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Family Fortunes: What’s on offer in GE2019?

25 Nov

With the publication of the Conservative manifesto, we now have documents from all the main parties outlining their proposals for government, following the General Election next month.  True to the wonk in Wonklifebalance, I have looked at them all to see what they are offering in the way of childcare and parental leave policies.  The fact that each of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have proposed measures in these areas, indicates that parents of young children, and working mothers in particular, are a part of the electorate they wish to address directly.  Against a background of stagnating wages, and with women less likely to report that they have decided who they will vote for, this comes as little surprise… As Sarah Ronan pointed out in the Independent recently, working mothers are at least as important a group to cultivate for success in this election, as ‘Workington man’ – and they are fed up of having their priorities overlooked.

 

What promises await voters seeking relief from the diet of stretched wages, expensive childcare and work-life out-of-balance?  Well, while childcare provision gets a makeover across the political spectrum, there’s actually pretty slim pickings regarding reform of our ailing parental leave system.  Perhaps the Conservatives are simply waiting for the results of their consultation on this issue, which is rather mistimed electorally, as the deadline for submissions falls on Friday.  Consultations on neo-natal leave and flexible working closed in October, and the manifesto says that the Tories will now offer neo-natal leave.  They will also ‘encourage’ flexible working and aim to make it ‘easier for men to take paternity leave’ – er, that’s pretty much it. Apart from beefing up legislation to outlaw maternity discrimination, there is no positive offer on parental leave, shared or otherwise.

 

Both Labour and the Lib Dems do a bit about parental leave, but choose not to address the big issue of reforming shared parental leave. Labour has extended the option of shared parental leave to self-employed people as part of their Charter for the Arts.  But there are no dedicated quotas of parental leave for fathers, even though these are widely viewed as a major component in closing the gender gap for working parents.  Bizarrely, the Labour party has opted to extend paid maternity leave to 12 months; while this leave can be transferred to men if mothers wish to do so, this move risks making our unequal system even more unequal, by giving more months to mothers at relatively low rates of wage replacement.  Doubling paternity leave to 4 weeks, while welcome, does little to revolutionise traditional patterns of leave-taking.  Similarly, the Liberal Democrats propose tripling paternity leave to 6 weeks, but without proposals related to wider parental leave.

 

Meanwhile, in childcare it’s bonanza time – if by bonanza you mean coming up with ideas to show that the inadequacies of the current system have registered, while being a bit more vague on implementation.  As regular readers know, 30 hours free childcare really is quite complicated to provide.  All three parties recognise that this as a major concern, and they are competing to improve on the current patchy and under-funded system. That they have all put money on the table, is some recognition of the precariousness of today’s services.

 

Most ambitious is Labour, looking to reverse the cuts to Sure Start Children’s Centres throughout the country, and to create a new Sure Start Plus network, with provision for under-2s.  This offer would aspire to provide 30 hours free childcare for all 2-4 year olds within five years, as well as new care for children between 1 and 2 years old.  Labour would invest in a graduate workforce and recruit 150,000 Early Years staff.  They would also subsidise additional hours of childcare, above the 30 hours per week, on a sliding scale according to income. The price tag of around £4.5 billion indicates the step change these proposals would represent, with costs in part recouped via increased participation of women in workforce.

 

The Conservatives concentrate more on the enabling role of wraparound childcare in England, to facilitate employment.  Focussing on after-school and holiday provision, they propose a £1 billion investment, comprising £250 million per year for three years, to boost school provision of out-of-hours services.  This could mean supporting voluntary sector providers too.  A further £250 million will cover capital costs where schools need new staff or equipment to establish wraparound services.  There is no mention of additional support for under-2s.  The aim is for 250,000 additional children to have on-site summer childcare in primary school.  As such, this is clearly a more modest proposal than Labour’s.

 

Over with the Liberal Democrats, Children’s Centres receive £1 billion funding. Responding to the need to plug the childcare gap between the end of maternity leave and eligibility for free hours at age 2, they will also give working parents of children aged 9 months to 2 years an entitlement of 35 hours free childcare for 48 weeks of the year.  Like Labour, they want to increase the proportion of Early Years staff with qualifications, and they will triple the Early Years Pupil Premium to help the most disadvantaged children.  They will also roll out the Baby box programme (which has been established in Scotland) more widely.  This scheme gives new parents a box containing basic clothing, a thermometer and books for their newborn.

