3 February 2010

A working breakfast

A news site recently reported:
“Women are dramatically under-represented in the boardrooms of major
corporations in Germany and need state-imposed quotas to achieve parity.”
(http://www.thelocal.de/money/20100127-24863.html) Well, I never! What a revelation – you could have knocked me down with a feather!

Did it take them many months of investigation and research to come up with this earth shaking conclusion? Were many man/woman-hours expended in reaching this outcome? (Far be it for me to criticise or state the obvious, but this august institute need look no further than its own internal hierarchy to come up with exactly the same answer.) Why didn’t they just come and ask me? I could have told them exactly the same thing, for free, and on the spot. I’m sure a lot of other ordinary people in the street could have told them the same piece of information as well. One need not look further than one’s own local discount supermarket: even in these humble business establishments, you can bet your bottom Euro that the manager will be a man. Ditto in any other retail outlets, be they department stores, electrical stores or what have you. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve walked into a big store and been confronted by a wall of mug shots of employees serving at that particular branch. A mixture of men and women at the bottom of the pile, but as you get higher up the hierarchy, the women disappear.

If women can’t get to be supermarket managers, then how do you expect them to get the key to the boardroom washroom?

The Institute for Economic Research (http://www.diw.de/de) did well to interrogate gender imbalances in areas of vital importance to society. What everyone needs to do now, however, is ask why these imbalances exist in the first place. Once we have found out the answer to that particular thorny question, we must then ask ourselves how we can correct the imbalance.

Laura Liswood has also looked at the issue of women at the top (http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,675620,00.html - ‘Men Who Have Daughters Tend to See Better’). Much more needs to be done than merely imposing quotas on parliaments and boards. Perhaps it is a lot more difficult than we imagine to change centuries of deeply entrenched prejudices and mindsets.

Incidentally, some may see this issue as a “work-life balance” issue. But why should someone have to choose between either work or life? Work is a part of life; life encompasses everything and everyone. If work does not belong to that vast category called ‘life’ then where does it belong?

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Squeaky Door by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.