Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New BBC Low (and High)

Barely a week goes by I don't write to the BBC to complain about a badly-phrased article or a misleading headline that I feel unfairly skews the argument on a key subject or misleads the public as to the underlying message of the situation. I'm like that. This week though the BBC has totally out-done itself with this debate on the "have your say" page... It's called "Should homosexuals face execution?". I was rather hoping there would only be one response just saying "no". Feel free to write in. I assume they'll take it down shortly.

I'm on the BBC myself tonight on BBC Five Live, the Richard Bacon Show. Half ten to 1am. I'll be his "presenter's friend" chatting about everything that comes up. Do tune in and ring in too if you like to back me up. All the info and the listen online option is here.

Footnote: they changed the page heading to something less shocking but kept the shocking headline as the first line of the introduction with a second line (new) which implied they had been asking the question deliberately to provoke debate... They didn't explain what they had done which is poor journalism I think - write an apology and a retraction but don't change it and then act innocent...!

Monday, December 14, 2009

All I Want For Christmas...

Trying to decide what to get your favourite blogstress for Christmas? I want one of these!!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Women Bosses: Line-by-line!

The Daily Mail. Ah. It's my birthday today (drinkies on Saturday at The Comedy Pub, Oxenden Street show at half eight, pub closes 2am, please come if you're in town) and the Daily Mail's lovely gift is clearly this Amanda Platell article charmingly titled "Moody, indecisive and always trying to behave like a man, why ladies make truly lousy bosses". It's a stonker. It really deserves the proper Cru-blog line-by-line treatment so here goes... happy birthday me!

"Why is it that in a society overrun by greedy fat cats - where the Sir Fred Goodwins of this world continue to outrage with their business brutality, unreasonable demands and outrageous bonuses - there is not a single woman’s name in the rogues’ gallery?"

Yes Amanda why IS that? Maybe women are less unreasonable, less brutal and less demanding. Still at least they're not in charge eh?

"Why is there not an equally hated Lady Freda Goodwin, Freda The Shred, riding roughshod over the poor workers, slashing costs and sacking staff? Because, ladies, we are not nasty enough. "

Oh trust me Amanda, I'm only two lines in and already I'm planning to be pretty nasty here. But if women aren't capable of being like Fred Goodwin shouldn't we hire MORE of them? Or are you the only person in Britain still rooting for Fred in this whole fiasco?

"Nor are we single-minded enough, nor focused, nor task driven, nor adept at that simple but essential boss task of giving orders."

No doubt this sort of offensive baseless sweeping generalisation will be backed up with hard cold facts.

"In short, our commercial DNA is not wired for corporate success."

So we're biologically incapable of running a business? Weird that so many of us do run businesses then. Perhaps someone should let Martha Lane-Fox know.

"And nowhere was that more graphically demonstrated than last week when the much-feted co-chairman of Gordon Brown’s Women’s Enterprise Task Force was successfully sued by one of her employees for bullying."

I'm waiting for the cold hard facts and I'm getting a single case study. Just as well you don't run a business Amanda - "I asked my cat and he doesn't want to buy football tickets so clearly there's no market for them..."

"Dr Glenda Stone runs a successful recruitment website, Aurora, with her husband. So even this colossus of female business success, the woman chosen to front such a highprofile government body, co-runs her business with her spouse.

Not much of a triumph for feminism after all, is it?"

She runs a business with her husband? But who cleans the bathroom and does the ironing. Daily Mail head overload alert!! But seriously as an official spokeswoman for feminism - we weren't claiming her as our key triumph this year. I was at Reclaim The Night and the Emma Humphrey Memorial Prizes went to Sandra McNeil and Object. Dr Stone was not nominated but I wish her the best of luck.

"And what’s more, by all accounts in the industrial tribunal, she was a terrible boss - overbearing, foulmouthed, petty, bullying, micromanaging-vindictive."

Foulmouthed, petty, bullying and vindictive? Well if the career doesn't work out she can always get a job as a columnist for the Mail hey Amanda?

"I know that type of female boss well, the Bully Boy Boss, who thinks they have to be nastier than the nastiest male boss to succeed. But more of them later."

Earlier on the problem was that we weren't hard-wired to give orders and nasty enough to run big corporates, now we're too nasty and handing out too many orders? It's almost as if women aren't actually all the same after all. Maybe we're diverse, like human beings...?