 

Parents undoubtedly find themselves in the spotlight this election, with all parties recognising that they need to offer something more.  There is enthusiasm for Early Years services as helping to narrow the gaps in opportunities between the most and least advantaged children. However, ensuring that major investment is rolled out effectively, and that staff are in place to fulfil our leaders’ ambitions, will be far from child’s play ….

 

 

So they’re leaving ….

31 Oct

It seems fitting that Hallowe’en marks the season of remembrance of the departed, as much earthly commentary is currently taken up with the exit of MPs from parliament, in advance of the impending election.  Top of the list of concerns is that women may be leaving in disproportionate numbers, and that high levels of abuse directed at them, may be behind this trend.

 

What are the numbers actually revealing?  In a rapidly changing landscape, it’s hard to keep up, but I am using the figures provided by Gavin Freeguard of the Institute of Government to keep track.  As of this afternoon, 58 members were leaving – a tally that even includes one MP’s decision to stand again, having previously brought the number exiting to 59.  Everyone has noted ‘volatility’ in our politics, and this seems to extend even into decisions to stand down or not.

 

As soon as MPs’ announcements of intention to leave the Commons began to come in, there was comment on the loss of women, and query as to whether the figures were unusual.  At the raw level, the figure of 58 is not high, compared with the 90 who left parliament in 2015, and other even higher figures in the past.  In terms of proportionality, women make up just under a third of MPs leaving, a fraction in tune with the proportion of women in parliament overall. This apparent match in numbers has led some to say that any reference to gender is unnecessary.  However, as women have grown in numbers in parliament comparatively recently, the proportion leaving would be expected to be below the proportion sitting, as women are more likely to be recent entrants, at earlier points in their political careers.

 

Sunder Katwala, of British Future, has outlined in a more detailed analysis on Twitter, that there are some differences between the type of women and the type of men who bringing their political careers to an end.   Broadly speaking, the men leaving are what you might call the ‘usual suspects’, politicians with several elections behind them, and of ages in line with conventional retirement.  Amongst the women, duration served is lower on departure, and more of them are relatively young.  This trend is particularly true of Conservative women.  The average age of Tory women standing down is 51, compared to 64 among Conservative men and 67 for Labour women.  This points to distinctive issues in the Conservative party, where women have arrived in numbers even more recently than is the case for Labour, and whose current leader is associated with ‘woman problems’.

 

The more you look at the figures, the more it becomes clear that they cannot by themselves tell us what the reasons behind MPs’ standing down might be.  As we’re about to face our third election in 4 years, our attention has been captured by parliamentary minutiae – as Brexit has challenged ‘business as usual’ in politics, there is more focus on how politicians are behaving and assessing its significance; who was leaving parliament at the end of a session would often barely register in ‘normal’ times.

 

Current political divisions have led to many pointing to the ‘toxic’ nature of debate, and MPs have often been subject to high levels of abuse.  It has been shown in a range of studies that women and people of colour in public life, experience higher levels of online abuse than white men – Diane Abbott has been the target of sustained abuse at a level far beyond other MPs.  The mention of the toll of such a climate in the parting statements of Heidi Allen and Nicky Morgan, and more widely, is a concerning development.  Male MPs have not referred to this in their reasons for departure.  Parliament itself has also been called to account for bullying and harassment in its culture.  All of this background provides ample potential reason for people to wish to depart. The observations that some are leaving because they are out of favour with party leadership, or out of step with their constituents’ views on Brexit, or have slim majorities they are unlikely to sustain, have come thick and fast.  In a polarised political atmosphere, it has been open season for exit to be pursued by critics’ confirmation bias …

 

In all this, it is not clear that we can discount gender as a factor.  Parliament remains a male-dominated institution, where women are in a minority and often in more junior positions.  When they do reach prominence or high office, they remain subject to sexism both in the chamber (‘calm down dear’; ’humbug’) and in the media (remember ‘Legs-it’?).   When abuse comes women’s way, it is against a backdrop of sexism, and a struggle to be taken seriously, something that is not experienced in the same way by men.  It may be that the female MPs leaving parliament mid-career are signalling that the benefits of a life a politics are still less likely to outweigh the costs, if you a woman.

 

 

 

 

X marks the spot

4 Jul

The government has just published its Gender Equality Roadmap, launched with a flourish yesterday by Penny Mordaunt, in her capacity as Women and Equalities Minister. 

