Now here\’s a surprise from Ms. Ashley

Older women are the nation\’s great untapped resource

Skills and experience are going to waste. Labour is a taking a lead, but the other parties ignore this demographic at their peril

Oh Aye?

Jackie Ashley is 58 years of age.

After that little sneer about the Me Generation, she really still doesn\’t seem to get it.

But the media reflects a much wider underrepresentation of women generally, and older women particularly. The \”experts\” in politics, economics, culture, business and the professions – in effect, those who rule the country – are mostly men.

That in turn feeds back into the workplace, where older women are half as likely to be managers as men are, and where the pay gap is worst for women in their 40s and 50s.

Entirely true.

But the fact is that older women are not only better educated, but have mostly emerged through intensely challenging years of balancing work and family. Many are going through the toughest time of caring for others at both ends of the age spectrum; but huge numbers are also emerging from that.

Blinking, we are coming back into the world and asking – now what?

Err, that\’s why you silly trout.

That a large portion of women do take time out, a decade or more to raise the little \’uns, is why there are fewer women at the top of the professions and thus why the gender pay gap is largest among women in their 40s and 50s.

It\’s straight cause and effect, d\’ye see?

29 comments on “Now here\’s a surprise from Ms. Ashley

  1. It is the usual demand by an older woman for older women to be given unearned and undeserved power and money. Nothing unusual here. Socialism usually boils down to pretty much the same thing. Must be why she writes for the Guardian.

    The only question is why anyone takes her seriously.

  2. Tim – Some of the more entertainingly bonkers feminists seem to rail against logic itself as a tool of patriarchal oppression.

    To a large degree Western feminism has been a cruel hoax perpetrated on women with the false promise that they can earn and advance at work like men yet still have as much time for the kiddies as they’d like. Ultimately men aren’t to blame for their predicament, biology is.

    We were a better society when Dad was expected to provide for the family and Mum was expected to look after the children while he worked.

    Was this a possibly unfair arrangement? Sure – I don’t think any man on his deathbed wishes he had spent more time in the office. But it worked we had far fewer broken homes and broken people under that familial model. And from a historical perspective, it was a better deal for women and children than what went on beforehand in pre-and early-industrial revolution England, when the whole family would have been expected to do some kind of farm or factory work just to stave off eviction and starvation.

    Feminists made a huge mistake in assuming the monotonous grind that is working life for the vast majority of people was preferable to the more important job of nurturing the next generation.

    Now they’re bemoaning the consequences of their own decisions and looking to Daddy government to take an ever more intrusive role in reshaping society to suit their dogma.

  3. Doubtless, Whiny Jackie is also just about to protest about bimbos who score a six-figure contract at 21 despite thinking Magna Carta was a Bond girl while guys have to spend their twenties working their way up from the obituaries column at the Fulchester Chronicle, mmmmm?

  4. @ Steve

    Surely humanity is best served by giving as many people as possible the opportunity to figure out the best way that they can contribute to our colelctive social, economic and technological development?

    As system which pre-determines what 50% of the population will get to do with their lives sounds like a really shit idea, and one that’s only ever promoted by people who either aren’t in that 50%, or are in it but seem to think that every other woman should want to do what *they* want to do.

    It *could* be sheer coincidence that the amazing progress of the human race over the past 50 years has come alongside the steady erosion of the old gender roles… but I think that doubling the brain-pool probably helped a fair bit.

  5. It is a straightforward lie that older women are better educated. Older men are better educated.
    Some of that is due to gender prejudice 50 years ago when women were expected to give up work when they had children so both family and, to a lesser extent, state resources concentrated on educating boys, a bit to natural selection whereby more males are conceived but natural selection weeds out the weakest prior to and shortly after birth and the stupidest when they are just old enough to drive or join the army, some to rational choices by teenage girls not to waste years obtaining qualifications that would benefit them less than their brothers. Regardless, the simple facts which are readily available to anyone who chooses to look are that in my generation men are, on average, more educationally qualified than women.
    Which, before you ask, demonstrates how much brighter my little sister is than I since, despite all this, her qualifications are better than mine.

  6. The Thought Gang – “Surely humanity is best served by giving as many people as possible the opportunity to figure out the best way that they can contribute to our colelctive social, economic and technological development?”

    I don’t think I suggested otherwise?

    Unlike Ms Ashley with her enthusiasm for the sinister Equality Act, I’m not suggesting anybody be coerced into doing anything they don’t want to do. That includes promoting “equality” for the State’s favoured client groups.

    “It *could* be sheer coincidence that the amazing progress of the human race over the past 50 years has come alongside the steady erosion of the old gender roles”

    Which elements of amazing progress were you thinking of, specifically?

