All my working life I have preferred working with female bosses.
They appeared more incisive, more able to appreciate the bigger picture and better able to understand the practical implications.
I remember getting on a plane filled with businessmen. The pilot addressed them. You could feel the sharp intake of breath as they heard the voice of a woman pilot. I have to say it was one of the smoothest landings I have experienced.
The situation faced by women in the workplace has been the subject of no small quantity of reform and legislation over the decades.
And yet despite all these efforts I am not convinced that their lot has improved anywhere near as much as we might like to tell ourselves.
Incredibly. it was under the presidency of John F. Kennedy in 1963, at a time when America was riven with social division and racial strife. introduced an equal pay act giving women the right to have the same rate for the job as men.
It wasn’t until 1970 that the UK followed his example and ruled it illegal to discriminate between the treatment of men and women on pay and conditions of employment.
However, as the recent wages scandal at the BBC has shown, this is still rife in the workplace.
Our civil service was one of the first employers to implement the changes in equal wages for work of the same or similar value
My own experience in the workplace was when open reporting became standard in the Department of Health and Social Security.
I had prepared my appraisal reports on two very competent individuals. As their manager I had recommended them for promotion. However my senior disagreed.
On the first applicant it was suggested that she dressed very well and gave an air of elegance which would upset other workers in the department. On the second, because of her age it was felt she would probably have children and leave.the service.
Astonishing I know. But that is how workplace promotions were viewed in the 1970s.
In the end I refused to change my report and the senior gave those as valid reasons for disagreeing with me.
Various improvements in the workplace have helped and initiatives like free child care have moved the issue on. However, nearly 50 years after the Act, the journey to equality is still remarkably slow.
Throughout the UK women’s pay is still 10% lower than that of their male counterparts. In the UK, the average wage for men is £594 whereas for women it is £494. But this is an average and masks some underlying trends
One of the key reasons for this is in the lower paid jobs. Where there is a high level of qualification e.g. in law, accountancy, medical services, general practitioners- women do succeed.
However in lower paid jobs , cooking, catering and in particular the care sector, women have to fight for parity of esteem with their male colleagues.
Today, despite Aberdeen City Council having an “Ethical Care Charter”, there are still care workers who have to fund their own travel to clients and work long shifts, often preventing them having the legal break of 11 hours between the end of one shift and the start of another.
The introduction of single status by local authorities was meant to level out the earnings differences in manual and blue collar workers. However lack of cash from central government and assumptions e.g. that physical manual work was tougher than the mental stress and emotional strain of care work failed to address fully these issues.
Again in many cases there were assumptions made that that there was men’s work and women’s work. Men would empty the bins but women would be more comfortable cooking and serving school dinners and general reception duties.
As a new councillor in 1982, a colleague from another political party on discovering I had been appointed spokesperson for social work offered his commiserations that I hadn’t been given a “man’s” committee like economic development or planning.
I was delighted a couple of years later to propose two women to join the planning committee and it was one of the best moves we ever made. Planning suddenly became more realistic.
I believe it should be mandatory for all companies to publish their wages scales so that everyone is clear that that they have the same wage for doing the same or similar jobs.
Oil companies in particular have hidden their job rates and several people doing similar or equivalent jobs are often paid separately negotiated wage rates. A great way to hide inequalities.
If it is good enough for our civil service, our NHS, our police and local authorities then it is good enough for the private sector too. I works perfectly well in Scandinavian countries.
I’ve often been asked if i favour positive discrimination for women. My answer is no. As positive discrimination for women also means discrimination against men.
That’s is not an equal approach and often leads to a token woman situation rather than the best person for the post.
It is regrettable that in the 21st Century we are still fighting the demons of the past but our future lies with younger more enlightened generation.