Saturday, 8 March 2008

International Women's / Ladies' Day

HR Circles noted earlier this week that today is International Women's Day:


"Since 1908,International Women's Day that takes place on 8 March has been a day to reflect on and celebrate the role of women in countries around the world. It is designed to inspire and recognise the many achievements made by women. However, 100 years after the initial marches in New York demanded shorter working hours and improved pay for women, a recent study has highlighted that women in London typically get paid 25% less than male colleagues and one in six companies who undertook an equal pay survey found that there was a gender based pay differential."


Britain's gender pay gap is the largest of all 27 EU countries, according to Eurostat. The Office for National Statistics says it is most marked at senior management level, where women earn 27% less than men. And a recent study by the Institute of Directors shows that the divide goes all the way up to the board - the pay gap between male and female directors widened over the past year from 19% to 22%.

Management Today note that:

"The gender pay gap can no longer be blamed on overt sex discrimination, although shamefully, this does still go on in some pockets of the private sector. Instead, it’s a complicated tangle of the type and level of work women do, unconscious bias within the workplace, and the tug of war between work and family life. It’s also partly to do with the fact that women don’t ask for as many pay rises as men. A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University demonstrated an early gender difference in attitudes when it comes to accepting job offers, with 57% of men thinking to negotiate their pay offer upwards, compared to only 7% of women."


There's more good analysis of the problem here - a complicated tangle is right. But none of these issues are unsolvable if enough intent and effort is there. We need to get past what Alison Maitland calls manonomics:


“It’s not nasty or deliberate, but codes of working were simply developed in a different age, with a different family model, when there were no women in the room... Men simply aren’t recognising a female colleague’s potential because years of conditioning have taught them to look for someone in their own image."


And it's a serious problem. For women themselves (Gill Corkindale has a good discussion on this) and for countries and businesses. For example, FT journalist, Richard Donkin notes:

"The case is supported by sound research. Goldman Sachs, for example, has suggested that gender equality in the labour force could increase gross domestic product by as much as 9 per cent in the US, 13 per cent in the eurozone and 16 per cent in Japan.

Research published in 2004 by Catalyst, a US think-tank, found that the Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women in their top management teams significantly outperformed those with the lowest averages. Return on equity was 35 per cent higher while the total return to shareholders was 34 per cent."

I like Richard's summary too:

"The real issue, I believe, is not that women need to change, but that business needs to change. Senior careers for women should not be about women fitting the demands of the job, but about work changing to meet the needs of women."


But let's not get too downcast. Things have improved - there's no doubt about that - have a look at HR Lori's post on 1943's Guide to Hiring Women if you're not convinced.

So I think both because we've come along way, and because we've got a long way to go, today is a day worth 'reflecting and celebrating'.

Mind you, in our house, we celebrate Ladies Day. We picked up this way of marking the day when we lived in Russia, which you might have thought would focus on the political significance of the day, ie on women's rights. Well, you'd be dead wrong. There the day is completely devoted to the 'gorgeous ladies in mens lives'.

And it's a big thing. Much bigger than Valentine's Day, and probably bigger than Christmas.

Assuming it's a work day, all women are given roses when they enter the office, and more from the men they work alongside. I remember one year, I left doing this a bit late, and given that this was HR, I had quite a bit of flower shopping to do. I left the office mid-morning with Vlad, the other only other man in the team, stopping at all the kiosks we could find. It wasn't until about half an hour and three subways later that we found enough roses for the team.

And at home, all housework and chores are done by the men.

I'm not sure this is helping deal with Russian 'manonomics' but it's a custom very few women there would want to loose. And I think you can probably see why my wife wanted to keep the custom on!

So, putting pay inequality aside for now, for all my women readers:

"С 8 Марта тебя поздравляю,
Сердечно желаем:
Счастья, здоровья, yдач, красоты!"