Sexism in 2010 – have we moved on?

Have we moved on from this?

Every so often you read something that makes you stop in your tracks, and today I had one of those moments. Times journalist Caitlin Moran started a discussion about sexism on Twitter and encouraged her followers to share their stories. Rather than a few tales from the 1950s, she was bombarded with examples of discrimination and misogyny that were quite shocking. To see the full extent of what people were saying, I did a search for @caitlinmoran to see what everyone was tweeting to her – there were so many tweets I couldn’t keep up with reading them all! And many referred to treatment in the workplace. Here is a selection – brace yourselves!

  • I once was told (afterwards) I got a job only because I was wearing a short skirt at the interview.
  • Boss announced as he got up to go to a meeting ‘You girls can sit and talk about shoes and files your nails whilst I’m gone’
  • I was promoted to purchasing manager at work and the president said he made the decision because “women like to shop”.
  • Friend on partnership track at major city law firm “I am pregnant”. Response from partner “do you want job in marketing?”
  • Interviewing a skip owner for a PR story (I know, FFS) he addressed all his answers to my male colleague (not a writer)… he only turned to me to tell the story of the hamster they rescued from a skip. All I would be interested in, right?
  • My breasts were given a round of applause at a work’s golf day.
  • My female Doctor cousin was paying for petrol, was asked “are you sure this is your credit card?” as it had “Dr.” on it.
  • Was called by our company pensions admin people. I told them I wasn’t the best person to talk to about it (would refer to PA). Man on phone asked “oh, does your husband deal with all your financial affairs?” My job title = managing director
  • My last job, at a business lunch, this guy said ‘well, you’re only a little girl’ when I didn’t finish everything on my plate.
  • Regularly have people walk past the 2 guys WHO WORK FOR ME only to ask me where the paper for the photocopier is.
  • Person refusing to leave msg: “I don’t deal with insignificances &anyway you’re a woman, you’d probably get it all wrong”
  • At a magazine I know, one guy has a bell that he rings whenever a ‘fit bird’ walks in so all the others can check her out
  • At a job interview I was asked to come back for a 2nd interview but this time to “do something with my hair and makeup”!!!
  • A former colleague once threw a shoe at me followed by the remark “F*cking women” because I refused to make coffee for him
  • Once asked how “likely” it was that I would get pregnant, in an interview.
  • I’m a sound engineer,working in theatre.After one show,middle aged man came up to me at the sound desk and said “Do you do the sound then?” “Yes, obviously” “And you’re a girl?” “….” “How do you manage? All that technology”

Apologies there are so many – but I couldn’t imagine anyone getting bored reading those! Really is sobering to think that these opinions still exist isn’t it?

Career vs Family life

I recently came across an article in HR magazine claiming that more than a third of women do not think they can meet their career goals while still paying enough attention to their personal lives. We recently blogged about the lack of women on the board of UK firms – are the two connected?

Kenexa Research claims ‘traditionally, women play a larger role in managing their family responsibilities and, therefore, they are likely to feel pressure in trying to balance both work and family demands’.  Kenexa carried out a survey of over 1000 employees asking for their views on work-life balance; just over fifty per cent believed their employers supported their efforts to balance both their work life and personal life. Does being successful both in the workplace and at home depend then on the support you get from your employer? Read the rest of this entry »

New government, new fight for women?

There have been a number of articles recently about the lack of women in the boardroom of UK firms – the Guardian said ‘companies have employed armies of equal opportunities officers, diversity managers and HR professionals’ to sort this problem out, yet the ‘number of women on the boards of FTSE 100 has hardly changed’. In fact figures reveal that in 2009 only 12% of FTSE 100 companies had one or more women on their board.

So why is this case? Is it because women often take time off at some stage of their career to bring up their children and when they do return they have missed their opportunity; or that in a male dominated world, women are often overlooked by men on the board who like to recruit in their own image? These may very well be reasons why some women have missed out but how are we going to turn this situation around? Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Mail strikes again

The Daily Mail strikes again. And the title says it all: “Can love survive when a woman earns MORE than a man?” You can find the piece here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1249768/Can-love-survive-woman-earns-MORE-man.html

It starts by saying: “It’s a seismic social shift: nearly half of women are paid as much as or more than their man”. ‘Hooray!’ we think – finally all the fighting for equal rights is perhaps beginning to pay off. However according to the Daily Mail, “it could all end in tears” and “the truth is that we don’t know whether to feel triumphant or dismayed”. That’s certainly news to me!

