Working hours again: UK and US

The recent IFS report on the gender pay gap attracted huge coverage – top of the news, and all over the front pages.  It’s the first of a series the Institute is doing on this issue, which is excellent news;  I look forward to seeing what comes out.

The report does an excellent job in distinguishing between the various types of wage gap, in two major respects.  First, it shows the need to distinguish different groups according to the hours they work.  Obviously, the hourly difference is far smaller than the weekly difference, since women work fewer hours: it shrinks from 36% to 19%.  It shrinks further, to 16%, for those who work 20+ hours – ‘half-timers’ as the IFS calls them.



Secondly, the report shows how the gap increases over the life cycle .  It start off small, but grows, at an increasing rate, over time.    As readers of the blog will know, for me the life course perspective is essential:  it is only by understanding what happens over the full 4 to 5 decades of a working life that we will get to the right solutions.   The gap opens up over time because men carry on working full-time , when many women stop working or shift to part-time. The rational explanation for the gap is that men gain more work experience, and are rewarded for this.  But there is experience and experience. The crucial IFS finding is about the cumulative impact of experience:

 “it is only full-time paid work which has substantial benefits in terms of the accumulation of experience that allows workers to command higher wages in future.” (my stress)

Apparently there is some magic potion that turns the hours of a full-time worker into something far more valuable than the hours of the part-timer.

I happened the same day across an  excellent blog from Ben Casselman on the position in the US.  Why are women no longer catching men up on pay?   The narrowing of the pay gap has slowed to almost nothing in the last decade.  The answer, it turns out, is that wage differences are highest amongst those working over 50 hours a week – and these are, of course very preponderantly men.  Ben cites research which shows  that in the early 1980s, fewer than 9 percent of workers (13 percent of men, 3 percent of women) worked 50 hours per week or more. By 2000, over 14 percent of workers (19 percent of men and 7 percent of women) did so.  These overtimers tend to earn more per hour than other groups.  This effect – the overtime effect –  wipes out the educational advantage that women have gained over decades.

The same research, by Youngchoo Cha and Kim Weeden, makes the point that this is not the result of some inherent value in overtime working.  It is, they say, because

 “long work hours have  become embedded in organizational practices, workplace cultures, and beliefs about what it means to be an ideal worker in the contemporary economy. Many employers expect workers to be available whenever clients or supervisors need them, and companies facilitate this 24/7 availability…Employees are also complicit in ratcheting up expectations surrounding work hours, often treating long work hours as a way to signal loyalty and commitment to an organization or occupation and as a source of status in and outside of work.”

So it’s a matter of organisational culture and managerial practice.  And therefore it’s changeable.   Commitment to work has no inherent tie to working long hours (or, to put it the other way round, not working long hours does not signal low commitment); and experience does not only come from working over 20, or over 50 hours in the week.  If mosaic careers are to flourish, the little bits need to be valued as much as the big chunks.

Kevin Roberts and vertical ambition

I doubt that I share much of a worldview with Kevin Roberts, who recently resigned as chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi.  That’s a powerful position – but S&S is now owned by a parent company, Publicis, and they effectively showed him the door after his remarks about the low numbers of women in senior positions in advertising being ‘not a problem’.  (All six of the big advertising agencies have male CEOs.)  ‘The fucking debate is all over’ was apparently his verdict.

“Kevin Roberts has an international reputation for an uncompromisingly positive, inspirational leadership style, and an ability to generate ideas and emotional connections that accelerate extraordinary value”

is how Kevin’s S&S bio (still up) describes him.  I don’t know how many dessertspoonfuls of salt you need to go with an advertising agency’s claim about its own folk.  He has certainly generated some emotional connections on this issue.  Whether his remarks were inspirational and positive is another matter.  But, as more than one commentator observed, Roberts had a genuine point to make about women lacking vertical ambition.  Many women, he said, just wanted to be happy ‘and do great work.’