  7. @ Steve

    “I don’t think I suggested otherwise?”

    I thought that “We were a better society when Dad was expected to provide for the family and Mum was expected to look after the children while he worked.” suggested otherwise, but perhaps your definition of ‘better society’ is narrower than mine.

    “Which elements of amazing progress were you thinking of, specifically?”

    Oh, y’know, computers and internets.. wealth.. longevity.. all that sort of thing. I thought that element of my comment was fairly uncontroversial.

  8. @ Steve
    “Feminists made a huge mistake in assuming the monotonous grind that is working life for the vast majority of people was preferable to the more important job of nurturing the next generation.”
    I have yet to meet a feminist who spent her life on an assembly or similar grinding tedious job. There may be some, but …
    The feminists who argued against a lower Normal Retirement Age for women were middle-class “professionals” like Harriet Harman whose working environment was more interesting and comfortable than housework with subordinates to do the boring bits.
    Going back a generation or two the Suffragettes wanted votes for women when a large proportion of working men did not have votes; most. if not all, of them had servants to do the housework while they were campaigning.

  9. @ The Thought Gang
    “Oh, y’know, computers and internets.. wealth..”
    Overwhelmingly (but not exclusively) male. I’ve worked in two out of three and in both my elders and betters were continually attempting with minimal success to attract more women into the sector.
    So your remark becomes controversial.
    The erosion of the gender roles is the *result* of the amazing progress with the mechanisation of heavy work which enables women to do jobs that were previously reserved for strong men (there were never signs saying “weeds need not apply” but skinny kids, even those who could carry guys twice their own weight, didn’t even get looked at). So it is not a coincidence, but please do not confuse cause with effect.

  10. The Thought Gang – In my opinion we were a better society, but I wouldn’t dream of trying to stop women or people in general from choosing their own paths in life.

    Re: computers and the internets, and whatnot. These seem to have been almost exclusively the fruits of geeky white men and some geeky asian men. Not the result of feminism or changing gender roles. Similarly, increasing wealth is probably the result of free trade and globalisation, not gender roles.

  11. john77 – Some good points.

    I’d say office work or working in retail can be just as grindingly tedious as working in a factory though.

    The late 20th century feminist fixation with the supposed glamour of a “career” was something only a minority of people of either could ever realistically aspire to.

  12. “something only a minority of people of either”

    should have been:

    “something only a minority of people of either sex”

    Silly me.

  13. @ John77

    ” I’ve worked in two out of three and in both my elders and betters were continually attempting with minimal success to attract more women into the sector.”

    We’re pondering the impact of tens/hundreds of millions of women entering the workplaces they would not have entered during older times. Your experience is great n’all, but I think we need a larger sample size.

    @ Steve

    “Re: computers and the internets, and whatnot. These seem to have been almost exclusively the fruits of geeky white men and some geeky asian men.”

    Yes, if you take an amazingly narrow view of things and assume that everything we now have is mainly down to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and all those guys in excellent jumpers we see in old staff photos from California in the late 70′s.

    If, however, you think of the things we have as the product of millions of us doing different things in different places for different reasons… all, bit by bit, driving innovation, then you’d have to be a blinding idiot not to think that women might have had something to do with it.

    Evidently, the wonders of the free market.. that are usually shouted from the rooftops around here, don’t apply when there are anti-feminist axes to grind.

  14. Talking of amazing progress, rather than argue about the details of how the progress came about, I’d challenge the notion that it’s amazing. The kind of progress we’re talking about is exponential, so it’s no more amazing that the rate keeps increasing than population increased exponentially for quite a while when limiting factors were removed.

  15. The Thought Gang – It seems you haven’t thought this through. You offer no evidence for your suppositions.

  16. @ The Thought Gang #13
    A sample of size of 1 is greater than a sample size of zero. You are arguing from a sample size of zero. I was quoting my experience only in regard to the difficulty of recruiting females to the sectors that you exampled as being the source of advances.
    There is abundant data if you have time to search for it that computing and the internet while completely open to both genders has been dominated by males from the beginning. I wasn’t there at the beginning but before Gates and Jobs left school, so my view is that we owe more to middle-aged guys in tweed jackets (though one of my bosses wore a tweed skirt, having read maths at Girton) than to guys in jeans and jumpers. The guys who wrote the compilers that Gates used at school …
    If you want to argue for contributions from females try citing some of the areas in which they *have* been significantly involved, not the male-dominated areas. Teaching, nursing, social services, human resources, public administration, journalism, fashion, entertainment…
    Quit the smear tactics – they are just boring from as from Murphy, even though you are more civilised and more civil. You have produced zero hard facts to contradict my view that the movement of women into the new areas of the workplace is a *consequence* of the remarkable progress that I have witnessed in my lifetime.