 

The Roadmap charts the types of disadvantage women encounter at different stages in their lives and sets out government initiatives in response.  So far, so good … but the trouble is that the roadmap is hardly new, and the responses aren’t big on concrete action either.  Researchers and policy analysts have been charting women’s lifetime economic disadvantage compared to men for years –  and counting the cost (and calculating the value) of childcare and elder care.  We know that women’s career trajectories leave them lower-earning in prime years, and under-pensioned in old age, compared to men.  We also know that girls are less likely to enter scientific careers, or to find jobs in the most lucrative sectors of the labour market.  Like many reports before it, the roadmap talks about engaging girls in STEM, but has little to say about enhancing the esteem in which traditionally female sectors of the labour force are held, or encouraging boys to get involved in them.  The Roadmap acknowledges that the benefits system has not always met the needs of women, and proposes that Universal Credit will simplify the process of claiming and improve  outcomes for women.  This claim is rather hard to reconcile with the evidence that Universal Credit has driven many to foodbanks during the long waiting periods before payments are made.  No mention is made of the single payment per household, a feature of Universal Credit which campaigners have highlighted as having potentially negative impacts for women. 

 

The Roadmap discusses Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and flexible working, as policies which can contribute to closing the gender gap in earning and progression at work.  While it is welcome that the government is reviewing the current SPL system, and ‘celebrating’ employers who offer beyond the statutory levels of pay, we already know that without higher pay levels, Shared Parental Leave is a non-starter for many families, however well-disposed towards it parents are in theory.  And we also know from international evidence that our current system falls well short of the conditions required for it to become a mainstream option – I’ve blogged about this repeatedly – e.g. here.  The Roadmap proposes a new digital tool to inform parents better of their leave and childcare options, but without more resources it is hard to see how this will make any significant difference to take-up.  Pilots for innovation in flexible working may be more promising, but we do seem to have been stuck at the pilot stage for a long time now ….

 

 The Roadmap does acknowledge a range of factors including direct discrimination and harassment which contribute to women’s disadvantage, and it makes mention of intersectionality and the value of care work as well as its costs. It also flags that the Government Equalities Office will now sit in the Cabinet Office, which should aid cross-departmental working.  But, as the Women’s Budget Group points out, identifying the issues is a first step, and the solutions to gender inequality require financial investment – in public services, in childcare and social care.  Instead of a Roadmap, perhaps we need a treasure map, with X marking the spot where a budget for women’s needs is to be found. 

 

Why they’re always in the kitchen for political parties…

15 May

You may have had enough of James ‘two ovens’ Brokenshire by now, but bear with me a moment, as I look at why the kitchen is such a ubiquitous backdrop for political ambition.

The thing about kitchens is that they are everyday places – we all have to use one, to store provisions and to feed ourselves.  So, at a level, they are utilitarian and universal. This is why politicians might wish to be seen in them – to show that they too are ordinary people, to be in PR-speak, ‘relatable’.  What could be more normal than washing the dishes? Kitchens are places of domestic economy – where food is prepared and distributed, so that politicians in kitchens can give a nod towards good housekeeping and responsible budgeting, and have wholesome associations with healthy nutrition for families. 

So far, so appealing.  But now we get to the ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ bit, currently being ‘enjoyed’ by Messrs Brokenshire and Raab, both recently seen in interviews down home with their wives, in – where else? – the kitchen.  For as well as being sites of mundane labour, kitchens are powerful signifiers of social class and status.  Mr Brokenshire’s four ovens may seem like a simple preference for the kind of people who re-fit their kitchens when they move house or build extensions, but these types of choices look very different to people whose kitchens are more Royle Family than royal family. In the UK, the links been kitchens and social class are so well-understood that there are ‘Smug’ fridges in Aardman animations – the gadgets and brands in our kitchens are a perfect social shorthand.  It’s no coincidence that about a third of the 16 items recently deemed to make you middle-class in Britain, were things that are kitchen-related.  One of these, the barbeque, features prominently in Dominic Raab’s framed word cloud decoration, which probably has an advisor now banging their head on a zinc counter somewhere ….

