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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

OP's posts:
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BoffinMum · 06/12/2011 22:50

TBH I probably encounter sexism every day of my life and either dismiss it or stamp on it aggressively.

I think the only thing that can be done is to sit on as many boards as you can, even as a voluntary member, and be in the media as much as possible. Even that won't be enough unless we all do it.

Women need to push themselves forwards and actively take part in public life if they want things to get better. All women.

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MoreBeta · 06/12/2011 22:52

Xenia - again, I get what you are saying about women asking for pay rises but if a woman feels she is not wanted in her workplace, not supported in the political hierachy and just about tolerated by her boss then her basic stance in any negotiation on pay is bound to be defensive and not wanting to rock the boat.

Negotiating a pay rise when you know you have political support from your boss is way different from trying to negotiate with a boss who does not care if you leave the firm tomorrow.

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midoriway · 06/12/2011 22:56

Xenia, I read your comments with depressing recognition. I would like to add a dimension you haven't mentioned. The single best antidote to the whole scenario would be not advise women not to seek out higher paid men as life partners.

Women aim for men who are "doing well" in comparison to them. Men go along with this, because it validates them, and does not upset the status quo. A man on £20K PA has to have balls of steel to go after a woman on £120K. This is nice in early days, but then babies arrive and crunch time comes- "Who is going to put their career on the back burner?", well the person with the weaker financial bargaining power, the person already earning less, ie the woman.

I think it was Germain Greer said the best thing a professional woman can do if she wants a career and family is pair up with a cheerful low-income chap with few career aspirations. Well, it works for men doesn't it. But try telling women that settling for a poor man might be better for them in the long run and they would laugh in your face.

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verysmellyeli · 06/12/2011 23:03

I also think that maybe one of the issues is that I want to parent the way that I was parented, as I think my mum did a good job and I don't know any other way! And mum gave up work to look after us, as that was 'just what you did' in the 1970's. She would have gone far if she had stayed at work, and when she went back 12 years later had to cobble together a sort of portfolio career. But I never really had any positive role models growing up of how to work and parent at the same time. Hopefully my children will do

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EleanorRathbone · 06/12/2011 23:05

That is a very good point midoriway.

And also, FGS women have got to stop taking the lion's share of housework upon themselves. I've been disbelievingly following a thread this evening where people are advising the OP to lower her standards, meal plan, organise blah di blah, get a cleaner - absolutely anything apart from ensuring that her DH is doing his fair share.

Chances are, he's not. Because most men in partnerships with women, don't. We know this, it's not a controversial thing to say. Men still have something like 15 hours a week more leisure time than women, because women are doing more housework than them. And yet thread after thread after thread on these boards, ignores that issue completely - women still assume that the thinking, planning and ownership of household running, belongs with them. That is disastrous for women's careers and IMO is one of the biggest reasons for the glass ceiling. Not to mention for the divorce statistics, but that's another matter..

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Quis · 06/12/2011 23:14

Sexism is something we all have to deal with daily.
However I have no doubt that within a few generations women will be in charge of most jobs with responsibility as we are much much better at them, and economics rules the course of history.
My daughters know this and I will encourage my son to do what he can with his skills inherit.
This will be the norm in our childrens' life times.

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Quis · 06/12/2011 23:21

midoriway - how insulting to think women target men as husbands depending on their earnings. Rubbish - I have never met a woman who has done or would do that, and I bet your opinion is based on media portrayals.
It is exactly like thinking women are'bitchy' when in fact we are not. At least no more than men are! :)

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jasper · 06/12/2011 23:26

interesting point midoriway.
but if you do pair up with a cheerful poor chap DON'T MARRY HIM !

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midoriway · 06/12/2011 23:30

Quis, There are many, many women on £50K plus who would rather scratch out their own eyeballs than marry some nice chap with rubbish prospects earning tuppence ha-penny.

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HeadsRollingInTheAisles · 06/12/2011 23:30

Just want to say I actually agree with Porca's comments entirely. To add to that my DH very much wants name to stay in my highly paud job because if the money. I'd love to give it up fir a few years while DCs are young but am somewhat a victim of my own success. That said, to Porca's point, I could be exponentially more successful if I was willing to work long hours and travel.

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HeadsRollingInTheAisles · 06/12/2011 23:31

God, I can spell, really.

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kickassangel · 07/12/2011 02:14

hmm, I think that the health point is one not to be underestimated.

i work pt (but significant hours, and aiming for ft asap), because I gave up my job to follow dh's.
before that I was working ft. after having dd, I was just chronically ill. not acutely, but just all the time. I was exhausted. my body did not cope well with pregnancy/childbirth at all.

you just can't be signed off work for a couple of weeks here & there, then get yourself a promotion/payrise. every time i try to push myself to do more - i get ill. whether that's work more, or go out more, or just go to the gym etc. there's a certain amount i can do, then I start getting mild coughs/colds/stomach bugs. ignore it, and it gets worse etc.

