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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Edwina Currie on why only a third of 'top jobs' are filled by women <headdesk>

41 replies

Lottapianos · 29/05/2012 15:18

Listening to her on Julia Hartley-Brewer's show on LBC now.....

She says it's mostly down to women just not wanting jobs at the top of the ladder because most women don't want to work 11-12 hour days and women are not motivated by money, they are more motivated by being 'generous' and 'helping people'

And in the next breath, it's because of 'gender stereotyping' in schools where, for example, girls are not encouraged to take subjects like accounting


And JH-B is no better - she says it's (in her humble opinion) because women just don't want those sorts of jobs, and hey, women are the ones who have babies and give birth and so it's probably an unrealistic goal anyway. And she calls herself a feminist

And please don't have a go at me for listening to LBC - there's nothing you can say that I don't say to myself on a daily basis Smile

OP posts:
ecclesvet · 29/05/2012 20:49

What's wrong with what Currie says? Is it so unbelievable that there might be more than one factor behind the glass ceiling?

Women as a gender are far more likely to be the ones responsible for childcare, so therefore less likely to take jobs which would interfere with the personal care of children. Vice versa for men as a gender.

And gender stereotyping/social pressure towards classes/degrees is a massive factor, don't know how anyone would disagree with that.

tribpot · 29/05/2012 20:51

I'm not quite sure what you're saying, ecclesvet. Are women more likely to be responsible for childcare because of gender stereotyping, or is that a separate factor in the glass ceiling in your view?

ecclesvet · 29/05/2012 20:58

I was talking about them as two separate factors for the glass ceiling, but I'm sure there's a lot of overlap.

kim147 · 29/05/2012 23:22

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lottapianos · 30/05/2012 07:17

ecclesvet, what frustrated me so much was that she complained about gender stereotyping in schools when she had just done lots of gender stereotyping herself with her 'women just don't want the top jobs and aren't motivated by money' reasoning. I think you're right - there are multiple factors behind this situation. But not for the first time, I can't help feeling that what is at the root of so many of these problems is gender stereotyping itself - 'women' do this, 'men' do that, 'women' are motivated by this etc etc. Add to this the idea that women and men are 'naturally' better suited to different roles (we all know what they are) and I can't see how things will ever change. It's so frustrating.

OP posts:
messyisthenewtidy · 30/05/2012 07:48

I caught the tail end of her talking on a morning show yesterday and she was very irritating, basically asserting that women weren't interested in science hence their lack of representation in the field. The woman opposing her pointed out the generalization she was making but it made me want to throw my breakfast at the tv.

What gets me is that if any girls were watching that's just another thing that gonna stick in their mind and veer them from any scientific ambitions they might have. A self fulfilling prophecy.

Bonsoir · 30/05/2012 07:50

I don't see what is so controversial about what Edwina Currie or Julia Hartley-Brewer said. Common sense.

AllYouNeedIsAClickyBallpoint · 30/05/2012 08:03

"Are women more likely to be responsible for childcare because of gender stereotyping"

My overwhelming feeling on this is that gender stereotyping is not the issue, but biology.
We give birth to our babies, we have the means to nourish our babies, and as such, we are more likely to feel that we want to take on the majority of childcare.
I know this doesn't apply to all women, but of all the women I personally know (many in potentially high-flying careers, where the glass ceiling scenario might occur), only one has reached the absolute pinnacle of her career and is higher paid than most of her male colleagues. She freely admits that to get to this point, she had to put her career first and children a distant second.
Of my other friends, the ones who have top jobs, but have hit the glass ceiling, they freely admit that it is their reluctance to completely hand over child care, which would enable them to work the very long hours of their male counterparts.

Bonsoir · 30/05/2012 08:36

"She freely admits that to get to this point, she had to put her career first and children a distant second."

Indeed. And many, many parents (not just mothers) feel that it is a price too high to make their children pay.

messyisthenewtidy · 30/05/2012 08:37

It's not that it's controversial, it's just that it's wrong. Women are interested in science, and they are ambitious, but things stand in their way.

Societal attitudes aside, biology probably is one of the hurdles to career progress . I gave up my career to look after DS but the question is, should I be penalized for doing something that is vital to society? If women didn't look after children then who would? Yet it means career suicide in many cases and as the days of working from home are gone, how else are women supposed to acquire the money they need to acquire a decent lifestyle for themselves and their children?

Trills · 30/05/2012 08:38

She says it's mostly down to women just not wanting jobs at the top of the ladder because most women don't want to work 11-12 hour days and women are not motivated by money, they are more motivated by being 'generous' and 'helping people'

And in the next breath, it's because of 'gender stereotyping' in schools where, for example, girls are not encouraged to take subjects like accounting

If you take her to be saying that the reason that women are motivated differently is because they are raised in a gender-stereotyped way then this makes perfect sense.

Bonsoir · 30/05/2012 08:38

Things stand in women's way... if they want them to. Ultimately, choosing between your DCs' wellbeing and your bank balance isn't such a difficult choice for many mothers.

handbagCrab · 30/05/2012 08:48

Lots of women work 12 hour shifts so that part of her argument is rubbish.

I don't know any woman who is 'generous' enough to stand aside and let male colleagues ahead of them in order to 'help' people.

I have, however, seen lots of successful women, including myself, being demoted, made redundant, marginalised, terms and conditions changed due to pregnancy and motherhood.

Whether we want to work less and see our children more is immaterial when that is being dictated to us by shitty work practices and standards. It's us making the best out of the situation we find ourselves in. I don't think it's free choice. Although I suppose there must be some women out there that have blithely gone on mat leave and are returning to the same role or one of their choosing! And good luck to them :)

LadyWidmerpool · 30/05/2012 08:53

We all assume that to do a top job you have to do silly hours. Can we change this and if so how? That would encourage people with caring responsibilities (not just mums) to pursue their careers and employers would benefit from having a bigger pool of talent as well as healthier staff.