 

As well as signalling social class, kitchens provide a gender minefield.  Male politicians like David Cameron (remember webcameron?) like to be seen there to enact not just ordinary bloke-ishness, but also modern fatherhood.  Cameron doled out kids’ breakfast or stacked the dishwasher while discussing his vision for the future.  For women, it’s a double-edged sword to be seen in the kitchen.  As the first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher used it both to soften her image, cooking for Dennis on the morning of the election, and to show her science credentials, in a BBC2 programme.  Nicola Sturgeon gave an interview in hers in 2015, confessing that she spent little time there – too busy being an effective leader to be in there much.  And she has a point, as the first cry of the sceptic watching women in powerful positions, is to suggest that they get ‘back to the kitchen’, where women belong in their domestic roles.  

 

Across the pond, kitchen skills have often caused controversy for first ladies: while many were happy to be depicted baking cookies for the nation, Hillary Clinton famously fell foul of public opinion by declaring that she had preferred her profession to homebaking.  Although Michelle Obama was happy to plant a vegetable garden and advocate healthy eating, she distanced herself from any great culinary expertise.  President Obama, meanwhile, was photographed at that temple of masculine cuisine: the barbeque.  In terms of kitchens themselves, American presidents arguably have it easier in terms of public perceptions, as the White House kitchen is famous as a backdrop in its own right, teeming with professional staff to cater for all occasions.  This fact, along with the privileges of gender, make skits like the Onion’s, showing Obama mocked-up in the White House kitchen attempting to cater for a Chinese delegation, work. More recently Trump pitched himself as the gold-plated everyman, laying on a McDonald’s ‘banquet’ when the White House kitchen was out of service.  No scratch cooking for this man’s man.

 

A final reason why politicians should tread warily in the kitchen is that they have become venues of studied informality.  As Amanda Craig wrote when David Cameron was caught up in the ‘kitchen suppers’ controversy, where the likes of Rebekah Brooks joined him for casual meals in the Cotswolds, the loss of dining rooms from domestic architecture means that kitchens are now intimate spaces where people can relax.  Many cook performatively in view of guests – the performance aspects appealing particularly to the modern hands-on man. And once the cooking is done, everyone dines together in the same warm space. This intimacy is why kitchens are associated with close circles –  ‘kitchen cabinet’ is used to describe leaders’ most trusted allies; and it also why ‘kitchen table’ politics is a phrase used for down-to-earth conversations between representatives and the public.  As Labours’ notorious pink bus campaign for attracting women voters showed, the image of the kitchen table has to be used with care, or it ends up entangled with all that gender and class symbolism once more.

The intimacy of kitchens means that the kitchen interview or photo shoot can lead to journalists getting politicians to reveal more than might have been the case otherwise.  Think of Ed ‘two kitchens’ Miliband, or David Cameron (again!) revealing that he wouldn’t run for a third term while making salad with James Landale.  Modern, intimate kitchens allow us to display some personality, which is perhaps why the current Prime Minister has found any steer towards them fraught.  When not extolling the virtues of mouldy jam to a divided nation, Theresa May has been known to express pride in her extensive collection of cookbooks, inspiring the amazing revelation that cookery is enjoyable ‘because you get to eat it as well as make it’ –  about as robotic a response as you could hope for.  As John Donne didn’t say, ‘No kitchen island is entire of itself’, and politicians would do well to remember that, as they throw open the doors of their homes to greet us …

 

 

 

Some ministries are still more equal than others ….

2 May

It’s just past a year to the day since I wrote about the way in which some ministries of government are more equal than others.  This was in reference to the post of Minister for Women and Equalities. It is a jointly-held office, whose new incumbent in 2018, Penny Mordaunt, was only announced some time after the Prime Minister had named Amber Rudd’s successor in the Home Office, Sajid Javid.  Back to the present, and in the wake of yet another controversial departure from government, we find that Ms Mordaunt is to step up to replace Gavin Williamson at the Ministry of Defence.  This year, it has been immediately announced that she takes the joint brief of Women and Equalities with her, thus halting a regular churn of appointments in this post – at least for now. When it comes to establishing who is prioritising the burning injustices at the heart of the Women and Equalities office, it will prove tempting to ask ‘You and whose army?’ …

 