  17. @ Steve

    My supposition is that a near-doubling of the talent pool cannot possibly have failed to have a strong positive impact on human achievement.

    I admit.. I’ve not given it too much thought. I think any alternative conclusion is, at the most charitable, beyond bizarre.

    If you’re happy that we’d all be better off with the little ladies sat at home with the kids.. instead of distracting us more capable menfolk with their shiny hair and shoe-based conversation.. then bully for you. You actually seem quite smug that I’ve failed to present an unimpeachable thesis to justify the notion that the female contribution to innovation extends beyond rearing the next batch of useful men. You da winner, I guess.

  18. @ John77

    Respectfully.. You’re taking way to narrow a view.

    To cite one example where you’re happy that women have been important… teaching… well isn’t education kind of at the root of human ingenuity? If women have improved the standard of education, that has that not contributed to what those who’ve been better educated have gone on to do?

    IT is, I accept, probably a poor example if we’re looking for things that women have especially impacted. But that wasn’t what I said. I see the development of IT as one of the great human achievements of the past 50 years, and I see women as having contributed, directly or otherwise, to our advancement as a whole.

  19. @ TTG #18
    That is better, but you’ve walked into it with
    “If women have improved the standard of education, ” since the quantity has massively gone up but the quality has very clearly gone down, despite billions more being spent on it.
    My way too narrow a view is because I look at facts instead of the beautiful roseate view of wishful thinking.
    I have no doubt that many women (*not* women as a bland composite) have contributed directly (scrub the weasel “indirectly” which belongs with whiplash claims as undisprovable) to our advancement. I merely ask that credit be given where it is due and not ladled out indiscriminately which devalues the work done by those who have actually contributed. My mother was working both for a living and for equal rights when Germaine Greer was wearing braces on her teeth to make herself look prettier (and, in reality rather than in media projections, I suspect she did more). Credit Marie Curie, but don’t pretend that 4 females out of 162 Nobel prize winners for Chemistry (2 in my lifetime is a higher proportion but far “But that wasn’t what I said.” I suppose not – it just looked like it when you gave it as an answer to “specifically”.

  20. Sorry something went wrong – last line but two should be “…but far from 50%).
    New line … “But that wasn’t …

  21. @John77

    Nobel prizes are great, n’all, but you’re looking at the pinnacle of those fields. Why women haven’t achieved those things is moot, and using that as an argument against the wider contribution that women have made to them is (not intended, I’m sure) grossly offensive to the thousands of women in labs and universities around the world who are contributing where, 50 years ago, they would not have been.

    Do you think it devalues the achievements of women to taken them as a given? Moreso than to demand that I name names to prove that I’m not just giving credit because it suits my worldview?

    The education point is interesting. It’s disputed, of course, that standards have fallen.. but based on my own experience I wouldn’t argue with the suggestion that an awful lot of it really isn’t very good (albeit, having not been educated in the 1940′s, I have no comparison). The quantity, as you point out, has vastly increased… have women, who would seem to have partly soaked up the increased volume, and partly taken over from men with regards to the pre-existing volume, helped to improve the standard that this new amount of education reaches? Too many variables to say, I guess.

    Throughout my career (part professional services part, er, less-professional services) I’ve had roughly as many female colleagues as male. In the professional part, it was even (numerically) at junior/middle levels, and male dominated at senior levels (as we’d expect, old gender biases are taking time to retire out.. not withstanding the hosts point that we should never expect parity), in the non-professional bit we have more women than men in the organisation, and that balance goes all the way to the top. I think that all the women I’ve worked with have contributed to the success and development of our organisations every bit as well as any of the men.. and if they had chosen not to enter those workplaces then we’d have been worse off as we’d have had to employ less capable males for the same roles (or, obtain equally capable people from elsewhere… knocking the problem on to someone else).

    And that is why I don’t need to seek out particular examples of women helping to make us all better off. Whilst we all have different talents, and I do believe that there are things that men usually do better than women and vice versa, I don’t believe men have any dramatic advantage over women that would mean we’d not be demonstrably worse off if a large tranche of the most capable women were directing their efforts at things other than they have been doing. Even if men took their places, overall those men would be less capable. To deny that, surely, is to suggest that men really are naturally better at doing all the varied things that make us all better off, whereas women are mailny just good for (as unquestionably important as it is) motherhood.