FrillyMilly · 30/05/2012 09:12

Most men at the top are not young - 40s and 50s. Most people do not have babies at this age (I know some do and that's ok). What holds women back is the break to have a baby earlier in their career, lack of affordable childcare, lack of part time/flexible roles. I also think women are frowned upon for going back to work. I'm due to go back in September when my baby is 8 months old. I'm doing 29 hours over 4 days. I'm happy with this but all I get is 'oh you don't have to go back do you', 'that's a lot of hours', what a shame you can't stay at home'. There's also the assumption that all executives work 70 hour weeks and that's a load of bull.

Gender stereotyping definitely still exists and could play a part just look at children's dress up - girls are princesses and nurses whilst boys are firemen and doctors. A lot of people still think it odd for men to work in nursing or childcare or even be stay at home dads. Also look at male role models in the media the 'self made' men are people like Richard Branson and Alan Sugar, the women are people like Jordan!

There are obviously women that don't want to pursue a career or work when they have children.

wordfactory · 30/05/2012 09:53

Things do stand in the way. Of course they do. And some of those things are good old fashioned bloody sexism.

However, what is becvoming manifestly clear is that a large cohort of highly educated ambitious women give up work of their own volition because they think it is better for the DC.

Why women feel this way, and most men do not is a conundrum...perhaps we are more pragmatic? Perhpas we are naive and think we will slot back into work later (MN will testify that this aint going to happen)? Perhaps we just don't think far enough ahead (baby needs me now)?

wordfactory · 30/05/2012 09:56

And it's ceratinly not true about girls not being ambitious enough.

Girls do better at A level, they take up more place at university and most professions recruit a very even number of male/female at base level. Most expect to have DC. And most expect to return to work. But they don't...

AbigailAdams · 30/05/2012 10:12

I don't think it is a conundrum at all wordfactory. Society tells women all the time to do what is best for their children. In fact society tells women all the time not to be selfish. The same messages aren't there for men. Or the messages that they get is that it is important to provide for a family i.e. work.

In addition to that the workplace is set up for men. Not for women and certainly not for child caring. It suits men to keep it this way so that they get the majority of wealth and power.

No matter what top job you do, you can't do that and provide full time childcare. Somebody has to look after children and far more often than not, it isn't the men. So if the men aren't doing the childcare and want a career and the women want a career also then childcare has to be out sourced. The messages about completely outsourcing childcare aren't great either. So in the end it comes down to compromise and because of the way the workplace/homelife is set up, women, more often than not do the compromising. They are the ones whose priorities change. And it is wrong and more men should be stepping up to the plate. But it goes back to losing status/wealth/power.

wordfactory · 30/05/2012 10:25

abigail if you had asked me that fifteen years ago that is exactly what I would have said too.

However, now having had the benefit of experiencing the conundrum, and most of my girlfriends experiencing it too, I just don't think it is so. Or at least it is not as simple as you make it sound.

The reality is that when a couple both have highly demanding jobs a decision has to be taken regarding childcare. There is nothing to stop those couples hiring a nanny. Some do. But many women simply will not take this step.

And this isn't because society says they shouldn't. Or because they can't afford it. It is a far more slippery mix...

handbagCrab · 30/05/2012 10:30

A quick survey of the women I know who are currently on mat leave:

1 x solicitor made redundant whilst on maternity leave
2 x professionals being dicked about in terms of the location they will return to work in I.e. something new that isn't compatible with childcare
2 x high fliers trying to negotiate 'flexible' working so they can pick up their child a couple of nights a week from nursery
1 x me, demoted on my return to work.

Only one that has been positive is a manager at a charity. Another 4 are going back to what they were, one possibly to redundancy.

I think the pressure is coming from society and as such employers perhaps feel justified in their poor treatment of mothers as they'll be going off anyway. Hmm

wordfactory · 30/05/2012 10:36

Ah well that is very different to my own experience.

Of my girlfriends we were all offered our old jobs back. Most never returned. Some of us tried for a while but found the juggling too difficult...they just weren't the sort of jobs that were sufficiently flexible (lots of client facing time, imposed deadlines and travel).

In the end I carved out a whole new career and life for myself that was flexible and allowed me to be the sort of parent I wanted to be.

RationalBrain · 30/05/2012 10:50

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FrillyMilly · 30/05/2012 11:01

I think another issue that becomes apparent when discussing this issue is it is those lower down the career ladder or in low paid jobs who would find it most difficult to return to work and therefore progress to top jobs. If you are in a well paid job or wealthy enough to afford a nanny then the career opportunities are greater. You only have to look at threads on here to see many do not return to work as they can not justify losing pretty much all their income to childcare.

Of course you will be offered your old job back, it's a legal requirement that you are offered your or an equivalent job. The problems occur when you try to negotiate flexible hours. I constantly get questioned on why I'm going back to work. After his paternity leave no one asked DH if he wanted to go back or if he found it difficult.

wordfactory · 30/05/2012 11:05

That's interesting.
Perhaps things are changing culturally.

I had my DC thriteen years ago and everyone just assumed I would go back to work. It was expected that an educated woman with a top end career would do so.

handbagCrab · 30/05/2012 11:19

I'm glad it was different for you wordfactory as it's bloody depressing hearing all the rubbish the women I know are having to negotiate. It's nice to know it is not across the board :)

frilly I think that's the case with the people I know really. Only one is high up enough to have any real say on her role.

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