Gender Debate Summary with Lola Young
The third Equal-Works live debate was on gender equality. The guest was Baroness Lola Young, former head of culture at GLA, academic and arts consultant.
There is still ambivalence about women with families in the workplace - too few women in boardrooms and senior positions. Women’s pay still lags behind men’s. There are still stereotypical attitudes, but they also apply to men in occupations like childcare. There are too few women and men studying science and technology. ‘What’s important is to widen the talent pool by attracting women’, she said.
‘People used to have a better work/life balance’, she pointed out. Now working long hours is a kind of badge of honour. ‘Your working life will be better if you have something outside work.’
Small firms can face problems with equality legislation. Women must not be disadvantaged or disenfranchised, but individual solutions are needed for very small firms. In the public sector, the Gender Equality Duty sets a framework for the culture we need. ‘Now,’ she said, ‘people just need to get on and do it’.
Women have got to the top of a number of organisations, but there appears to be an ‘iron collar’ that stops women getting the better middle management jobs. ‘We need to see more women at all levels in organisations’. Only 6% of women are self-employed and setting up businesses. She pointed to research showing African and Caribbean women as the most entrepreneurial. ‘But BME women are less likely to get bank loans than others – if anyone’s risk averse it’s the banks’.
‘The most entrepreneurial people in the world’, she said, ‘are migrants’, and she referred to a recent report showing that among those most likely to encourage their daughters to study and get into work were Muslim families.
Finally we must learn from good experience. ‘One problem’, she said, ‘is rabid short-termism – we’re not great at sharing good practice – some find it easier to reinvent the wheel than look back’.
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