    I’m not sure if you don’t think that we’re any better off from having women doing the things that they do.. or are just being ‘challenging’ because you don’t think I’m presenting my view with sufficient robustness.. I responded to Steve saying that he thinks soceity was better when women stayed at home. I disagree. I disagree because I’ve grown up in an age surrounded by people who just wouldn’t entertain such a notion (and, unless I’m reading too much into your username, it’s entirely possible that you’ve gorwn up in exactly the same one), and surrounded by women contributing every bit as well as men. In a professional sense I see no distinction, and if I am to believe (which I do) that the improvements in the world are the result of the things we all do (and this is a blog where that sort of thinking tends to be commonplace) then I must believe that women are as much a part of it as men.

    If that’s not enough for you then so be it. I respect your need for ‘facts’ (no sarcasm intended).

  22. The Thought Gang – “Yes, if you take an amazingly narrow view of things and assume that everything we now have is mainly down to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and all those guys in excellent jumpers we see in old staff photos from California in the late 70?s.”

    Which seems to be a reasonable assumption. A lot of people contributed to the atomic bomb programme, but very few of them actually made it possible. Most of them were entirely replaceable drones.

    “If, however, you think of the things we have as the product of millions of us doing different things in different places for different reasons… all, bit by bit, driving innovation, then you’d have to be a blinding idiot not to think that women might have had something to do with it.”

    You might. I am sure the Tea Ladies were very important to the Manhatten project. And while, no doubt, Steve Jobs’ Mother made them all nice sandwiches, I think the important part of Apple’s success was what Steve and Woz did. After all, anyone’s Mother could have made them some nice sandwiches. No one in their right mind would deny that Jobs’ Mother played a part, but then again no one in their right mind would claim it was vital. Or even all that important.

    “Evidently, the wonders of the free market.. that are usually shouted from the rooftops around here, don’t apply when there are anti-feminist axes to grind.”

    But we are not really dealing with a free market. Not entirely. Because the Western governments have been so taken up with feminism, they have structured the system to “nudge” women into the workforce. And as Simone de Beauvoir said, women could not be allowed free choice because too many of them would make the wrong one. So by all means, let us have a free market where girls are not bullied into the work force and where the entire government apparatus does not work to keep them there.

    17 The Thought Gang – “My supposition is that a near-doubling of the talent pool cannot possibly have failed to have a strong positive impact on human achievement.

    “I admit.. I’ve not given it too much thought. I think any alternative conclusion is, at the most charitable, beyond bizarre.”

    Then it is not a good supposition. Why do most men go out and work hard? Why don’t they do what many African American men do and choose another lifestyle? In the old days this was a trade off – men worked in jobs they did not much like and women created a home. We have moved beyond that and the inevitable result is that men are not working as hard in jobs they don’t like. We have not hit bottom yet, but the trend seems clear – Whites are becoming more like African-Americans. And why not? What are the rewards of working hard in a job they don’t like? So I have no doubt that the African-American community is full of men with talents. It is just that by and large those talents do not find productive out lets. As there is no point – the A-A family is too weak to make it worth their while.

    It is entirely possible to double the pool of talent and yet get worse results.

    18 The Thought Gang – “To cite one example where you’re happy that women have been important… teaching… well isn’t education kind of at the root of human ingenuity? If women have improved the standard of education, that has that not contributed to what those who’ve been better educated have gone on to do?”

    If. Have they? As the number of women in the teaching profession has increased, the quality of education has declined. Even today, the areas of teaching with the most women – the government sector – is the worst performing and the areas with the least – the private sector – is the best. This is not surprising as female teachers can be shown to discriminate against male students. The whole education system has been changed to keep boys out of University. How is this working out for us? Not well I would think.

    You are making assumptions that simply do not coincide with the real world.

    “IT is, I accept, probably a poor example if we’re looking for things that women have especially impacted. But that wasn’t what I said.”

    I kind of think it was. But if not IT, what? HR? At the same time women have entered the work force in huge numbers, we have seen a huge expansion of non-jobs that make life for every one else worse. HR being a good example. Various forms of compliance officers. PR. That may be a co-incidence. Or not.

    21 The Thought Gang – “Nobel prizes are great, n’all, but you’re looking at the pinnacle of those fields.”

    It is the pinnacle that matters. It is the people at the very top of their game that make the difference. Dozens of chemists are probably working away at a better Mr Whippy, but it is the one man who discovers penicillin who makes the difference.

    “Why women haven’t achieved those things is moot”

    How can it be moot in this discussion?

    “Throughout my career”

    Anecdote is not data. As it happens through out my career I have always had female bosses and I thought they were excellent. Except one who was good but then had a dramatic melt down. But it is not evidence of much except my personal experience.

