Man-cession and woman-cession

This is interesting:

Harriet Harman, the women’s minister, said: “There is a major fear about women being targeted by their employers during the downturn. This is unlawful.” Another senior minister said women could be set back for “a generation”.

The latest official employment statistics show that the number of women in full-time work fell by 53,000 in the last quarter, compared with a fall of 36,000 for men. It means women are losing full-time jobs at twice the rate of men, because men significantly outnumber women in the workplace.

Interesting for, in the US, the opposite is happening.

According to today\’s BLS report (Table A-1, Household Data), the U.S. economy lost 2.956 million jobs in the last year (Dec. 2007 to Dec. 2008). Further analysis shows that 82% of the job losses (2.413 million) were jobs held by males, and 18% of the jobs losses (460,000) were jobs held by females (see top chart above). Of the 806,000 decline in December employment (household data), 91% of the job losses were male jobs (730,000), compared to a 76,000 job loss for females (9% of total).

So, what might be behind this?

There is mounting alarm over recent figures suggesting twice as many women are being made redundant as men in some parts of the country.

Ministers fear some of those being laid off are victims of discrimination by bosses seeking to avoid costs associated with the introduction of longer maternity leave and new flexible working rights.

Gee, ya think?

Just to run through the logic for the dim (or Labour Ministers, but I repeat myself). If you make a certain type of labour more expensive to employ then employers will economise on that type of labour. In a country which does not weigh itself down with such maternity, flexible time and equalities legislation women are losing jobs at a slower rate than men. In a country that does weigh itself down with such legislation women are losing jobs faster than men.

So, such legislation should be repealed in order to aid the women who are victims of it, no?

So now we know

According to Tania Sanchez, co-author of a fine recent book on perfumes: "The question that women casually shopping for perfume ask more than any other is this: \’What scent drives men wild?\’ After years of intense research, we know the definitive answer. It is bacon."

Modern feminism

Georgina Baillie\’s story neatly crowns a horrible year for British women, one in which we have seemed, at times, almost to be invisible.

Oh, please, get a life will you?

Women in the UK are amongst the most privileged group of women ever to have lived.

Are there still areas of inequity? Perhaps, but compared to what went before they are trivial. Are there things which could be made better than they are? Probably, although I\’m not sure that the cost of doing so would be worth it. But all of that is entirely another matter.

A year in which the majority of university graduates are women, a year in which almost no one died in childbirth, a year in which absolutely no one in the country had to scrape in the fields with a hoe in order to eat (unless they actually wanted to), a year in which men and women had equal rights before the law, in the vote, a year in which, if we are to be honest, we were all, male and female, the beneficiaries of the fattest, happiest, richest civilisation the world has ever seen, cannot be described as "horrible".

Get a sense of proportion would you?

Insanely counterproductive

THE solicitor-general, Vera Baird, has signalled the introduction of new rights for millions of carers of elderly relatives and sick children, raising the prospect of a clash with Lord Mandelson, the business secretary.

Under the proposal, in a bill to be outlined in the Queen’s speech on Wednesday, carers who believe they are being unfairly treated because of responsibilities at home could make a claim of “discrimination by proxy” against their employer.

I\’m not going to argue that this is a good or a bad idea. Make your own minds up upon that.

The measure will form part of a series of changes to grant new workers’ rghts. Baird also hinted the government could in the long term revive plans to force businesses to carry out equal-pay audits to ensure women are not underpaid.

Baird made it clear that ministers would act if businesses did not show they were serious about closing the pay gap. “If it doesn’t [happen] then, after a limited time, we’ll need to reconsider,” she said.

I\’m also not going to argue that this is a good or a bad idea. You can make your own minds up about that.

However, doing the first in order to achieve the second is an insane idea.

Why does the gender pay gap exist? Because, for better or worse, in our society, women take on the greater part of the caring burden. Of caring for children, of caring for parents and other relatives. They thus are less committed (on average of course) to the workplace, to their careers. They work for fewer years, are more likely to work part time, more likely to take career breaks. All of these lead to lower (on average of course) pay.

Insisting that carers, who are overwhelmingly likely to be women, should have greater rights to work part time, to further career breaks, is just going to increase that gender pay gap.

As I say, either idea in isolation can be taken any way you want to. It could be that you are morally outraged by one or other, possibly even both, that carers cannot already claim such rights, that the gender pay gap is an abhorrence. But it\’s undeniable that increasing the cause of the pay gap as a way of closing the pay gap is insane.

Equal pay for equal work

It would appear that we\’ve had that for rather a long time.

Being 4ft 11in paid off for Edith Kent. Her diminutive stature meant that she could crawl inside torpedo tubes — and helped her to become the first woman in Britain to earn the same wage as her male colleagues while working as a welder during the Second World War.

