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Shocking, stunning, horrifying, unmissable. Guardian report on female invisibility.
282

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

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MoreBeta · 06/12/2011 16:00

forkful - yes two have tried the charity Board NED route. They find that a) either the job has already been allocated internally so the advert is a sham or b) the charity wants someone who is on a corporate Board or another charity Board already.

One has even enlisted the services of a specialist who places people on Boards and got nowhere.

There is always a good reason why they keep getting knocked back but the reality is that they are not getting anywhere because of good old fashioned discrimination in their past career and now when they are applying for NED jobs.

It is well known that Boards select candidates that will fit and that the other members know already. The few women that do sit on Boards tend to get recruited repeatedly because thaey are seen as safe candidates (not that they aren't good in their own right of course) and so very little fresh blood comes into the system.

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smallwhitecat · 06/12/2011 16:04

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MoreBeta · 06/12/2011 16:17

smallwhitecat - yes I watched the RBS programme and yes it was totally male dominated. It was men that caused the financial crisis. Pure and simple.

The FT journo you mentioned is Gillian Tett. I always read her columns and she is one of the most eloquent and well informed commentators on this crisis and has won many awards for her work over the last 8 yrs. She has a deep understanding of the causes and consequences and in my view is exactly the kind of person who should be sitting on the Board of our nationalised banks to influence its resolution.

She is currently US Managing Editor of the FT. Has a PhD in social anthropology from Cambridge University, based on research conducted in the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s. She speaks French, Russian, moderate Japanese and Persian.

Oh she has two children and a husband as well.

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smallwhitecat · 06/12/2011 16:37

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Insomnia11 · 06/12/2011 17:04

I'd love to break down the macho corporate world but not by using my kids as battering rams or indeed my own head. After having two kids and being back at work about a year and a half I left to set up my own business. In the end I had to as if I'd been a lawyer for another year I would have had a nervous breakdown from the stress.

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sprogger · 06/12/2011 17:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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Wigeon · 06/12/2011 18:01

Interesting. Depressing.

Also just read the article AyeSmagic posted, where the president of the Girls' Schools Association says girls should be told that they can "be anything they want to be" but that they might face barriers in achieving what they want (fair enough). The article states she was "back in her study" 7 hours after giving birth to her third child. Yes, 7 hours! (not days, or weeks) and that she therefore "led by example". That is absolutely not a good example of womanhood or good parenting by any stretch of the imagination. How is that in the interests of either her, or her child, or women / girls in general, or even society?

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kerala · 06/12/2011 18:16

"I'd love to break down the macho corporate world but not by using my kids as battering rams or indeed my own head. " Exactly insomnia.

I am the woman Xenia despises - was also a corporate lawyer earning a fortune and doing well but miserable. Job made me unhappy before children and was imo incompatible with having young children eg was sent to Singapore for 3 weeks returning Christmas eve shattered from jet lag and all night meetings. Would work, as a matter of course, until 11pm at night. Am so so happy now hainging out with my little girls if that makes me pathetic then so be it.

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smallwhitecat · 06/12/2011 18:21

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EleanorRathbone · 06/12/2011 19:11

That editor who got your sex wrong 6 times - if it had been a woman, everyone would have said how incompetent she was.

Men are allowed to be totally incompetent and it doesn't matter, it's just a mistake and they can carry on doing the job. When women are incompetent, it means that they should never have been given the job and also that no other woman should ever be offered that job.

I wrote this to the Today programme:

Apparently the issue of women's presence on the Today programme hardly ever comes up in feedback. Well that's not because your women listeners are happy with the (lack of) balance, it's because we are so used to being under-represented in the media, that we don't think about it until someone brings it to our attention.

Someone has brought it to my attention and I'd like to point out that I would like women to be represented far more realistically; we're more than 50% of the population, you should be covering issues which disproportionately affect us far more and you should be making the effort to interview women, far more. There are masses of really dull men every single morning and all the bright, funny, witty intelligent women out there are being ignored because the assumption is that the dull boring men are better than us. Well they're not, pull your finger out BBC, I'm paying the same licence fee as a man and I'm not getting the same quality of service. Get on the case.

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ItJustIsntEasy · 06/12/2011 19:25

it doesn't have to be about traditional high-flying jobs though does it? It must include those, yes, but what about artists and other creatives? We should be modelling passion, dedication, ambition, intellect, creativity, skill, talent, confidence, ability, drive, commitment.....and many other things as well as earning and status. I want my children, both genders, to understand human value in a much broader sense.

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PollyParanoia · 06/12/2011 19:44

I don't buy that this imbalance is due to women having children. 40% of graduate women are childless at 35 and a good proportion of those never will do. So why aren't they visible? Even if children reduces the visibility of some women, it doesn't explain this disparity.