I wonder how many other women find that having a child (or children) does this to them? it's not a life event that men ever go through, so will never affect their stats. although i don't think women should have to take time off when they have kids, i do think that for a certain proportion of them, probably need to.

For me, we had a load of fertility treatment, then an awful pregnancy, then I was ill for the next few years. Basically, having dd knocked 5 years out of my career. When dh was offered a job in the US, I gave up my work, and moved. I am now re-starting my career from the ground up.

And I have good qualification, love my job, enjoy the hours, and am good at it. there is a career structure to follow. if i was in a lower paid, 'job' rather than a career, would i bother with all the stress of working? probably not.

so, xenia's exhortations that we should all get out there, aim high & work hard are kind of correct - but they just don't allow for the ways in which people can be held back, not by their own mental blocks, but other things.

And we can't ALL be in high-flying careers. Someone has to care for kids/sweep the streets etc. How should we fix that?

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Xenia · 07/12/2011 07:15

midori is right though, 4 in 5 women earn less than their man and most women marry up and prefer it and most men marry down. Now that is not always so. perhaps I earn what I do in my 40s because I didn't and I not knowingly followed Germaine G's suggestion mentioned above. If you earn 10x your other half as I ultimately did then you dont' end end up doing dull stuff at home, you get a balanced life with children and work and high pay. It's much more fun.

If I did not tolerate sexism in the 80s (indeed before we married he said if one of us had to give up work if the nanny situation did not work out it would be he which was fine for both of us but never had to come to pass, we both worked full time) then in 2011 other men and women don't have to either.

As ER says don't take the lion's share of housework. Lots of women don't. The first time sunny Jim on an early date or first few sleepovers suggests you cook and he doesn't or you iron the shirt you make it very clear that's not how it operates on planet you.

Point above above about payrises. If you think yiou aren't valued and cannot ask for one vote with your feet. Set up your own entrprise, out earn your boss. That kind of thing is hugely enjoyable for many women.

Some women whinge a lot and take no action (and men for that matter). Act not moan is often the better way.

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Pantofino · 07/12/2011 10:50

I don't get this argument that things have "improved" when women earn all the money and the men stay home as they are the lower earners - that is swapping one "bad" for another.....

Surely there should be more of a focus on making employment more flexible for all, making a decent work life balance for available for everyone. I work for a large company in Belgium. The place is deserted by 5.30 and I see male colleagues taking parental leave/working 4/ths and taking sabbaticals as well as female ones. The culture of "Presenteeism" is a huge obstacle to flexible working. And it's a social construct. It doesn't NEED to be there.

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Pantofino · 07/12/2011 10:51

4/5ths....

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palerfire · 07/12/2011 11:26

Pantofino - exactly. I'm actually in a very similar situation to Kerala above - corporate lawyer currently on maternity leave with my first. I understand Xenia's point of view on this, but coming from a profession where the hours can be awful, I can't help but feel that most of the women who have shattered the glass ceiling have done so by adopting the same work ethic as men. This ethic, being focused on quantity of hours worked rather than quality of work product, allows no acccomodation for a life outside work whatsoever. It caters to a monomaniac, almost sociopathic sensibility where all that matters is work. Many, maybe most, women and quite a few men see that this is damaging - for health, for companies and, above all, for the families of those who pursue this lifestyle, but seemingly this is the only way to get ahead. Certainly I don't see any option at my firm whereby I could continue doing interesting work without also putting in crippling hours and outsourcing almost the entirety of my child's upbringing, something I am reluctant to do.

Of course women should not be attempting to do it all, and should enlist help so they can pursue their careers and reach their true potential. The tragedy is that modern technology could (and should) make the vast majority of senior jobs far more flexible and accommodating to the needs of those who would rather not spend their whole lives in the office to the detriment of their health and close relationships, and could (should) free up far more time for families to be together. Instead, it has been used as an electronic ball and chain to tether us to the office even when we're out of it.

We should no longer be aspiring simply to do the jobs men do, we should insist on positive changes to those jobs which would make them better for all and not just monomaniac drones who are happy to spend far more time working than with their families.

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WreckOfTheBeautiful · 07/12/2011 11:36

According to 'a [male] government source in the Lords', "on the front benches of both the government and the opposition, women are very well represented".

Link

Aye. Right.

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WreckOfTheBeautiful · 07/12/2011 11:37

In fact, said anonymous source can have my first Hmm

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ElephantsAndMiasmas · 07/12/2011 12:11

Oh yes, 1/5 is just TERRIFIC, anonymous source.

To give him his due, quite a lot of Lords are partially sighted.

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Xenia · 07/12/2011 12:13

Most people fail. Most don't earn much. A few will earn a lot often because they do love what they do (I do). Any successful person from a footballer to top actor will put their all into their work. It's jsut how it is. Now I can earn in an hour the week's minimum wage. I could therefore choose to work one hour a week and cut my cloth accordingly etc etc but I love the work. I do work for myself however so may be that changes how you feel about it and I decide. Money gives you power and control if you are the boss. So you determine when and if you work.