This week Mrs Kent celebrated her 100th birthday with a tea dance at a hotel with 50 family and friends, including her sister Minna, 105.

Mrs Kent began working at Devonport dockyard in Plymouth in 1941 but was so good that she received wage parity in 1943 — which was unheard of at the time.

Given that such equal pay for equal work is now standard right across the economy, what is it that everyone is complaining about?

The Concrete Ceiling

Umm,. folks?

The watchdog claims its figures show that although women are becoming better educated and keen to forge careers, too many people still believe that their place is in the home and that men should hold the leadership positions.

It accuses employers of putting up barriers to prevent women taking senior roles, by refusing to let them work hours that allow them to combine a decent job and a family.

To get to the top in any profession requires a dedication to that profession which is incompatible with either part time working or career breaks of a couple of years at a time.

The report says 85 per cent of working women have full-time jobs before they have babies, but this falls to just 34 per cent of those with pre-school children.

That\’s the sort of statistic which is causing this problem.

There\’s not in fact a legislative solution to it either.

Working lives

The average mother works five-and-a-half hours a day at a paid job but also spends 45 minutes preparing meals and 31 minutes shopping for groceries.

Daily household chores account for 42 minutes and running errands for the family takes another 23 minutes.

The school run takes 36 minutes and ferrying children to sports clubs, friends houses and after-school activities accounts for another 22 minutes.

A further two hours and 47 minutes is spent playing with young children to keep them entertained.

But the long working day means that only two hours and 14 minutes is left for mothers to have some time to themselves.

OK, let\’s assume that this is true (it\’s not actually all that far out from real surveys  rather than this one done by a soap manufacturer).

There\’s actually two things we are interested in. This amount of leisure time. Is it rising or falling? What are the comparable numbers for men?

Well, as those real surveys done over time show, leisure hours are increasing, as they have been for at least a century.

Secondly, using slightly different measures of "work", the ONS has found that men and women work, to within a few minutes a day (and it is a few, like 10 or 15), the same number of hours on average.

So while things might not be perfect they\’re better than they were and still getting better. They\’re also gender equal.


But 16 per cent of women have found it so hard to get everything done, they have even ended up paying someone to do their chores for them.

Giggle. You mean some people have cleaners? My, what a surprise!

Silly research

Analysis of 96 women executive directors over a six-year period found that they earned a total of £257,000 a year on average.

Their male equivalents, however, took home £316,000 – 19 per cent more.

The research by Exeter University also showed that male directors had the potential to earn bigger bonuses. Those working in the best performing companies received bonuses of around £151,489 while those at the bottom end received £31,733 – a fluctuation of 263 per cent.

So, are all executive directors equal?

Or, is this in fact a symptom of occupational segregation?

No, I\’ve not got the figures to back this up but I don\’t think anyone will disagree that there tends to be a difference in the roles likely to be taken by such executive directors. Women are more likely to be in the support roles (HR, accounting, legal perhaps) while men are more likely to be line managers.

That would certainly explain the bonus differences: there\’s no real measurable output of those support services, no direct contribution to profitability, so a bonus is a difficult thing to argue for. People in HR etc also tend to get paid less than line managers outside the rarified levels of executive directors as well…..

Of course, it could also be the sexism inherent in a patriarchal society….leave you to believe which explanation you wish.




Mariella Frostrup

I thought she was supposed to be the thinking man\’s crumpet? Taken over from Joan Bakewell?

However, his observation left others unimpressed. The broadcaster Mariella Frostrup, who was once told by a producer on Stephen Fry\’s show QI that there were so few women on the programme because “there just aren\’t any intelligent women out there”, was quick to criticise. She said: “He lists women because he couldn\’t possibly name all the men in positions of power in TV because he would be there all bloody day.

“He talks about middle-class white men being a beleaguered species on television. Well, excuse me, but Jonathan Ross, Jeremy on Newsnight. Look at the Today programme, Have I Got News for You, Newsnight. It seems to me that TV is a fantastic place for middle-class white males.”

Today is of course a radio programme.

Searching the ONS site

I can never find anything there at all. It\’s an appalling site to try and get around.

So, anyone rather better at it than I?

This is what I\’m after:

In other words, pay differences are about children, not about sex. This is borne out by a little-read report by Debra Leaker of the ONS, which suggests that when you compare the earnings of single childless women and single childless men – and that includes the widowed and divorced – the gap in median pay is actually in women’s favour.

Ta to Mark in the comments.