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verysmellyeli · 06/12/2011 19:44

Excellent letter to the Beeb Eleanor!
Also, we must remember that we're not just talking about mothers, but about women full stop. And I do feel that women have different qualities that bring balance to a workplace (remember the Lehman Sisters comments?).

I think it's really important to try and bring up our sons as feminists, as they are still the ones likely to be in charge for a while! - only if THEY truly believe women are equal will things change......

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jjkm · 06/12/2011 20:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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ElderberrySyrup · 06/12/2011 20:36

the thing about media work often involving unfriendly hours reminded me - the one time I ever had to go on the radio, it was by phone to Australia (the Australian equivalent of the Today program, actually) late at night after everyone in my house was in bed and while I waited to go on I sat on the floor with the phone in one hand tidying up toys with the other Grin It's funny, that's not how I visualise academic experty types when I hear them on the radio....

Porcamiseria, thanks for staying on the thread and being gracious, sorry I was rude.

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LaCiccolina · 06/12/2011 20:52

I thought many things about this article, interesting, eye opening, bloody obvious on occasion but the most frightening thing for me was the comment on the amount of women that read the Daily Mail - dear heavens above seriously?! Thats more concerning surely, that paper has such very very conservative views. Are we laughing at it or are women that conservative?

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ChristmasPlughole · 06/12/2011 20:58

We could email the BBC every time there is a TV or radio program on that has more than 75% men.

It has always got my goat - Radio 4 comedy is dominated by men. It can get better, there are more women on 'The News Quiz' since Sandy Toksvig became host. But 'The Now Show'! I think it has one token woman on it, it's virtually a woman free zone. It should not be acceptable.

We could run it through twitter and tweet everytime we complain. Call it @wherearethefemalevoices?

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Xenia · 06/12/2011 21:06

I don't think anyone is pathetic nor despite anyone but why is it kerala who got off the work track and not her husband? Why is it virtually always the woman? Unless and until that changes women will continue to have no power. I did a lot quite young as I graduated at 20 and in my 40s have 3 grown up children and 2 younger ones and I have been working without a break (I used annual leave for babies) for amost 29 years now and I adore it more now than when I started. I also love to be with the family too.

I think it's important women who love their work and earn quite a lot and have nice families and hobbies etc (the more you earn the more you life can be eased of course) do go on about it so other women and our daugthers realise yet it's a very viable option to be say Lady Justice Hale or run BP or be a leading surgeon.

If you feel you are not being promoted at work form your own work. Women make great entrepreneurs. There is no need to be employed by and work for men. Vote with your feet. If you're the best in the business the business will follow you.

I agree there are problems about getting on to boards. I have almost 010% failure rate as I do in lots of areas of my life but it never seems to put me off trying things. I think a 30% aim for boarsd to be female would help a lot.

The person above who said they found things hard for various reasons including class is hitting on a very important issue. It can be harder to get on and up in many work environments much more because of the way you speak and dress and your colour or sex but that's a separate issue. there is nothing to stop any clever woman changing her accent and clothes if she wants to. It's not particularly hard. I am the great grand daughter of a miner. I am from the NE. I am not saying I'm rags to riches because I had a middle class upbringing, albeit in the rather difficult 60s/70s but people can work their ways through.

I was thinking about these issues recently. i am working on something where unusually just about everyone is female We're all pretty good as are men who do this stuff. If there is a call at 5 or an email tol reply to at 9 (and indeed if we were required to work all night) I think we all actually would on this thing even those with under 3s. It's how we are and some women and some men are like that. You get enthused by the work. That doesn't mean we wouldn't put the children first if there were an emergency but it is a very different kind of work ethic from those that most men and women do have in the UK.

As Woody Allen once said when asked why he succeeded or the secret of success - "show up". Given the number of plumbers, workmen and all kinds of people recently we as a family have come across who simply do not show up at the time they said when they said any of us who without fail will be 100% reliable immediately get to the top of any list. Dead easy. That's slightly off topic and I seem to be having some kind of pre Christmas rush.

Most of all have fun and enjoy things. I get paid to this stuff. It's like getting paid do cross words or solve problems. I feel like the luckiest woman in England and all about me here as I write are 4 of the 5 lovely children and of course it's dead easy now the youngest are about to leave prep school compared to babies but it's certainly good for most adults to have a mixture of family life and work.

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gettingagrip · 06/12/2011 21:06

I just typed out a long rant about this. Then threw a whole cup of coffee all over my keyboard so it's all gone! Anyway. a quick blast with a hairdryer and I'm back.