"Now, before the hate emails start pouring in from outraged feminists and female bosses, I have a special interest in this subject.

Not just because I’ve had the misfortune of having some of the most God-awful female bosses in the history of modern business, but because I was a boss myself, more than once."

So you're allowed to criticise me because you've got a vagina and a job too?

"I have edited two national newspapers, been the managing editor of one, the marketing director of two and the managing director of one national newspaper group.

As William Hague’s Press Secretary, I was boss to a team of press officers.

I have sat in the editor’s chair, the boardroom and the shadow cabinet. And while I can confidently say most of the people who worked for me liked me and respected me (I always thought of them working with me, but that’s such a girl thing), and, more importantly, worked well for me, I’m not sure I was always a good boss."

So this whole article is about how you're "not sure" you were "always" doing a good job. Who is? Everybody has hurdles at work, everybody tries and learns from experience. I've had male bosses who I AM SURE were ALWAYS doing a BAD JOB. Doesn't mean all men are bad bosses does it?

"Believe it or not, I wasn’t tough enough. I had that classic female trait of being able to get the most out of people - it’s called nurturing now - but I also wanted to be liked, a fatal flaw in a boss."

I mourn whatever you threw away to be liked Amanda because I really really don't like you.

"And like most women bosses, I took things too personally."

Yes that's why Fred Goodwin was so great - he didn't let the little stuff, like a balance sheet flimsier than a sheet of Tescos Value loo roll and bad debts piling up faster than dirty laundry in a student flatshare, get to him.

"I remember one particular incident when my woman boss, who was trying to get rid of me in that usual sneaky female way or undermining me at every point rather than honestly pointing out my shortcomings, called me into an ambush meeting. "

I'm not sure what "that usual sneaky female way" is but I'm pretty sure if such a thing exists it's because when women are direct about what they want they're criticised for being too aggressive and "acting like a man" by people like Amanda Platell.

"She’d assembled various company directors and preceded to humiliate me in a most personal way, for my accent, the school I went to, for not liking the theatre, for my university. Not for a moment that I was bad at my job."

You don't like theatre? What's wrong with you Amanda...

What I mean is: That's unfair and I'm sorry you were treated that way. To me that's discrimination against women, in this case you, and I'm fighting that. What I'm not doing is fighting that discrimination by writing national press articles about women making bad managers. [Although I think you mean proceeded, not preceded, any boss who could time travel would have seen this article coming and retrospectively not hired you in the first place]

"And to my eternal shame I took it personally. Men don’t do that."

No they don't. That's why Eddie Murphy didn't threaten to sue Mel B when she implied he wasn't the most caring father to her child. And Peter Andre didn't sue Katie Price when she said he wasn't the most faithful lover.

"I was a good manager of people, but a lousy risk-taker."

Compared to Fred Goodwin Amanda, I'd say you were a brilliant risk-taker.

"With our typical propensity for multi-tasking, I was more comfortable doing ten things at once and keeping all the balls in the air than what was really needed, to focus on one task and nail that ball in the back of the net."

Yes a good manager only focusses on one thing. Really? So the accounts are sorted but the sales strategy is screwed and the premises licenses have expired. Great management. Our hero Fred Goodwin of course only focussed on one thing - getting rich quick.

"Returning to Dr Glenda Stone for a moment, ironically her job on the quango was to teach businesswomen how to take risks, one of the key areas survey after survey finds women are pathologically incapable of doing."

What surveys? Really. I have never seen such a survey. I saw a survey that said men are bad at taking risk and that's why they make worse car drivers. Even if we could prove somehow that women are more risk-averse though: Firstly when I look at the credit crunch and it's impact on Britain the one thing I have never though is "If only our business leaders took more risks". And secondly it is discrimination to make recruitment and promotion decisions based on generalisations. If you want risk-takers, ask for risk-takers and ask applicants to take one of the many tests of willingness to take risk at interview - don't assume you know what someone is like based on their gender.

"Even in countries where positive discrimination is enforced by law, such as Norway, the underpinning beliefs are that women bring different mindsets and skills to business.

In that country, by law 40 per cent of all corporate positions are now held by women, but even they concede women are by nature more ‘risk-aware’. For which read ‘risk averse’, for which read useless to thrusting, high-risk, high-profit companies."

Yes I remember reading all those articles about how badly Norway had been hit by the credit crunch. Forget all-male-run Dubai, the biggest sufferers have been the Norwegians right? The PROBLEM with businesses right now is that they are "high-risk".

