Really pleased to be interviewed live on TRT World’s ‘Money Talks’ show on International Women’s Day, 2021, talking about the challenges globally of the gender pay gap and how to address it.
This week Times Higher Education published an interesting article covering The University of Glasgow’s welcome decision to make ‘collegiality’ an explicit requirement in its internal professorial promotions criteria. Examples given include recommending a colleague for an award, or crediting them as Co-Investigator on a major research project.
The image THE chose to accompany this positive news – an image of men helping other men over a wall – is somewhat ironic if you’re a woman in the academic world. For, one could be forgiven for reading statistics on the overrepresentation of men in senior academic and managerial positions as evidence of the fact that academia is already working efficiently in supporting men’s collegiality with one another.
I was motivated to offer my first Women in Academia Resolutions Retreat, coming up in January 2020, to support women to take some time out to focus on themselves. It’s important to continue to challenge the imperfect structures of academia, while at the same time to work on how we can support ourselves within those imperfect structures. Anecdotes, academic research and personal experience demonstrate that women can be notoriously bad at prioritising ourselves. Some men experience this, too, of course, and they are the ones doing the ‘housework’ of the department alongside the women.
Housework might take the form of being the (implicitly-) understood ‘go to’ person for students for support, being the person always assigned programme leadership, teaching introductory core modules or given administrative tasks etc. It’s a real skill – and indeed a compliment – being the ‘safe pair of hands’ who can hold that ticking grenade safely. But holding that grenade comes at a cost – you are likely holding it for someone else whilst they are getting on with the things they want to do.
While you’re holding the grenade for someone else, it’s very easy to lose sight of what you want to achieve. After all, if you lose focus, you will drop the grenade and it will, you feel, be catastrophic for everyone!
So, how exactly do you focus on you instead? It’s key to take some time out to reflect on where YOU want to go.
First – put down the grenade (psst – it’s not actually a grenade and it’ll be OK!!)
Now you’re more relaxed, consider what you would like to achieve and what steps you need to take logically in order to get there. It could be that you already know what you want to achieve – great! But it could be that you need to sit back and think about what is important to you. What’s important to you aligns with your values. If you set goals in line with your values, you are going to be more motivated and likely to achieve those goals.
To use myself as an example, once I realised I was working to an agenda that was not my own in a previous situation, I had a proverbial light-bulb moment: “it’s not my goal- I’m not motivated by it”. Without realising it, I hadn’t been realistically working toward that goal; instead, I’d been procrastinating and finding distractions. It was because I was not only not bothered about achieving it but actually felt it would be pretty worthless, judged by my own value system. It was a tough lesson as I had spent many years not realising this! But I re-set things and took steps toward what I actually wanted to achieve.
We all have contexts in which we work and things we need to do that we might prefer not to (for me now I’m self-employed, that’s my accounts!). But there are ways to work within our realities.
My goal for the Resolutions Retreat is that participants leave with a clearer idea of their goals, how to achieve them and with the resolve to take action.
25 January, 2020, 10AM-1PM, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
- Too much to do?
- Hard to find time for the important tasks?
- Not sure what your priorites are?
Give yourself some space to focus on YOU.
This interactive workshop will support you to:
- Define what is important to you, professionally or personally.
- Set realistic goals to aim for.
- Leave with a personalised plan of how to stay on track and achieve your goals.
Be guided to reflect, to learn and to set your goals.
Share the space with other women who understand the particularites (and peculiarities?!) of the academic world.
Join us in the supportive retreat of the Figgis Suite at the Tyneside Cinema to set your direction for 2020.
Tea and coffee will be served on arrival to help us get started!
***EARLY BIRD OFFER: Book by midnight on 8th December to qualify for a 30 min phone/skype call with Julie in February/March/April to provide personalised support in progressing with your plan!***
BOOK VIA EVENTBRITE: https://wiarr.eventbrite.com
Information about the Tyneside Cinema, including information for people with acccess requirements, can be viewed on their website.
And do check out this blog on my rationale behind this event!
I gave a talk on the dangers of gender stereotypes at Sister Shack’s International Women’s Day events in Sunderland and Newcastle in March 2019. I focused on the impact of stereotypes on wellbeing and on how we can all work to challenge stereotypes.
I’m delighted to be offering a workshop for the Assocation for Coaching’s Edinburgh Coaching Exchange on 26th February. I’ll be asking participants to explore gender assumptions and stereotypes, unconscious bias and how to counter these in their coaching practice. To book, click here. If you’re intested in this topic or in hosting a similar event for your coaching/HR professionals, get in touch!
In September 2018, I was pleased to offer a workshop at the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association Annual conference. The theme of the conference was ‘Writing Wrongs’ and I offered a session riffing on this theme entitled ‘Righting Wrongs for Women in Academia’. The workshop was a space to share strategies, experiences and thoughts on how to shift academic organisational culture, where 1 in 4 professors are women and where BME women are particularly underrepresented.
As businesses employing over 250 staff are scrambling to publish their gender pay gap data before the deadline of midnight tonight, findings thus far are looking stark, though frankly unsurprising.
In the public sector, where the deadline was last Friday, figures reveal that organisations such as councils, the NHS and universities pay women on average 14% less than men. There is no expectation that private sector organisations will perform any better.