The gist of my previous post was that I am of the most invisible type of woman. Middle-aged, and single again after a long marriage. Even my old friends don't ask me to things any more as I am no longer part of a couple. The up-side to that is that I do not have to sit politely listening to the men in the group sounding off while all the women sit silently. What annoys me the most about that typical scenario is that I know I have a better brain than just about every man I have ever met, and have the letters after my name and the common sense to prove it.

I brought up my DC whilst working more than full time as a self-employed business person. My ex-H worked very, very long hours. I also studied for degrees and professional qualifications during that time. I have experience and knowledge coming out of my ears. I also now have a bit of spare time to give back something.

But as More Beta said, unless you have served on a Board, you cannot serve on a Board.

Men are treated as gods, particularly sportsmen. Witness the Sports Personality of the Year being all men this year. The argument being that women sports achievers are not well known. Well of course they aren't as no bugger ever writes about them, and we never see them on TV.

The Old Men / Young Attractive Woman combo on TV everywhere is nauseating and patronising.

I admire Xenia hugely and get her arguments, but sadly not all of us are lucky enough to be so focussed and organised. I have had depression for most of my life and so such perfect focus and drive has been impossible for me to achieve.

I think women are amazing, and what a waste of more than 50% of the population, and all that brain power, and empathy, and multi-tasking abilities. Years ago we were told that the world was becoming feminised and all our female attributes would be perfect for this brave new world. What happened to that idea? Sociopaths rule now, as far as I can see.

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Pantofino · 06/12/2011 21:22

I had such a great job interview this week. 2 women, 1 man. All questions were situational - what would you do if xxxxx. No touchy feely stuff, no mention of personal circumstances. This was for HUGE mulitinational company. Travel but lots of flexibility in working hours ie you are expected to make yourself available for late telecons due to time difference - but core hours only in the office - 10 - 4..... I want want want the job! I have also talked myself out of any idea that I might get it (is this inbred?)

But still - they CAN offer jobs like that - why don't more companies do so? Technology does not tie us to desks any more. With a lap top and wifi you can work anywhere!

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StopRainingPlease · 06/12/2011 21:25

Slight digression, but many films are the same in terms of numbers. I sat through about 10-15min of Ocean's 11 before I decided I didn't want to waste any more of my life on it, and as I remember man after man got introduced, with maybe a girlfriend somewhere. If the reverse were true it would get labelled as "chick flick", but a film full of men, with just the odd role for women (usually as girlfriends, wives or mothers) - that is just, well, a film Confused.

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ChristmasPlughole · 06/12/2011 21:30

stoprainingplease that is so true about films. Plus how many film posters do you see that are 'three random actors and a gun'?

Crap.

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EleanorRathbone · 06/12/2011 21:32

The Bechdel Test anyone?

How many films/ TV progs have

a) 2 women
b) Who have a proper conversation with each other
c) And it's not about a man?

You will be shocked by how few meet that criteria.

It is one way of making sure that we permanently see the world through men's eyes and see ourselves as "the other".

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Xenia · 06/12/2011 22:26

Ah, this may be the key to my success. I don't watch films or television so I am not subjected to the media conditioning many women choose to subject themselves to....

(I agree with the health point above though. I have virtually never been ill in those 29 years of continuous working and I hope I have another 25+ of full time working life too. As I said above Woody Allen said just turn up. The problem is most women don't. They disappear into the kitchen aged 31 once they have married a higher earning man and that's it. It's their choice and they choose the secluded life, the seraglio, the hidden covered harem of housewifehood, no or low earnings and a covering of housewife type clothes, track suits, may be a few lawyers of fat too and none of the symbols of power and thus they disappear, totally subsumed into their families. Very few are forced into it by men and most could negotiate with their man as to who stays home but they don't - they choose to second or mommy track themselves into oblivion like a hidden woman in Saudi, leaving the arena of the wider public world to me.

What have you done today to increase your prominence and that of women? Ask that every day.

Today I spoke in public. I do that an awful lot. It's a very visible thing.

I have given the anecdote before about MBA graduates where 100% of the women's first job was on worse pay than the men. Asked why every single man thought he was wonderful and negotiated higher pay and each woman thought gosh I may not be up to the mark, aren't I lucky they might hire me and didn't press for more pay. Hoist yourself into the mind track of confidence and things get easier.

Avoid suggestions that women don't like power or money or success. Huge numbers of it adore it. It is by no means a male thing to want and like that and life can be great fun if you go after it even if you fail in the process. It is all to play for and it's a fun game.

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funnypeculiar · 06/12/2011 22:38

Christmasplughole - like the idea of that hashtag ... will look out for it... Grin

Depressing, but very well written article.

I feel like I notice it especially on comedy/panel type shows - esp when there are so many women who I think are funnier than the 'standard' blokes we tend to get bombarded with.
Interestingly, I think Buzzcocks does relatively well ito it's female representation, but even so, suspect it's probably at a 25-33% level...

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