"Women do, however, make a difference to bankruptcy levels, says a study by Leeds University Business School. It surveyed 17,000 companies and found that having at least one female director on the board cuts a company’s chance of going bankrupt by about 20 per cent."

Right so seems like Norway was right all along. And for one this argument actually has a source, it's based on fact.

"Why? Because we’re more cautious. But a study of 2,000 companies in the U.S. found a correlation between companies with disproportionately more female board members and lower profitability and lower market value. "

What study? By who? If you don't give me the source I can go and see whether the methodology is valid can I? Looking back thought at the last ten years of business I think profits were pretty high but risks taken were too high.

"So it appears that companies made up of more women executives are good at keeping afloat, but not at motoring ahead.

We’re good at preventing bust but not at facilitating boom."

Haven't we been saying for a long time we want to get away from a boom-bust cycle and into a steady growth economy? Don't we want more bust-preventers and less boom-facilitators?

"These studies indicate why women bosses are so unrepresented in corporate life. We have different skill sets and the things we’re naturally good at don’t necessarily make companies rich."

I think in the long term "not going bust" is quite a key component of "getting rich".

"That may go some way to explaining why every time a list of overpaid bosses appears, it’s a case of Spot The Female."

Yes it's called a pay gap.

"When the list of 323 public service bosses was published last Friday, there was not a single woman in the top ten. The Royal Mail’s Adam Crozier, Channel 4’s Kevin Lygo, the BBC’s director general Mark Thompson - all household names. Still no women."

If Adam Crozier had been a bit less greedy maybe there wouldn't have been a huge mail strike. Are these examples of great managers? Are these guys SURE they are ALWAYS a good boss. Honestly Amanda I think you could have done better than most of them and there are very few women I can think of I wouldn't have offered the job to ahead of you.

"Women have railed against it for half a century, the Labour government has legislated against it for a decade, and yet we are still in a minority in the companies that dominate our country."

Oh well we had a little try - lets give up now. Did anyone ever say the battle for equality would be easy and over in a fortnight?

"And where women do score more highly, it’s in the caring, catering or fashion professions."

Oh so we do run some industries but apparently these aren't as important as the others? Caring for the needy, feeding people and providing them with clothes to wear - yes I think are the most trivial roles of industry too... Clearly running a TV station or a casino is more important.

"As Dr Stone demonstrated, women bosses tend to fall into two categories - too soft or too hard."

Earlier on we were all the same - now we're scattered at two ends of a (mythical) spectrum. Or could it be that any woman you can't write off as too soft you're writing of as too hard, creating a no-won situation because you have a problem with women.

"There are the Caring Collegiate Bosses you’ll find running shopping, retail, fashion and style companies and the middleranking public service sectors."

Well they seem to be good at what they do, don't they?

"Tesco, Sainsbury and M&S are three of the top 11 companies employing female directors."

And they're on the brink of going out of business right?

"The two great success stories running UK companies demonstrate this point - Marjorie Scardino at Pearson, the publisher dominated by female magazines, and Angela Ahrendts at Burberry."

What point? The point that some women have managed to break through the glass ceiling in publishing, food and fashion and are doing at least as good a job as the men they had to fight out of the way? Yes point well made...

"And then there are the Bully Boy Bosses, like Dr Stone, the women who think you have be tougher than any male to succeed in a man’s world. Yes they’re tough, but they’re also petty, small picture people lacking the risk-taking, taskdriven skills necessary for running a big, successful company."

Yes many women believe (rightly) that they have to be tougher than their male colleagues to succeed. The rest is just meaningless drivel right? Also note that this is the opposite type to the Marjorie Scardino type. She's not tough of course, she got where she is by smiling and agreeing with people.

"Successful bosses mono-task, women multi-task; men are dispassionate, we are naturally emotional; they take risks, we ensure against loss."

So bad female bosses are "petty, small picture people" but men are "mono-task"-ers. That is the same quality only gendered to be negative for women and positive for men. And again what is so dreadful about ensuring against loss?

"But women’s DNA is only part of the answer as to why there are still so few female bosses in corporate life."

Which gene is this in? Which report shows a genetic difference. Go look in your local Early Learning Centre at the pink cookery sets and the blue science kits ... even if we can determine a difference in business performance based on gender - to call it "DNA" is a big (and offensive) leap.