I have seen a range of responses to the emerging data which traverse from:
- Outright denial: there is no such thing as a pay gap as the Equal Pay Act makes it illegal and ensures equal pay for equal work;
- Data quibbling: the data only records the median and mean, not the types of jobs people are in or the full-time/part-time divide – thus the data is dismissed as meaningless;
- Welcoming the data as a snapshot and a call to action.
Yes, we have an Equal Pay Act. Equal pay for equal work and has been a legal requirement since 1970. However:
(a) Because something is illegal does not mean it does not occur. No-one would say there is no such thing as burglary because it is illegal. A small proportion of the data currently being reported will almost certainly be due to unequal pay for unequal work. Confidentiality around salaries makes for a culture where this can occur.
(b) Equal pay is not the same as the gender pay gap. The gender pay gap is the difference in earnings between men and women overall within an organisation. The current data being collected records the median and mean of women’s salaries and men’s salaries. Thus, women might be in different roles to men or in more part-time roles and the median and mean will capture the overall discrepancy in salaries encapsulating this difference.
It is true that recording the median and mean has its disadvantages in that it does not demonstrate the nuances of discrimination operating within an organisation. Nevertheless, to dismiss the data as meaningless is an easy way to dismiss dealing with the discrimination that is clear from these initial figures. What the average shows is an overall difference difference between the pay of women and men and it requires us to ask questions as to why women are persistently paid less than men in organisations. Why is it that the styles of working and the types of roles women tend to adopt do not offer equal renumeration with the styles and working and the types of roles that men tend to adopt?
There are a range of reasons women may work differently to men, none of them, I would argue, down to unhindered ‘choice’. Significantly, the lion’s share of (unpaid) housework and (unpaid) childcare falls to women, emerging from cultural expectations. Therefore, it is unsurprising that women may not be able to put in a 70 hour week, or even a 37 hour week, at work because they are already working maybe 20 hours unpaid at home. No wonder, then, that a part-time role appears more appealing or a promotion requiring unpaid overtime seems out of reach.
Data quibblers also sometimes like to point out that women go into relatively low paid ‘nurturing’ careers such as teaching/nursing, thus blaming women for their own situation. The real question here is why are these so-called nurturing professions paid less in the first place? Indeed, there is research that demonstrates that when more women enter a profession, the remuneration for that profession drops, suggesting the status of a profession falls when associated with women.
A Call to Action
It is great that the government has made it compulsory for larger organisations to publish their gender pay gap statistics. The first step is recognising the issue; the real work comes in addressing it. Out of this exercise, each organisation will have data upon which to focus their attention and this publication from the Government Equalities Office and CIPD gives advice on how to start taking action.
The gender pay gap illuminates gender bias in the way an organisation is structured, its everyday culture and systems. Organisations can operate as magnifiers or minimisers of gender inequity in society at large. As well as considering the larger points of structural discrimination such as promotion criteria and processes, language in job advertisements, structural and unconscious bias, people often don’t reflect on the apparently small elements of the culture of their organisation in gendered terms.
For example, business breakfast meetings or breakfast networking events are becoming more and more the norm. Think about who is often responsible for the school run and who you might therefore be preventing from attending that 8AM meeting – women! When this happens repeatedly, this woman has fewer chances to connect with colleagues than her male peers, leading to fewer opportunities, and, down the line, she may have less on her CV when it comes to promotion rounds.
However, it’s not just mothers that are affected but all women. For instance, a gender pay gap opens up between graduates within as little as one year of graduating from the same degree programme and increases steadily year on year. This all contributes to the gender pay gap.
A Bifocal Approach
Jen de Vries has suggested that organisations need to take a ‘bifocal approach’ to address gender inequalities. The term is effective: it clarifies that organisations need to take both a short-term and longer-term view in bringing about change. Short term interventions assist women to reach their potential within systems that are not currently offering them equal opportunities.
Here, we might think of women’s leadership programmes or coaching programmes for women, women’s networks and mentoring. These are valuable interventions. However, they do not tackle the roots of the problems: structural inequalities.
Addressing structural inequalities takes the long-term view and is where real change can occur. This requires changing ways of working to eradicate discrimination in the first place so the women do not require additional support to navigate the organisation’s systems. Examples might include rethinking the organisation’s criteria for leadership and promotion or re-evaluating value and remuneration attached to different kinds of work.
Now that large organisations have a clearer view of their gender pay gap, it’s time to clean the lenses on the bifocals and get to work!
I am excited to be collaborating with former colleagues at Northumbria University on this film season at Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle. Four films are being screened throughout February and March to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8th) and the centenary of the first women gaining the vote in the UK:
16 February: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (Mary Dore, 2014) tracks the histories of second wave feminism in America, from NOW to WITCH, through interviews with the women involved and archive footage of them in action. Introduced by Julie Scanlon and Rosie White.
22 February: Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2014) chronicles the three-month period in 1965 when Dr Martin Luther King led the campaign to secure equal voting rights culminating in the Selma-Montgomery march. Introduced by Mel Waters and Victoria Bazin.
1 March: The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye, 1996) is an example of New Queer Cinema, following the life and loves of a black lesbian documentary-maker. Introduced by Anamarija Horvat and Sue Regan.
8 March: Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Alexandra Dean, 2017) sees the Newcastle premier of this fascinating documentary about the Hollywood actress and inventor. The screening features a Live Q+A with Susan Sarandon as Executive Producer talking about her new film.
Tickets and times at the Tyneside link above!!