One question is what lies behind the word ‘lack’.  It carries a fairly strong normative association – i.e. it’s something women should have but don’t.  What the ‘lack’ actually signifies may have something to do with the way work is organised, and what you have to do to get up the vertical career ladder.  I imagine the advertising business is fairly competitive.

But where Roberts is on to something important is the notion that women actually choose to do things differently.  Combining happiness with doing great work is not a sign of passivity or indolence.  On the contrary, it sounds to me like a very desirable, even optimal, direction to take.  And that is true whether or not children are involved.  The traditional ‘work-life’ balance debate is not only about how to reconcile paid work with child-rearing.

This is exactly  what Paula Principle factor 5 is about – positive choice.    Choice is a very slippery term (I’m married to a serious existentialist, so I know), but we surely have to recognise that people do make choices, and whilst some of these are very heavily constrained this isn’t always the case.  So for a woman to make a positive choice not to go further up the vertical ladder, this can’t mean that she would have liked to do it but life at home would have been just too stressful; it means that she could have taken the higher job, but saw that other options were better.

Here’s how I’ve tried to summarise the issue:

  1. The first reason for not seeking to move vertically up the ladder might be because Paula wants to carry on exercising the skills she is already using. She knows she is doing a competent job and wishes to carry on doing it. This is a perfectly rational position, even in rejecting the opportunity for increased financial reward.
  2. Carrying on doing the same job well might indicate a lack of ambition, not just for a career but for improvement. So a variant of the first reason is when Paula sees herself doing a job reasonably well but sees scope still to do it better. Her ambition is to keep learning and improving while doing her same job. This fits well with the stronger tendency of women to see themselves as still needing to learn.
  3. A third reason is that the potential promotion, or new job, is at a higher level but is not actually an attractive job intrinsically. It may involve a big shift in the tasks involved, a change of environment or social circle and/or an abandonment of activities which are cherished.  A managerial role within a university, for example, is qualitatively different from doing exciting research or inspiring teaching. It may pay more but reward less.
  4. Movement need not be vertical to be experienced as a progression. So Paula may be keen on new challenges, willing to move beyond her current position and function – and yet prefer to move sideways rather than upwards. Applying one’s skills in a different environment is a positive step, maybe as much as moving to higher responsibilities,

And here’s a vignette from the book which I think illustrates the issue quite well:

Wilma is 34 and the deputy general secretary of a small trade union.  She referred early on in our discussion to having a young daughter, whose care her partner shares. It emerged later that she has two other children, sons by her first marriage, now aged 18 and 16. So Wilma was an early parent, and her school achievements suffered. Exactly as Denny did, in Educating Rita, her first husband expected her to go on having children and stay at home to look after them, but this was not how she saw things.

Since taking a different route, Wilma has always made a priority of education as a route to career advancement. Studying and gaining qualifications (in her case, in both the formal education system and the union movement) have been almost an article of faith for her and she feels even more strongly that it is something which women generally should be encouraged to pursue. Wilma is justifiably proud of the progress she has made to her current position. Now, however, she faces something of a dilemma. Her path upwards is blocked, mainly because of the structure of the union that employs her. She has spent eight years in her current job. Her egalitarian domestic arrangements mean that she can spend more time with her daughter than she managed with her sons, and she feels comfortable in her position in ‘the foodchain of the workplace’, the vivid metaphor she used to describe the position of a male colleague earlier on in this chapter. But she blushed when she said this, and acknowledged her discomfort at feeling comfortable, because it seems to her to be inconsistent with her persistent striving for improvement. She felt that in some sense she was betraying her credo of a working woman’s duty to advance.

“I’ve taken my foot off the pedal, which is very, very naughty of me. I’m getting more involved in other things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to do my stuff but now I’m just ok. It’s highly embarrassing to admit.”

But it then turned out that she had become a magistrate two years previously and was already sitting on a specialist panel on domestic violence. She is also updating one of her work qualifications. This is hardly what most of us would consider coasting, for a parent with three children. But having driven herself to break out of the original and unwelcome pathway identified for her, and preached to her union members the virtues of education as a route upwards and the need for women to take advantage of career opportunities, she had these values so deeply entrenched that she felt visible discomfort at the idea that she had deviated from them.