Family characteristics The gender pay gap of full-time employees varies by married/cohabiting status. Men and women who are not married or cohabiting have similar hourly pay, £8.72 for men and £8.82 for women, resulting in a gender pay gap of –1.1 per cent. However, the gender pay gap for married/cohabiting couples is 14.5 per cent. The gender pay gap increases with the number of children present in a family. The average hourly pay of a full-time woman with one dependent child is £9.32, compared with £10.63 for full-time men, resulting in a gender pay gap of 12.3 per cent. In comparison, in a family where four or more dependent children are present, the gender pay gap stands at 35.5 per cent.


The bodies of male athletes are, umm, male, and this is:

As a feminist, my version of a strong man is a motivated, secure individual who respects himself, likes and respects women, shows up for his own kids and cleans up his own mess, literally and metaphorically. Hardly radical. But if you look at male iconography within an antifeminist, mainstream and self-reinforcing culture, it\’s brute force that gets the seal of approval. The dominant message is that to be a real man you need to be all bulk, all aggression, hard and strong not soft and weak. You must appear able to succeed in a culture of violence, competition and antagonism that other violent males created.

This image of masculinity is extremely brutalising for men, particularly those brought up to believe that showing any compassion or ambivalence is beneath contempt.

Is there some place I can go and learn to write this sort of boilerplate?

Well, Sorta

The argument among economists about the gender pay gap is, at root, an argument about relevance as well. Are women paid less because they take time off to have children or because of misogynist employers\’ irrelevant prejudices?

Amongst economists the argument is really about how much of the gender pay gap can be explained by each cause (and there are multiple others as well under discussion). I\’ve yet to come across even the most feminist of economists (Echidne of the snakes for example) who would argue that child bearing and rearing have no effect.

There might yet be arguments about whether this is fair, about whether society ought to be reorganised so as to change this, about teh relative importance of the different factors, but not about their existence.

It\’s, sadly, the non-economists who think it is either or.

Katie Couric on Sexism

Erm, let me see:

Katie Couric, the CBS evening news anchor who earns a reported $15 million a year, compared herself to failed presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton in an interview with Israeli newspaper Ha\’aretz.

"I find myself in the last bastion of male dominance, and realising what Hillary Clinton might have realised not long ago: that sexism in the American society is more common than racism, and certainly more acceptable or forgivable," Miss Couric told the paper as she covered Senator Barack Obama\’s Middle East tour.

One of the most privileged women on the planet wants to complain about sexism? Someone paid an absolute fortune to read from an autocue is complaining because her pretty face is part of the reason she\’s paid that fortune?

What next? Ronaldo complaining that skill is rewarded?

Erm, Hello?

Whether it\’s in the tax system, welfare, education or criminal policy, the effect of any action by the state can produce new problems, as well as new benefits. Much of the real job of parliament and the civil service is to find and point out the glitches while there\’s still time. So when Nicola Brewer, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, asked whether increased maternity leave might have the perverse result of holding women back because employers would flinch from hiring them, she should be applauded for raising the question.

You know, some of us have been saying this for some time: indeed, some of us have beeen trying to point out that it is precisely this which (in part) produces the gender pay gap. Still at least it\’s being openly discussed now.

You could take a brutal approach. You could say nobody has to have children and so no special privilege should be given to those who freely choose to be breeders. If employers shun women of childbearing age, at least that\’s good news for older people, and for gay people, and perhaps for ethnic minorities discriminated against in the past. Behind their hands, many say families are already too privileged. Let parents ask for flexible working, they say, but let employers discriminate.

Indeed, that is one valid approach.

Yet the minute you start to examine that proposal, it falls apart. For a start, it operates against all women, not just mothers.

But the current system discriminates against all women as well: for it is not just the taking of maternity leave but the possibility of someone taking it….as the article already states.

And with highly qualified women pouring out of higher education into our service-based economy, we can\’t afford to turn young women away. That would be horrendously retrogressive, and economically stupid.

There\’s no suggestion of "turning women away". Only that if women cost more to employ for a certain level of production then women will, in general, be paid less than those who cost less for that level of production. We can have these maternity rules, no problem…..we just have to accept at the same time that there will be that gender pay gap.

We might indeed wish that this were not so but then the universe isn\’t here to pander to our desires.

It\’s worth noting that some other societies have taken a rather different approach. I believe that in Sweden for example there is paternity pay and the possible sharing of paid leave between men and women as they themselves desire. We might also note that the gender pay gap there is 15% as opposed to our own 17%….that doesn\’t solve the problem either.

It might just be that there is no solution to this….that, in general and on average, because women do take some years out of the workforce to bear and raise their children, that in general and on average, women will get paid less*.


* (Please note that no one is talking about different pay for the same job. We\’re all talking about the average hourly pay of men and women across the economy, for that is indeed what everyone uses as their measure here.)