"Even in the U.S., where 60 per cent of all college students are female, less than 15 per cent of board seats are held by women.

In the UK, the picture is worse. While the number of women in the top 100 FTSE boardrooms has doubled since 2000, it is still only 12 per cent."

So why doesn't this dreadful DNA prevent women getting in to university? Surely universities want these risk-takers since there's really no "risk" at university. If student's experiment and fail they just get kicked out or get bad grades.

"That despite a decade of social engineering and an ethos of positive discrimination by this Labour government."

It's almost like there could be nasty forces trying to hold women back? One of them is call YOU Amanda.

"Women are their worst enemies in some ways, with the avalanche of eye-watering sexual discrimination compensation claims in corporate life. Only last week, we had the absurd sight of banker Haley Tansey suing HBOS for £600,000 for sexual harassment."

Yes, absurd, Fred Goodwin deserves millions for running a company into the ground but Haley Tansey shouldn't expect compensation for illegal and terrifying harassment.

"The £39,000-a-year businesswoman said it all began with a colleague tricking his way into her hotel room while she was asleep then appearing naked before her. An eight-year nightmare of appalling sexism followed, she claims."

Oh well as long as nothing BAD happened eh? That's appalling.

"Why didn’t she tackle this undeniably unacceptable behaviour head on, when it happened?"

Because she didn't want to lose her £39,000 a year job? Because she didn't want to go through a horrific dragged-out court case and have her private life splashed all over your newspaper columns?

"A man would have."

How many men are vicitimised by having a naked colleague come in their room in the middle of the night? I've never heard of that happening.

"Victims don’t rise to the top."

You imply Amanda that victimhood is something that people can choose. Not true. Regardless of when she had reported it Ms Tansey would still have been the victim of this incident. And actually many victims of all sorts of crimes do go on to be successful in their own lives.

"Cases like this put the frighteners on companies. I know female bosses who privately admit that it has made them wary of employing female bosses."

You would hope that cases like this made businesses scared of sending naked men into women's bedrooms at night. Sorry if you think Ms Tansey is making a big deal about it - I think she's very brave to come forward and deserves to be thoroughly compensated if her claims are well founded. I think companies need to be sent a clear message that this sort of behaviour is not acceptable.

"Add to that the Government's new generous paternity rights and it's a double whammy for women, especially as it’s still mainly women who take time off after having children."

Then the next thing we need to address is why men aren't more involved in child-raising. See your local Early Learning Centre for clues.

"So it’s not getting better for women, it's getting worse. In this recession, companies have become wary of employing women at their key career stage - in their 30s - when professional women are most likely to step up the corporate ladder but also likely to want to have children."

Do you know that companies are reimbursed 92% of what they spend on maternity pay? And more than 100% for small companies. In a recession a pregnant employee means you can cut your staff temporarily at almost zero cost and ramp back up to full power in a few months.

"Like many women born into the postfeminist generation, the high-fliers of the Eighties and Nineties, I was once surprised by the lack of success of women at corporate level after decades of equality."

How can you be "postfeminist" when I'm still "feminist"?

"Once, we could blame prejudice and sexism, now increasingly we have to look to ourselves. And it’s not just that women are lousy bosses of big companies because of our DNA, it’s also because of the choices we have made."

Of course looking at those women who make it to the top we find that they are in fact not women who have chosen to remain childless. Marjorie Scardino has three children. What holds women back is not choices - it's sexism, sexism that you are all too keen to excuse.

"For perfectly legitimate, complicated reasons of family or love or work-life balance, many of us have chosen to leave or never even enter the corporate jungle."

Lucky that men don't have relationships or families isn't it?

"But we can’t go on blaming it on men and an unfair system weighted against women."

We can - if that's what's really happening.

"You have to ask yourself why even in modern times there are few great female boss characters. There is not one female boss in Sex And The City, the single most iconic feminist TV series of a generation. When we do have successful women bosses, as in The Devil Wears Prada, they’re running fashion magazines, not blue chip companies."

Carrie's boss in Sex and The City is a woman. But I agree - we need more positive role models from TV and films. You do know Amanda, don't you, that those shows are not documentaries?

"Simon Cowell has The X Factor, in which Dannii and Cheryl are little more than pretty props. Even on shows such as Dragons’ Den, there is only one woman dragon."

No wonder our young women are not aiming higher and no wonder senior managers don't think to recruit women into top level positions.

