Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Problem with Women and Work

Ah for the day that was in it I was planning a post, one documenting the history and significance of 8 March*.

Others seem to have forgotten or maybe they have their own take on it. Women have a problem it seems – reaching the top. And they need help!!! Public Speaking Lessons instead of equality programmes or programmes attracting them into certain industries. And the lack of women in comedy was also mentioned as an example of the problem. Laugh? Oh I am rolling in the aisles here.

Women do blog/network about their expertise and skills. Maybe not as loudly as some male bloggers/networkers but they seem to be getting there. Last week I heard an interview with 3 women who have established their own home businesses having identified gaps in the market for products that mothers used. These women could not or would not work full time for someone else because of family commitments so they decided to work for themselves and have online support networks to help them.

Some women seem to be subtler in their attitudes to seeking advancement/promotion at work and demonstrate different traits. Many don’t need to leave their jackets on the back of their chairs to indicate they spend all day in the office, and they complete their tasks/projects on time because they have to with more work facing them when they get home.

It’s interesting how women are perceived as the problem in some opinions of why they don’t reach the top. They lack confidence, they only want to have babies, they want an easy life, they don’t play the game in the same way men do, and they are not team players because they don’t go for a pint after work (because they often can’t). Those who do reach the top are seen as genderless, or being more like men, playing dirty, not good enough mothers, castigated if they decide not to have children and whispers begin about their sexual orientation.

In Down to Business on Newstalk106 last Saturday I heard the question posed – Are there any part-time Chief Executives? And the answer was no. That is no surprise. Given many women’s preference to work part time it is not surprising that there are few CEO’s or Chief Financial Officers as these are seen as only full time positions.

In the various treatises that appear problematising women in work the issues of discrimination are rarely mentioned. It does not happen, sure aren’t we all equal now.
However discrimination on the basis of gender and pregnancy are two growing areas of investigation for the Equality Authority and the Office of the Director of Equality Investigations/ Equality Tribunal.

One has to wonder about the anomalies that exist in traditionally female occupations of teaching and nursing where men are over represented at senior positions. It’s not that there are not talented suitably qualified women there to take up the positions. But time out to have children and easier routes of advancement for men means that there are (per capita) more men in senior positions than women

Last week the Women And Work Commission in the UK published a report aimed at increasing women’s capacity and access to all areas of the workplace and ending gender segregation. (I did a quick search of the report and did not find any suggestions for public speaking classes, lots of good examples of training and support initiatives though.)

Increasing women’s employment and ending the gender segregation that blights the jobs market in which women are concentrated in the five ”c”s – the caring, cashier, clerical, cleaning and catering sectors – would benefit the economy by as much as £23 billion, worth 2 per cent of GDP.

Programmes that target women and increase their access and capacity to other industries were recommended. The report highlighted the over qualification of many women for the roles that they currently occupy and the ‘sticky floors’ which exist and prevent women moving upwards. These floors are sticky because of lack of routes for advancement, lack of training, and stereotyping of women’s roles and abilities.

The report also indicated that women in full-time employment still earn less than men in similar employment. This ‘pay penalty’ occurs not only because women take time out to have children but also because their roles are seen as different than their male colleagues.

It appears we get report after report which highlight the gendered differences in work, pay opportunities and promotion. However public discourse often exclaims that women have the problem and place the barriers themselves or need more confidence. There are rarely reflections on the workplace as the problem and those who make the decisions and the attitudes of many male colleagues and other women that are often the biggest barriers that women face.

Happy International Women’s Day* Piaras and Everyone else! I hope you have a great day, I’ll be out working in my part time, not very well paid position.


At 11:32, Anonymous Sinéad said...

Great post Suzy, I linked to you from my blog.

Will you be at the awards?

At 12:35, Blogger Suzy said...

Thanks Sinead! Yes I'll be there....casually not smart!

At 12:38, Anonymous that girl said...

Nice post Suzy, I linked to you also - looking forward to seeing you on Saturday (laughing of course!)

At 13:42, Anonymous Piaras Kelly said...

Hmm... people seem to have completely misread my original post. I agree the original title was a bit troll-like, but it was meant to encourage discussion rather than cause offense.

I'm not talking about being able to tell jokes, I'm talking about being able to stand in front of an audience and showcase your achievements.

Statistics are showing that women score better than men, but yet they still don't get as many top-level jobs. While having children plays a factor in this, I think that men might be just talk themselves up a bit more.

Days like International Women's Day should be used to break down stereotypes. If I've caused offense then I'm sorry. It wasn't intended, I'll just have to learn to formulate my thoughts better.

I work in PR, a profession dominated by women so either I work with a load of comedians or with people that are passionate about their work and not afraid to shout about their results.


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