Eg my daughters have had to ask for time to go on our family skiing holiday from work. (Luckly they can) That's fine they are at that stage. I don't ask anyone but of course I work around it and if there's something interesting and well paid to spend an hour on whilst I am away I may well do that and wiould probably enjoy it as much as an hour skiing. In other words there is no awful horrible thing called work I do and a wonderful thing called mopping the floor or stacking the dishwasher which I cannot wait to spend my time on. Nor woudl I rank an hour with the children or an hour singing over an hour of work (if it's a good bit of work). They are equal. I would probably put good sex above it all though and indeed the many hours I have spent very close to small babies at night breastfeeding.

On the question of culture I work for myself. I can make my own culture. Other women can too. there is nothing special about me. Others could do it if they want. Most don't want, that's the thing. I have yet to understand why anyone would want on a daily basis to do the wretched end of day school run etc. Children are tired then and not at their best and it's a load of driving and boring stuff. Occasionally it's nice to do but not day in day out. That just shows I am different from some mnen or women who feel they are having their heart cut out if they aren't at the school gates every day at 3.

i agree about technology. Look we will only change cultures if you hate the culture in a firm or company if you get yourself into the position of senior director/partner with a heap of other people who share your desire for that culture change. You will never get it by going on to the mommy track. Hoever you can set up yourself with a different ethos.

It is actually tremendously wonderful that most men and women are not that hard working, don't show up (as Woody Allen said) and aren't very interested in their work. It makes it much easier for women and men who are to get ahead. Let's go for it.

I have had my 29 years of working life most with children around. the next 20 years will be even easier as not many demands from children (am in my late 40s... well very very very late 40s but still, just) and much more scope to do work and hobby things. 50s is going to be lovely. I go think I have often compromised work and children as many men and women do. On a daily basis we decide how things shoudl be done. Life isn't fair. life can be very hard and those of us in well paid careers are very lucky no matter how hard balancing work and home is. If we were on the minimum wage it is a very different ball game.

Portf, I think things are much better if women can earn a lot. I don't really go after uptopios though as they never exist. People can move to Holland, they are good English speakers there and sometimes I've worked there or other places with very high taxes, very cheap child care and little difference in income between poor and rich. We don't all want that so we cleave to this wonderful motherland which we have here in the UK, lucky us.

it is no more a utopia that you get to be home for 5 from work to spend 4 hours dealing with child sick than that you get home 2 nights a week at 9 on days when soemone else has dealt with the sick.

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HalfMumHalfBiscuit · 07/12/2011 12:42

Enjoying the thread. Working in an office with no women on the board. I did complain at the recent reshuffle but I don't expect any changes soon. Pleased my Dsis works at a company with 50% women on the board.

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UnlikelyAmazonian · 07/12/2011 13:02

Xenia you are very lucky to have found your 'calling' - ie a profession which you clearly adore, which is, fortunately for you, hugely paid and which you have been well educated enough - and bright enough - to pursue with such financial and emotional success.

However, please tell me that life has thrown some REAL googlies at you - that you have, let's say, overcome devastating bereavement or marital breakdown, divorce, domestic abuse or abandonment leading to episodes of depression?

Did you fight back to recover from a toxic or dysfunctional family background that could otherwise have done a sterling job of buggering up your potential?

It just sounds to me as though you are an incredible woman, certainly, who has made it through hard work and passion for your calling, certainly, but (and I do not for one moment minimise any life problems you must have had - we all have them in our lives) you have not had to endure some of the real shit that a lot of women left holding the baby face and - by being left holding the baby or babies - simply cannot continue to pursue a job in Morrisons (actually there is a massive waiting list even for these where I live) let alone their previous career, if they had one, because they are either too hideously traumatised, depressed, left with no support by their feckless partners and to top it all, totally looked down upon by a society that is already pretty sadistic towards women.

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Pantofino · 07/12/2011 13:08

My employer has signed this charter. I think they do make efforts - but can't find any record of how far they have run with this. We have a Diversity policy.

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Pantofino · 07/12/2011 13:22

This is interesting. It seems to argue that in a study of MBA graduates, women are paid based on their PERFORMANCE whilst men are paid based on their POTENTIAL.

"This study busts the myth that ?Women don?t ask.? In fact, they do! But it doesn?t get them very far. Men, by contrast, don?t have to ask. What?s wrong with this picture?"

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Pantofino · 07/12/2011 13:35

"Across the globe, however, it is obvious that workplace flexibility is not sufficient to move women into higher levels of management; the danger is that higher utilization rates for flexibility by women can reinforce the ?mummy track,? and derail career progression. As long as women are working flexibly to manage their dual roles, while men are still focusing on a single role, the playing field is not level. Incentives to encourage men to take leave and access flexibility have proven helpful in breaking down the cultural barriers that keep them at work and women at home.

If women are the ?canaries in the coal mine? of the traditional workplace, what does that mean? The canaries aren?t just warning that the mine is a bad place for birds; they are just the first ones to indicate that something is very wrong in the mine, which needs to be addressed. Women are harbingers that the ?mine? is no longer a productive, effective workplace for today?s workforce and today?s families."

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