Penny Mordaunt makes history as the first woman to act as Defence Secretary, and it’s been interesting to see the response to her keeping Women and Equalities as well.  While last year’s attention focussed on the fact that the low priority of Women and Equalities was demonstrated by the late naming of the new official, this year there seems to be more concern about how two ministerial jobs can be done at once.  I’m guessing it’s not rocket science to work out why this comes up more in terms of Defence, than say, Education, Home Office or Culture… Defence, like the last bastion of male-only incumbents, the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is still often viewed as a man’s world, and, often a macho one too.  And we all know that archetypal men’s jobs are all-consumingly full-time …

 

The truth is that Women and Equalities should be a freestanding post.  Many today are pointing to the fact that Theresa May mentioned her preference to see more women in senior government posts, while giving evidence at a select committee, just hours before the news of Williamson’s sacking and Mordaunt’s promotion were made public. But there hasn’t been much renewed call for the Women and Equalities brief to be re-allocated as a full-on Cabinet post.  Another year, another missed opportunity to do so.

 

However, since last year, all has not stood still in terms of Women and Equalities.  Following Penny Mordaunt’s appointment, the Women and Equalities Select Committee produced a report on the role of the Minister, and the place of the Government Equalities Office (GEO) in government.  This report spoke out against the continual movement between departments, which has been characteristic of the role in its current form as a jointly-held post.  New ministers have come along because of changes in Cabinet personnel, rather than due to the priorities of the post itself.  The report recommended that post should become full-time in the Cabinet Office, and that the supporting GEO should also permanently reside there.  In her response for the government, Ms Mordaunt agreed that ‘the GEO will need a permanent home in future, and we will look to do that at a suitable opportunity.’ Meanwhile, it remains camped at the Department of Education, and the GEO was reporting to leaders at the department for International Development while Penny Mordaunt was minister there. It remains to be seen if her shift to Defence might represent a ‘suitable opportunity’ to seek permanent residence elsewhere.

 

Given the general government paralysis as Brexit rumbles on, it seems unlikely that there will be much appetite to transform the equalities function in government. And Penny Mordaunt’s desire to maintain the brief is good for stability, while making any such transformation less immediately likely.  Women and Equalities therefore remains a Cinderella brief – like women’s unpaid work, a second shift while doing something else.

 

 

 

Gender pay gap reporting: the sequel

5 Apr

Last year I wrote about the advent of gender pay gap reporting, with a little help from the Undertones.  Today gender pay gap reporting enters what might be called its difficult second album stage.  As it’s an annual event, we have to ask has anything changed since last year?

 

In short, not much.  The headline figures show that the overall gender pay gap has remained virtually static, moving from 9.7% to 9.6% this year; sector-by-sector analysis published in the Guardian shows that the gap has in fact widened in most industries. Like last year, almost four fifths of companies pay men more than women. Overall, 48% of companies reported a smaller gender pay gap this year, meaning that in 52% of cases, the gap remained the same or grew wider still – as for so many issues in the UK, the gender pay gap presents a divided picture.

 

Some of the industries with the highest proportion of female workers report some of the biggest gender pay gaps.  Although education and care are resolutely female-dominated, a private care home provider and two academies trusts reported amongst the biggest gender pay gaps of all, with women earning 33p or less for every £1 earned by men.  This is indicative of women on the frontline, in relatively low-paid sectors, who are managed by senior men.  These figures point to a lack of progression in many traditionally female roles, with men getting more opportunities for promotion, or being recruited from outside to take on executive posts.  

 

The pattern of job mobility at senior levels currently seems to favour men’s careers.  In my blog on last year’s figures, I wondered if the relatively high gender pay gaps in public sector organisations (often majority women, and yet often with men at the top) might be explained by women being retained in posts with flexible working, but where their chances of promotion were weaker.  Writing about the civil service, Jane Dudman shows that pay structures work against women looking to move into more senior roles.  There is a cap on internal pay rises which disproportionately affects women, as they are less likely to leave for private sector jobs. When men do this, it can be a route back into senior civil service posts, when they return on much higher salaries, increasing the pay gap between men and women.  This explains why in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, female directors who have risen from within the civil service, are paid less than male directors who have come from higher-paid roles outside. 

 

You might say why don’t women just do the same as men and move around to enhance their pay?  The answer, I think, gets to part of the heart of why gender pay gaps are hard to shift overnight.  While the civil service, local government and health service jobs may offer flexibility, often to acknowledge women’s caring work at home, they do not promote these flexible workers as often as might be expected.  The lure of the well-paid outsider is often hard to resist when recruiting at senior levels. And the women maintaining their careers through flexible working arrangements often find it difficult to move outside, as they may not get the same deal on flexibility elsewhere.  The answer may lie, therefore, at least in part, in enhancing parental leave and flexible working arrangements for men.  If all working parents routinely take some time to accommodate family life, then the gender pay gap may be encouraged towards equality. 

