Monday, October 02, 2006

Putting in the Hours

There's a report out today that more or less all the gains of the last few years in terms of women in top company boardrooms has been wiped out.

Now one thing about the Guardian report linked above really drives me mad: "some employers were improving attitudes to flexible working, they tended not to apply the same principles to very senior jobs."

What that's telling us is that the reason women aren't making it to the top of these professions is because they need to work flexible hours. Now firstly - not all women have major family commitments that prevent them working fuller hours. When I worked in the city I often worked 15 or even 18-hour days. Male colleagues doing half that were consistently promoted ahead of me. Women I worked with accepted that they would have to put in more hours than colleagues to try to overcome ingrained sexist corporate cultures.

Furthermore if it were true that women are held back by having to shoulder a greater percentage of the burden of family care than their partners then we would notice that the few women who made it to the top jobs were women without children. That's simply not true. Dame Marjorie Scardino, one of two remaining female FTSE 100 heads has three children, Dorothy Thompson, the other, has two, Linda Cook, the only other woman mentioned in the article for her role at Shell has three, Margaret Thatcher has two, Segolene Royal, now running for the French Presidency, has four and even Hilary Clinton, potential US presidential candidate, has one. The truth is girls that sacrificing your plans for a family to concentrate on your career is a waste of time. It's not the burden of raising children that will hold you back. It's workplace misogyny. Stacks of it. Across sectors, across industries and across nations. And we should stop pretending it isn't there. It is.

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