Friday, January 26, 2007

Tae the Lassies

Really the history of modern women in the work place came about with the war for the big three economies – UK, Hitler’s germany and the USA. Post war other countries faced either labour shortages or an economy rapidly industrialising from an agricultural base, as was the case in Scandinavia.

In the latter case, women in Scandinavia and France and other such like countries were used to a division of labour wherein even hard labour could be tackled by a woman in the largely agricultural and rural societies and artisan city lives. True families may have been large, and this was the reserve of the woman in her 20s, but they shared tasks and mutual respect.

In the former case, war-work let women see the camaraderie and feeling of accomplishment men had enjoyed in manufacturing jobs. Money was no longer a matter of house keeping pennies, with the man in control, it was a matter of personal triumph and autonomy. Even if those early wages were often unequal to men, they were a far more inflated and disposable income than the weekly housekeeping. The novelty never wore off, did it girls?

After the war women were by in large in the big three economies, back in their place with the soldiers taking the helm of bread-winning once again. Collective working class housing and close communities re-inforced the stereotype of pre-war women at home. The middle class idyll of man with pipe and slippers after the commute home to the ‘burbs was reinforced by the media, run by, er middle class blokes travelling home and expecting their dinner on the go and some time with the racing pages over a pipe!

However, the Barbera Castles and organised women in Scandinavia and later the USA took on the righteous fight which would bubble on until the watershed legislation in the mid seventies. This is all good in my books and I must say I enjoy working with both sexes, the majority of my roles actually being in women dominated departments!!

Women from everyday life could aspire. No longer would it be an up hill fight or pure chance, or family money which could propel a woman into the career market. But Equality took time to catch on. Still there are some roles seen as ‘traditionally female’ which have long standing low pay- mainly in health sectors and primary or nursery education. Still there is male predominance in engineering. The glass ceiling is only cracking and not breaking. I come back to this after a digression.

Women in developed countries have had a 3 decade love affair with careers and the working life style. Men on the other hand have had a long standing culture of scepticism to work and bolchy-ness on how much they are getting paid and where else they might get more. That is a male thing. Discontented but winning, most often, the majority of the bread for the family and so a little stuck in what they are doing. The mid life crisis comes along for most when they realise they are still in an every day struggle to fight either heavy office politics or quenching boredom.

Women have a different perspective. It can be quite subtle to spot the differences. I think it probably relates to women having a strong will for recognition and a feeling of common feminity while being actually quite individualistic in their working ethic.

On the ‘shop floor’ men tend to be far more into camaraderie, they tend to bond together like a rugby team given long enough together and out of the immediate gaze of management. There are common conversational queues, such as of course the football. Once a conversation on politics breaks out all sorts of opinions are offered. So men behave like a pack of dogs with the alpha male knowing on them once in a while, barking once and again and only showing downright dominance and humiliation to the worst offenders.

Men tend to view their careers as also working with a bunch of mates, having some longe term friendly banter, or maybe as a steady slog towards the top with no given right to get there. Women on the other hand see the whole workplace as a highly competitive environment, where individuals must be seen to be getting along with everyone but actually relentlessly looking for promotion and ways to be more equal than the men.

Often through breaks in career for travel and children, lower university performance in vocational courses ( still true ladies!), less valued qualifications or lower level of tertiary education , a perceived lack of aggression and will to succeed or just plain incompetence in wage admin and policy women still end up earning less than men in the SAME roles.

But more often now feelings of injustice are focused on comparison between “traditional” female roles, most often in health and social care, and other male dominated roles. This man drives a machine. This women is a nurse. They get different pay. This is unfair. It is the same level. Of course it isn’t- the man knew that the gadget operators job came with a rare bit of training and paid better in the long term. The women took a stereotypical role, and accepted in the out set that this was shite pay. If women don’t vote with their feet, like men do in the economic up cycle and leave low paid jobs or not take them in the first place, then they will be locked into a cycle of false hopes and lining union officials and lawyers pockets.

Men are far more likely to say, “fuck this for a game of soldiers, the pay is shite I am off to be a plumber” than women. Women see the vertical in career, with the only thing holding them back from breaking the glass ceiling being all that prejudice and sexism.

This is where I make my key point about this fucking glass ceiling. The majority of those above are still men. However, those men represent a tiny fraction of the male working population. Senior management is not only peppered with women there is a huge raft of eighties career girl graduates being promoted into VP roles and finding higher roles outside their firms today. The very top is a tiny amount- just as there are few genii and they tend to be male.

Let’s face it, do you really want to go there? Most men don’t. Is it really a natural, seemless progression up the ladder with the only thing holding women back being sexism and the urge to take three years on slow to cuddle babies? More men would be quite happy to give up the time to stay at home of the kids than you would believe. Ok, many won’t entertain the idea. But the majority who would probably can’t because they are locked into keeping their job and the mortgage rat-race.

