recognising that the way they were depicted actually reinforced deep, negative stereotypes about both women and Black people.
Sorry if that seems a bit of a diversion.
Hackmum, I hear what you are saying about that feeling in the 70's and 80's that things were at least moving in the right direction. On reflection, I genuinely believe attitudes, representation, etc. WERE moving that way, even into the 1990's. But, somewhere in there, it started to level off, or actually kick into reverse - slowly, insidiously, but definitely perceptible.
I keep thinking of when I tried to read Natasha Walters' first book, and seeing her interviewed on some programme, asserting that the battle for equality was over bar the shouting, and thinking no, no that's not right at all. I was relieved that in her more recent book, she admits that she was a bit premature in her assumptions (to say the least.)
ElderberrySyrup · 06/12/2011 11:03
Kritiq I never read that Natasha Walter book but I had exactly that experience reading Naomi Wolf's 'Fire With Fire' which claimed the battles had been won and all women had to do was to reach out and take power.
Hardgoing · 06/12/2011 11:09
Thank you for posting this. I don't agree with Xenia on everything, but on this she is spot on. Women keep removing themselves from public life. Our society makes it easy for them to do that, by continuing to place all responsibility for parenting on their shoulders, so their 'choice' to work part-time, or get the children to school at inconvenient times, looks obvious for each individual family. Many people prefer that lifestyle, but equally, many do not. I have so many immensely frustrated women friends, some with PhD's and some with just GCSE's but what they all have in common is that they are working several levels below their educational grade in terms of what their jobs require. So, the PhD's are working as administrators, and the ones with GCSE's are working as mealtime assistants. Both respectable jobs, but hardly fulfilling their educational potential. Men, in general, do not do this.
In my own area, women start out as 50% of researchers after PhD. 20 years on, only 15% are professors.
I don't know what you can do to change it, I find myself exhausted and tempted by the individual needs of my family to give up at times, but (due to a good Xenia verbal kicking) I remind myself that if every single woman retreats, stops working full-time, stops public speaking, stops their political ambition, we will just disappear from public life.
porcamiseria · 06/12/2011 11:17
I think of women really want to suceed, they can. I work in a very male dominated industry yes I do come across senior leadership, examples include a female CEO of a mining firm, a female MD of a exploration business etc
I sometimes thing that some women make a conscious decsion that they DONT want it. they dont want to work 24/7. they dont want to travel all the time. They want to see their kids. they make a decison that that £250K+ package, maybe is not worth it
so my opinon is that alot of women dont want this level of seniority
the very fact that there are women in some roles shows it can be done
ElderberrySyrup · 06/12/2011 11:18
oh yes that's right, there is no sexism, it's all women's fault for not trying hard enough. FFS.
porcamiseria · 06/12/2011 11:19
and Xenia, there is a middle ground between women like you, and the stepford wives you depict. I work FT, and I am the main breadwinner. But me (and my boss) know that there is a certain level I wont get to, cos the hours and constant travel is incompatible with my life. So I earn £40K less, but I see my kids. and we are both OK wth that
KRITIQ · 06/12/2011 11:20
Yes, the Naomi Wolf book came out about the same time as Walter's, as did the ghastly one by Katie Roiphe called something like "The Morning After" or similar, about rape (message: just get over it gels, it's no biggie.) Wolf's "Beauty Myth" was pretty good, so her follow up was pretty gutting. My thoughts about the interview with Natasha Walter at the time I think were probably ageist (as in - she's not quite experienced all life can throw at you yet.) As for Roiphe, I guess you can at least say she's been consistently "not getting" sexual harassment and sexual violence all along In Favor of Dirty Jokes and Risqué Remarks.
Again, probably a diversion here, but there were a few books and articles that came out around the early 90's, supposedly "second wave" feminists, that got right up my nose because they seemed to suggest that enough of the battle had been won for women to just rest on their laurels and chill out a bit. Some started to question the use of the word feminism, or even the concept, favouring more of an "equalism" approach - you know the, "but men suffer just as much from inequality." At the same time, there was all this stuff about "lipstick lesbians" as well and it just felt like sexual identity and equality were being repackaged and sold to women on the back of Cool Britannia or something, like just a funky lifestyle choice. Urgh.
I sort of think it was around this time that the concept of "choice" started leaking into discussions. So say when you'd point out an example of systemic sexism, someone would respond with, "well, women now have more choices than in the past . . . " And then of course, there was the "girl power" crap. Oh dear.
I also had a glimmer of hope when folks started frankly discussing the concept of institutionalised discrimination in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence murder and aftermath. People were starting to discuss intersectionality of oppression as well and there seemed to be an interest of addressing institutionalised injustice in a more concerted way. Ah, that was about 10 years ago. I don't think it really gained the traction needed and the backlash against "institutionalised discrimination" came fast and furious with repostes about "political correctness gone mad."