I think This is one of Ollie\’s

As you know, Oliver Kamm now writes leaders for The Times. This sounds a little like him. Linguistically, at least.

It is the time for the best employers to press the competitive advantage that the best employment policies bring them. This means proactively encouraging women to return to the labour market after having children.

Also logically: if encouraging women to return after having children were indeed a competitive advantage then companies would indeed be doing it. That some do and some don\’t shows that it is a competitive advantage for some and not for others. But Ollie thinks we should change the law anyway….umm, why?

My Word!

Dr Brewer\’s comments follow research earlier this year for the Fatherhood Institute which revealed that almost three-quarters of men believe a child\’s relationship with its mother is valued more highly than with its father.

That\’s really rather a turn up for the books isn\’t it? Who are these 25% of men?

I\’d be absolutely astonished if we could find a society, any himan society, where this was not in fact true.

"We are creating a generation of fathers who have never actually spent a day alone with their children, who don\’t actually know what goes in a lunch box."

I\’d also be astonished to hear that this was not true of previous generations. Can anyone point me to a time in British history when men were more engaged in their children\’s upbringing than they are now?

Don\’t get me wrong, I\’m not a complete curmudgeon. I\’m not saying that men shouldn\’t be more involved….I\’m just rather bemused by this insistence that they are less so now than they were in the past or are elsewhere. That\’s simply not something that I believe is true.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

You know how the gender pay gap figures are worked out? On hourly pay?

Here\’s an intriguing statistic from Wimbledon. For winning the men\’s singles title, Rafael Nadal trousered a cheque for £750,000. Venus Williams, who took the women\’s singles and doubles titles, went home with £865,000. Yet because Nadal was obliged to compete across the best of five sets and Williams three, the Spaniard was on court for a total of 1,114 minutes while the American was out there for 1,029. It works out that she earned £840.62 per minute, Rafa £673.25. I wonder how long it will be before players on the men\’s circuit demand equal pay with the women.

Tsk, such injustice.


Race and Genetics

Nice piece here. Can be rather summed up by PJ O\’Rourke\’s comment on sex.

There are times when the difference between men and women is crucial: like when trying to make babies. There are also times when the differences are not important: like when trying to trade bonds.

So with race: when looking for things like Tay Sachs, cystic fibrosis, beta blockers, sickle cell anaemia, genetic background is important. When discussing civil liberties it\’s irrelevant.

Describing Hillary Clinton

Sometime in the last decade, her liberal foes evidently decided that whole "malevolent, power-mad shrew" thing sounded pretty good, too.

Well, if both conservatives and liberals come to hte same view of a person, there\’s always the possibility that that view actually contains a certain amount of truth.

Hmm, what\’s that you say? No, it has to be misogyny? You mean there\’s no possibility that Hillary is indeed a malevolent, power mad shrew?

That her rejection wasn\’t a rejection of all women, just of this woman right now?

Cruel Oppression

It\’s remarkable how we continually get told that the UK is some ghastly, horrible, misogynist society when this is the sort of thing that has happened in recent decades:

Fourteen years ago this week, I discovered I was pregnant with my first child. I was nervous – it was my second pregnancy and I couldn\’t be sure I wouldn\’t lose this one – and I worried what a child might mean for my life. But at least I did not have to worry about losing my life. The lottery of childbirth – whether a mother would live to see her baby – ended in my family two generations ago when maternal mortality in the UK dramatically improved in the 1930s. The legacy of that great breakthrough is that pregnancy is now usually a cause for celebration, not an occasion to write a will.

What prompted the recollection of an anniversary I\’ve not noticed before was the realisation that what I relied on, as a matter of course, is regarded as a luxury in most of the developing world: skilled midwives, an obstetrician and operating theatre if needed, and the antibiotics and drugs that ensured that, 14 years and another two births later, I\’m still around to bring up my children. Basic, everyday stuff in the developed world.

But not so in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in every 16 women dies in childbirth. (Since you started reading this article, a woman somewhere in the world has died giving birth.) In the UK, the comparable ratio is one dead woman in every 8,200. Maternal mortality is the most dramatic health inequality on the planet – more stark even than child mortality.

There is plenty of evidence for how, with the right combination of political will and policy, the maternal mortality rate can be dramatically reduced. Thailand cut it by 75% in 18 years; the Matlab region of Bangladesh cut it by two-thirds in 21 years. Yet in 20 years, the rate in sub-Saharan Africa has barely budged.

On any real accounting this is one of the very finest societies the planet has ever seen for women to live in (and men, of course, but that\’s not quite the point here). So why are we continually told we\’re so awful?