    “Whilst we all have different talents, and I do believe that there are things that men usually do better than women and vice versa, I don’t believe men have any dramatic advantage over women that would mean we’d not be demonstrably worse off if a large tranche of the most capable women were directing their efforts at things other than they have been doing.”

    You have qualified that so much it is hard to respond. Are you claiming men do not have an advantage over women? Hard to explain why so many Nobel prizes and Pullitzers and so on have gone to men. Capable women? Well yes. There are some. But does the distribution of capable women look the same as the over all distribution of capable men? You seem to assume it does. I think that would need to be proved. In the meantime, the question is whether pushing less capable women into University – which is what A Levels are now designed to do – makes us better off. I think not.

    “Even if men took their places, overall those men would be less capable.”

    How do you know?

    “I responded to Steve saying that he thinks soceity was better when women stayed at home. I disagree. I disagree because I’ve grown up in an age surrounded by people who just wouldn’t entertain such a notion (and, unless I’m reading too much into your username, it’s entirely possible that you’ve gorwn up in exactly the same one), and surrounded by women contributing every bit as well as men.”

    That is nice, but I just don’t think you are taking a sufficiently long term view. As societies where women are not encouraged to have children will not last long. Where men will not do the mundane 9-to-5 life without a promise of something like the 1950s family. You cannot take a snap shot of a man falling off a cliff and say he is fine because he has not hit the rocks yet.

    “In a professional sense I see no distinction, and if I am to believe (which I do) that the improvements in the world are the result of the things we all do (and this is a blog where that sort of thinking tends to be commonplace) then I must believe that women are as much a part of it as men.”

    So Einstein was nothing special as his cleaner also made Relativity possible? Maybe, and I don’t mean this as rudely as it sounds, you have only worked in boring offices full of people of no great talent and so you do not know what true capability looks like? This is why anecdote is not useful.

  23. @ TTG
    You are reading too much into my username: Dorothy Hodgkin, the last but one female to do so, won the Nobel prize in 1954. You are also inadequately briefed – my mother, with a Modern Languages degree but,at the time, engaged to a Chemist, was working in a laboratory 75 years ago (when they married he was a better cook than she was).
    I would never dispute that women have contributed to human advancement over the last N years where N is any number between 1 and a million; my mother and sisters have each contributed more than I, but I DO dispute that they are the sole reason for recent advances – my father contributed more (including relieving world hunger and cleaning up the local environment) than the other four of us put together.
    I wasn’t asking you to name names (Tim’s server might crash if you named them all in one post and apologise if my clumsy phraseology implied that.
    *Some*aspects of society were better in my youth when most mothers of young children – *not* all women – stayed at home to care for them. You and Steve are looking at it from different perspectives. We are materially so much better off that the youngsters cannot imagine the difference and nobody needs to be cold or hungry unless they choose (eg Ranulph Fiennes) or someone screws up.
    “It’s disputed, of course, that standards have fallen..” – by those with vested interests! I took one GCSE in Russian at the age of 51 and was worried that I had failed because the paper was not what I had expected and my accent in any language is awful, so I expected a poor mark for the oral but I got an ‘A’. I can still remember more Latin and French which I gave up after taking ‘O’ level at 15 than Russian. My younger son’s university maths and psychology course included some maths I did when I was 15. My sons, the elder is*seriously* bright, were required to take cooking (I can’t remember the official title) for GCSE; it was a bit below the standard my parents taught me when I was primary school age. Why waste his time? Political correctness! With a helpful attitude he could have gone to university at 15 or 16 instead of 17.

  24. john77 rather gives himself away with his list of female contributions – “Teaching, nursing, social services…”. He seems not to be aware that nearly half the doctors in the uk are women.

  25. @ John77

    “but I DO dispute that they are the sole reason for recent advances”

    Which, of course, I never said they were. Or anything even close to it.

    @ SMFS

    Thanks for all that. But we have entirely irreconcilable views on certain issues.. so let’s leave it at that. Chalk this up as a win if you desire.

    @PaulB

    Yes.. but half of our doctors are below average. Concidence?

  26. @ Paul B
    No: I am aware that there are *now* a very large minority of female doctors.
    But “nearly half” is a lot less than in teaching, nursing, social services, and public administration where women are a substantial majority.

  27. @ PaulB
    I wrote
    For most of my lifetime medicine at the doctor/surgeon level has been male-dominated.
    When discussing the causes of past progress, current gender %ages for doctors and lawyers verge on the irrelevant

  28. I wrote, before the site deleted it “they *have* been significantly involved, not the male-dominated areas”

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