"Can you imagine The Apprentice with a Lady Nicola Horlick at the helm, the ultimate female corporate Superwoman boss?"

Yes I can. I think I might actually watch it whereas Alan Sugar makes me puke my tea up and start grabbing for the remote.

"We’ll know the world has changed when the planned sequel to Wall Street has as its star not Gordon, but that mean mother of all bosses Greta Gekko."

If only Hollywood would lead the way and make a film about a woman who could lead a business. We could call it The Associate and have Whoopi Goldberg play the lead. Or we could make a retro-1980s film with Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda and call it Nine to Five. That'll never happen though will it? Did Platell miss a meeting?

As he famously said in Wall Street: ‘Read Sun-tzu, The Art Of War. Every battle is won before it is ever fought.’ And alas in the boardroom, that’s never been more true than it is today for women.

I'm still fighting. Your help Amanda is not appreciated.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Update From Here

Well the police have rung me twice now. Both times to mostly reconfirm details I already gave them and tell me things I already know. They have however finally established the case number for the last time this lowlife was harrassing me so there is some hope of finding out what happened last time in a few days. They also sent me a leaflet about home security - cos it's well known that if you fit window locks no-one will text you and threaten to kill you...or something. Nice to feel like I'm getting a personalised service.

I was away for the weekend in Edinburgh - gorgeous place, makes me wonder why on earth I live in London - which was nice because I knew that said lowlife didn't know where I was so I wasn't looking over my shoulder all the time.

Back now and busy with interviews. There is a report out showing that just over 5,000 teenage girls and women had repeat abortions last year (i.e. their second or more). Now representing, as it does, less than a quarter of a percent of teenage girls and women in the UK, it seems to me the need for shock and alarm is being a little over-played by, ooh, who could it be? ... did you guess? Yes the pro-choice alliance!
Well what do the numbers tell us? Not much really. Either the number of unwanted teenage pregnancies is on the rise (which would be maybe bad, but not necessarily depending on the age of the teenagers and the consentuality of the sex and the level of understanding of contraceptive use - you know a nineteen-year-old in a happy equal relationship using contraception which fails doesn't worry me) or the percentage of teenagers who want an abortion succeeding in getting one has risen (and that would definitely be good - for them, their physical and mental health and their human rights).

I think any focus on the number of abortions taking place is just dumb. The right number of abortions is one for every woman who wants one. The factors which affect the number of unwanted pregnancies - things like sex education and services working to end rape and sexual violence as well as support for women chosing to continue their pregnancy - can and should be addressed. The number of abortions or repeat abortions or teenage abortions is just a number. Apparently last year it was a bit over 5,000. Excuse me while I remain calm.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Houston We Have A (Death Threat) Problem

Some of my long-term readers will remember two years ago I had a series of nasty phone calls culminating in the unknown caller threatening to come to my house and rape me. The full story is here. Well I had some success in tracking the caller (thanks to O2 - who gave the details to the police) but I never heard back from the police what had been done or whatever. I was also never told by anyone who it was, which I would really have liked to know. I did try to chase them up a few times but was told the case had been referred to another office and then no-one answered calls, etc. But since the offending calls stopped I figured I would leave it there - either the police spoke to the guy and he stopped or by co-incience he stopped (or maybe he stopped because I told him the police were involved). Anyhow I wasn't exactly satisfied with the outcome but I left it there.

Last night it started again. This time with a text threatening to kill me. It's obvious it's the same guy - there are clear consistencies in the tone and language employed.

I've never had a death threat before. It's quite scary. [Bows to crowd, waves, thanks manager and fans, accepts award for stating the BLOODY obvious]. I got Mr Cru to pick me up from the bus stop on my way home tonight and there was something utterly futile about having a "bodyguard" for 0.1% of my day when I was totally on my own out in public for a lot of the rest.

I was wildly distracted and did a dreadful job compering at the Duke's Head in Putney tonight - sorry everyone and thanks to the acts who were great and made the night go swimmingly anyway. I probably shouldn't have gone but (and this is interesting because it relates to the issue of delayed reporting of crime which has been under hot discussion on here in the last few days) I had insisted in my head of thinking of it as "just a nasty text", and actually feeling cross with myself for letting it get to me. I was only halfway home on the bus when I went "Shit - that is actually a death threat".

Obviously I went back to the police this afternoon and they have written it down and given me a case number so we'll see what happens.