Women being in the work place was a Morgan Freedman dream come true. A massive de-restriction in the labour supply, a boost to all those competitive conniving situations which make capitalism really work, and most of all a massive boost to the capital lending markets with rocketing house prices. Oh yes, you are to blame Ladies.

I bet on that you can tack house prices with the number of women entering management by a proportional or even exponential relationship on a graph. There is equality of wages, yippee, but not equality on real estate. Supply from the new found spinsters, the bachelorettes and the DINKYs fuel those rocketing house prices. And you pushing the family for a bigger place for the next baby. Hubby wants a Doberman and the new play station 3. He’d live in a student flat the whole of his life if it wasn’t for wife and kids, and new bachelor does just that!!

Some people get lucky- couples can afford a lovely dream house or move to the country by transferring their jobs in the public sector to a cheaper council and selling up their wheelie bin of a flat in docklands. Most just struggle and first time buyer yuppie not only has to lie to get a mortgage, but finds out that one bedroom space capsules are actually not that desirable to anyone else than yuppies and their wages aren’t going up right now. They are also virtually unrentable- at a profit at least. Stuck in your hutch, starsky!

But women in my experience within my (ex) professions are genuinely better at the job!! I mean that. They are better at not appearing to take issues personally while trumpet blowing is greated with smiles from their male colleagues and ‘one up for us girls’ from the tit and fanny brigade. On the bad hand there it is “the situation” whereas a man may take responsibility and get a tad defensive or guilty. On the other it is jumping up and down for attention and recognition, where a man might appreciate a pat on the back and a beer down the dog and duck from his boss.

Women are better at getting all soft and apologetic with customers and other departments whlist at other times showing a level of anger and aggression which would not be tolerated from a deep voiced burly man! In a woman it is mysteriously called assertiveness whereas the male body language (unavoidable) and louder voice, and less bitchy more fisty cuffs and forget it approach is taken.

They are better at getting the hell what they want and showing everyone what the hell the have done, making sure they get “what’s in it for me” and all that effing trumpet blowing and ‘we won’, ‘our latest corporate PR in plumbers weekly’ cc e-mails. Good at communicating- read talks a lot and tries to make everyone feel good in doing that before actually achieving anything.

9 parts hot air to one part action is actually what is required these days in the delayered multinational where “managing without authority” has become the norm, even when people have titles like ‘ project manager’! It’s all about motivating other people into doing a win-win job ! Yeeehah! It’s all about getting the touchy feely people on board and thinking they are going to get something out of it ( read, a footnote of recognition on a girly e-mail) while cajoling, patronising, and bullying the others to join in. It’s all about getting the girlies behind you while getting the men’s bosses to tell them to obey you.

To sum up on that rant, women are better at doing all the superficial stuff and nurturing the touchy-feely atmosphere. Many even know that this is necessary pre-requisite, others are just good at being glib. Charm is used for bosses above them at all times. Charm, get them on side then ask for what you want.

Also they are as I said above, better at managing by proxy and accordingly better at getting things un-decided. Men still have some stupid notion of fair play and taking things on face value. Meetings have an authority in their own right, and decisions made should be stuck to. Women know that things can be turned with a bit of leg work round the office, and that meetings rarely actually get things done. To them meetings merely catalyse ideas and let them know what their opponents think or want to do. Meetings are like being in court with real action being done in the anterooms!!

So now you are 35 Miss, or Ms. Gen X. You work a twelve hour day with some later t-cons you wouldn’t want to miss happening once a week. You have your cappuccino machine and your cat in your flat and those nice letters from your ex boyfriends you never had time for. You watch the once cute single guys go home at 5 to play with their kids. You get paid the same, but hell, you’re a woman and you have to work twice as hard to stay where you are and three times as hard to get promoted. Come on girls, stop lying to yourselves.

In terms of wages, men know that the only way to really get on is to play hard ball. Women will sit longer on a pay band and accept more responsibility of the same pay because of the dream of promotion.

You are conspiring with the Morgan Freedmans and the “less is more” capatilists. You are effectively keeping other girls out of the work place and negating the company’s actual need for a promotional hierarchy by doing all the work. You have no one to manage. You do it all. Men knew all along that it’s about selling your life to some bastards. Women thought they were buying a life.


So women, bloody well train to be an engineer! Sit through nights of maths and nothing to get touchy-feely with. Put up with taciturn colleagues who don’t like being told what to do (by anyone) Mingle with the unwashed males, the hectic hormonal females, the neurotic failures on both sides and the bitter spinster-bachelor-divorcee crowd in the dull, dreary work places of former ‘male’ professions.
-Put up with a bit of the old boy network and, wait for it , a more capable and political-able female being parachuted in to the role you had cosseted for your own promotion!!!!!! Put up with the boredom of day to day work and the de-layering stifling promotional opportunities.
Grow old and bitter and hateful of the 9 to 5 and start a little hobby in a small wooden house at the foot of the garden to get away from this and the kids thrash metal. In short, become a man. Otherwise just carry on in nursing, teaching, personnel or marketing.

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