Here are some other gems of information:

“Many [women] are working simply because their families need their income, and increasing numbers are finding themselves accidental breadwinners because men’s jobs have been hit far harder than women’s in the economic downturn – a phenomenon dubbed the ‘mancession’.”

“If the past 40 years have been all about women entering the workforce and boosting the economy, the next 40 will be spent dealing with the social, personal and family consequences. And that may be the hardest part of all.”

With the struggle of breaking the glass ceiling that women still face, it’s disappointing that articles like this are still written. All it does it turn women’s success into a negative, when it’s an achievement we should be celebrating. What’s more the article states that only 19% of women earn more than their partners with another 25% earning the same – that means that around half of the women in the UK still don’t earn as much as their partner.

As the article states, “social attitudes are still trailing far behind”. But they won’t improve when we’re still reading pieces like this.

Phone or boyfriend?

Whoever said that women aren’t good with technology should take a look at this story. According to a new survey, British women would rather lose their boyfriend than their phone. When asked what they would most hate to lose, the third most popular answer from the 4,000 women with 40% of the vote was their mobile phone. Boyfriends came in at number five, just below best friends. (Somehow I think if the question had been ‘would you choose your phone over your boyfriend’ the results would be different but let’s not let that ruin a good story!) Boyfriends will have to take comfort in the fact that they were chosen above pets and diamond rings, but sorry boys it seems that we love our phones just a little bit more!

Female bosses

Whenever we run an event at womenintechnology, we always ask the women (and the few men!) who sign up, a few questions – and they never disappoint. We always get interesting statistics, quotes and anecdotes to share, so we thought we’d create a poll here on our blog. Once again our network didn’t let us down and we got some great information!

We asked a simple question – do you prefer a male or female boss? With all the stories about female on female bullying and the lack of women in leadership positions, I thought this was a very relevant question. The result? Almost half (44%) said they preferred a male boss. So does that mean the majority preferred a female boss? No. 38% said they had no preference and just 19% favoured women.

However I wasn’t at all surprised about this because we’ve heard this before – see our previous blog post on women vs women. It seems that when it comes to supporting other women, we’re just not very good at it. Or do we just need to give more women the opportunity to have these positions of leadership?

So we have the stats but we’d love to hear the thoughts behind them – why do you prefer men as bosses? What experiences have you had with female bosses? And what do you think about these results? Please leave your comments below!

Women’s networks

Is it the end of the road for women’s networks? Elizabeth Harrin from The Glass Hammer blog wrote an interesting piece last week based on this question after attending an event hosted by Morgan Stanley, which I also happened to go to. It’s certainly an interesting question – women’s groups, networks etc always seem to be a controversial topic as many query whether they do more harm than good.

See Elizabeth’s post here for the full story, but in a nutshell it revolves around this quote: “We have to stop bringing groups of women together to talk about what we know is going wrong….We have to convince our companies to stop fixing the women. The underlying assumption with all of those programmes [mentoring, executive coaching, etc] is that there must be something wrong with women.”

Being a women’s network, of course we are going to defend them! But, with good reason. The first point I would make is that the woman behind these words, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, seems to be referring to “women-only” groups. And I would say I agree that these are not the most constructive ways of encouraging progress. Womenintechnology is women orientated but not exclusive – in fact we always encourage men to attend our events and love it when they do! I also agree that women discussing what is going wrong is not a particularly helpful activity. Our events and training courses often do discuss the problems that women face and allow them to share experiences, but we then provide advice to help these women tackle these problems in the future. We often gear them towards skills we know that women – in general – struggle with.

Then comes the ‘but’. I don’t think it’s true that the underlying assumption is that there must be something wrong with women. Networking groups, mentoring, coaching and other female orientated groups and networks exist because it is no secret that there are inequalities in the workplace. Their aim is to provide support to women who often feel isolated in a male dominated environment and help them feel more confident and happy in their work. What’s wrong with that?

There are many interesting responses to Elizabeth’s blog that are also worth a read. What do you think? Leave your comments here.