Hmm, so where are we now again? (ha!)
porcamiseria · 06/12/2011 11:21
you have missed my point. I did not say women dont try hard enough
But alot of women that work FT see the lifestyle associated with high power
and they say you know what, I am not going to go for that MD role because of reasons X, Y and Z. so let Bob go for it. he will earn £50K more than me. But he will be away all the time.
happens all the bloody time, and alot of women are happy with that decision
KRITIQ · 06/12/2011 11:25
Ah, porcamiseria gives a partial answer to my question before it was even asked! The, "but women now have choices," agenda has run and run. Say 20 or 30 years back, it was recognised in many quarters that there were economic, social and political barriers to women's inclusion, visability, advancement, etc. Now, it's considered a bit "old hat" to refer to barriers - far better to put the onus back on women for their "choices."
porcamiseria · 06/12/2011 11:32
But its true. the fact is that positions in power mean:
time away from home
and whilst some men are OK with this, many women arn't. and some are. and I hope they are very happy. Cynthia Carroll the CEO of Anglo has 4 kids.
but for me the issue is the work/life cutlure that exists within our major industrial firms. And it fucks off ALOT of men too. I dont see this as a feminist issue. Thats just my opinion
NanAstley · 06/12/2011 11:32
porca with all due respect, that is codswallop. Very often it is not a choice between a high-flying lifestyle and middle-management "drone". In my field, for instance, the board has a very similar lifestyle to the average person...we all get home reasonably early, and all of us have our fair share of travelling to do. The board members do get invited to flasher parties than us (neetworking, they call it...harumph) but they aren't required to go.
And yet, there is only one woman on the board. And even she was promoted because the ocmpany wanted an Investors In People badge, and they could not get it with an all-male board.
porcamiseria · 06/12/2011 11:37
its my opinon based on working in business for 22 years. Its not fucking "codswallop". Not sure what industry you are in. but I see senior women and I work in a very industrial sector.
Looks there is definately sexism out there, but I do also have a view that talent and hard work get rewarded, regardless of gender
I also think that posotons of great power are a bit of a poisened chalice
Hardgoing · 06/12/2011 11:38
NanAstley I agree with you. I have now realised that a teaching fellow is probably working as hard as a professor, in terms of demands/hours/stress. Why not get the higher salary and the status?
NanAstley · 06/12/2011 11:46
porca firstly, I think the term "codswallop" is a mild one...on par with "nonsense". So I would appreciate it if you didn't swear back at me.
Secondly, I am sorry to pick on you, but the point you make is wheeled out again and again by media and people in power, so it is very important to address it and expose it for the nonsense it is.
You are consistently equating a position of power with a jet-setting lifestyle. You are probably thinking of, say, Harriet Harman having to consciously choose to skew her home-vs-work balance to get to the position of power. Long hours, excessive travel etc.
My point is that not all positions of power require that amount of sacrifice. I am an architect, and I assure you that an architect at board level (not Norman Foster, you understand) has THE SAME LIFESTYLE as I do, and does not need to make any undue sacrifice. And yet, women are under-representated at senior management level.
porcamiseria · 06/12/2011 11:51
well.....I am not disputing that is many sectors there is a huge pay barrier. I just wanted to point out that in my sector, its not all bad. and in my sector at least money = shit loads of travel, it does. sorry.
I think in some ways the recesson is good as it really starts to highlght who performs, and who does not. and I can only imagine seeing a man being paid more than you for the same work must be very galling
I am going to leave now as I dont think I can contribute to this convo
AitchTwoOHoHoHo · 06/12/2011 11:52
i do love you, Xenia, and i wish i could be more like you in many ways.
there was an interesting blog post a while back, by an HR professional who said that when accepting a new job men ALWAYS ask for more and get it, while women take the first offer.
i was watching a doc about the Jane Austen Portrait yesterday (it's on over Xmas, do watch it) and it was gobsmacking to see intelligent female after intelligent female coming out to talk about it. all brilliant academics, all at the top of their field (albeit in girly subjects ) and all able to discuss and debate the matter in hand with humour and understanding and just enough tension to keep it interesting without spilling into actual violence. totally brilliant. and totally, utterly BONKERS that more television isn't like this.
Quodlibet · 06/12/2011 11:55
I read this article the other day, and it made me realise that the reason I spend so much time on MN is because it is so bloody refreshing to be listening to/engaged in conversations full of loud, varied female voices. I'm so fucking bored of panel discussions with 4 men and one woman on them.
Interesting idea re. 16% of the license fee (above) alexpolismum. In all seriousness though, if programmes/papers/media outlets were financially incentivised because women would turn off if they weren't being represented, would that change things? I suppose the answer is that we're too used to the status quo to notice that we're not represented - it's entirely normal for men to be the experts at everything that we just accept that that's the way the world works.
AitchTwoOHoHoHo · 06/12/2011 11:58
totally agree, Quod. in fact i have said before that i would prefer this to be a woman-only space as ffs there just AREN'T any anywhere else. but i know that's just a pipe dream.
interesting thought about men being scared of going on Loose Women, when going into male environments is our bread and butter if we want to advance.
MoreBeta · 06/12/2011 11:58
Xenia - I agree with a bit of what you say that sometimes women are not pushing themselves forward enough - but there is another side to the arguement.
I know 4 very very highly qualified women who all have a boat load of experience and all would make excellent main Board exec and non exec Directors. Not one of them can get an appointment to a Board though because they don't already have experience as a Director. They never got promoted within their firm to their first Board position like men typically do and so they can never get appointed elsewhere either.
It isnt easy getting to the top in business but when the dice is loaded against you it is not surprisng so many women give up.
It is chicken and egg thing.
NanAstley · 06/12/2011 12:04
porca don't leave. There is no such thing as "cannot contribute". Any good discussion should take on board all views and opinions. Just because you don't agree with a certain view doesn't mean you can't stay.
A thread full of people agreeing with each other would be a mightly boring one. In fact, rather like the all-male board, I would imagine (fat paunchy men patting each other on the back is th epicture my mind paints)
Forgive me...I have had a bad day at work, having been passed over for promotion yet again as apparently, I cannot be trusted to run projects as I work only 4 days a week. Never mind the fact that I work from home on the fifth day...UNPAID!
porcamiseria · 06/12/2011 12:11
Nan, I can see why you are pissed off. Just because its OK for me, does not mean it is for others eh
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