 

Today also marks the fourth anniversary of the UK’s shared parental leave policy.  As I have written in the past, the model we have here is far from ideal, in that it does not include a freestanding period of leave for fathers.  The Nordic countries are exemplars of the impact that more equal leave structures can have – in Sweden, men take up a quarter of all parental leave days and have a ‘daddy quota’ which is theirs alone, and lost to the family if they do not use it.  Sweden enjoys very high rates of maternal employment. However, Sweden still has a gender pay gap, explained by familiar patterns of men entering higher-paid sectors of the workforce, and working full-time in greater numbers.  Even at the vanguard of culture change, work towards equality remains to be done. 

 

Back in the UK, gender pay gap reporting has driven the debate around gender inequality at work up the agenda and ensured that the conversation about the factors underlying the figures is high-profile.  If we are to move beyond talk into transformative action, we need to strengthen the incentives towards concrete action to narrow the gender pay gap. Perhaps every five years companies should be held accountable for their action plans.  These narrative accompaniments to the gender pay gap figures are currently produced voluntarily, and it could be that giving them more teeth is a further steer in the right direction, as the Fawcett Society has suggested.  The gender pay gap tells us a lot about the value we give different types of work, and how we accommodate caring for children and family members alongside formal employment.  To level the playing field between men and women we need to take more than baby steps. 

 

Who figures?

14 Mar

Time for another in my occasional series on issues of representation and parliamentary Select Committees.  This one concerns the grandly-named Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC).  It works to examine constitutional issues, and quality and standards in the Civil Service.  This is important stuff, with relevance to public services and government accountability, as well, of course, to the trifling matter of Brexit …

 

Among its current inquiries, is one into Governance of Statistics.  This looks at how the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) is performing, in its role to promote, and to safeguard, official statistics, collated ‘for the public good’.  UKSA oversees government statistics, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the regulatory body which is responsible for the quality of statistics. The stated mission of the official statistics system is to ‘mobilise the power of data to help Britain to make better decisions.’  This mission affects us all – from considering which data to collect in order to inform decisions, through to interpreting statistics.  Official statistics, then, are an essential component in informing government policy and spending decisions, which cover all aspects of our lives. 

 

It’s therefore surprising, as Hetan Shah, head of the Royal Statistical Society, pointed out on Twitter, that, so far, PACAC has taken evidence from 8 men, with a further two slated to appear at the next evidence session.  Not a single female witness has appeared so far during this inquiry.  Shah referred to Caroline Criado Perez’s book on the gender data gap, which has just come out, and illustrates powerfully how women become invisible in systems where decisions are made on the basis of ‘default man’ – the average male.  His needs are met in everything from phone design to town planning, from drug formulation to public sanitation.  By overlooking the different physiques and lives of women, decision-makers can create systems with unintended consequences for women – from long toilet queues to medicines that don’t work effectively; from awkward phones to cars and public transport systems that are less safe for women.  Gender is an essential part of the picture, in deciding what is measured, and whose needs are catered for.

 

In response to Hetan Shah, the Chair of PACAC, Bernard Jenkin, threw up his hands and apologised, admitting that the Committee had got the balance wrong on this occasion.  In extended comments to Civil Service World, he said that the Committee had invited female experts to appear, but should have done more, when the women they approached initially were unable to attend.  Current guidelines state that 40% of witnesses appearing at Select Committee evidence sessions should be women. Clearly PACAC has fallen short this time.  

 

It’s not as if well-qualified women are absent from the field.  Ever since Florence Nightingale famously charted the causes of mortality among soldiers in the Crimean War, women have played a role in the statistics profession. Indeed, two of the four most recent UK National Statisticians, heading up the government statistical service, have been women.  However, economics and public policy as a whole, remain male-dominated at senior levels.  The Office for National Statistics itself, recently lost a sex discrimination case brought by a female economist who was overlooked for promotion, without being interviewed.  The ruling suggested that the ONS still has work to do, in providing equal opportunities for women.  It seems that we don’t just need better data, but better working cultures too.  In achieving this, women’s voices count. 

 

 

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