Wilma’s is a fine example of a lateral career pattern, mixing paid and unpaid work with professional development but outside the framework of a vertical ladder. She is coming to terms with this turn. “I’ll concede the choice thing. I’ve made choices. If you move sideways, you can get a lot of satisfaction.”

I shouldn’t think Wilma and Kevin Roberts would see eye to eye on many things, but they could certainly have a lively discussion on vertical ambition and what the alternatives are.


Jazz gigs and stag parties: fresh approaches to long hours

In the past week I’ve had two conversations closely related to the Paula Principle, and to each other, in rather unlikely settings.   Both dealt with the issue of whether professional occupations such as lawyers and surveyors needed to require people to work 12-14 hours days in order to make progress up the professional ladder.

Nigel plays baritone sax in the the band where I also play (the South London Jazz Orchestra, since you ask, see   We were waiting for our gig to kick off in a pub in Tulse Hill on a rather damp Sunday afternoon recently, and so started chatting about non-band things.   Nigel has been a successful chartered surveyor, working hours which were way beyond normal.  He actually enjoyed the pressure and managed the hours, but he did not accept that clients should always expect to have the same person available – with the corollary that high-performers should be permanently available.  This requirement is often the one that prevents women from moving up the ladder.  So Nigel made a point of carefully introducing colleagues to clients as people he had faith in, and whom they could contact with as much confidence as if he himself were there.  The aim was to get out from under the assumption that he and only he would do;  and so reduce the need for omnipresence.

On to my wife’s nephew’s stag night, last week (yes, there’s nowhere the Paula Principle doesn’t reach).  One of his friends, Nico, co-manages  a  legal property partnership.  But the partnership  does not employ a set of lawyers and other professionals, with all the obligations that would go with this. Instead, their lawyers  offer no commitment of time and are not required to come into the office.  They are responsible for bringing in their own work – whenever they bring in work they are paid a fixed percentage of the fee for that work, and can decide how many cases/deals they want to take on, and manage their workload accordingly  There is no guarantee of work;  but when there is work it is well paid, in part because overheads are much lower.  The interesting thing is that their first three principal consultants are women who did not want to work ridiculous hours by committing themselves to a conventional law firm (Nico himself had done that for a while, and had enough).

I know that at a general level there are lots of issues around agency work (Nico’s arrangement being a high level version).  But it shows that with imagination and commitment there are new models of professional management and working practices to be developed, which could make much better use of all those competences out there.


I’ve been reading a couple of stimulating books which deal, from very different angles, with the future of work.  Martin Ford’s The Rise of the Robots sets out some pretty scary pointers to just how much work might be handed over to automated processes: not just routine manual processes but quite a lot of what we now consider to be intellectual and non-routine.  He suggests that we may be heading quickly towards the scenario sketched out by Keynes, where people will work far far fewer hours – the difference being that in the modern version there will be colossal inequalities as the benefits of automation will go to a very small segment of the population.

Working time is also a central theme of The 100-Year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott.  They are mainly concerned with how we might move away from a traditional 3-stage model of life.  Their book opens up a huge range of issues, from the essential but depressing challenge of how we plan financially for greatly extended longevity to the much more exciting prospect of new stages of exploration and independent life.  The changing shape of the life course, and how and when we start and stop work, will be the main theme of my next book, once  The Paula Principle is off my hands.

In both books,  skills of very varied kinds, from occupational to interpersonal, are quite central.  They made me think more about teamwork as a desirable competence.  Teamwork is often identified as a soft skill that will become increasingly important in future workplaces.  It may be one of the means by which humans are still able to outdo even the most powerful of computers.   The collective capacity of their different competences interacting with each other  will be much more than the  sum of the individual parts – especially if they can draw on technological support.   Gratton and Scott relate how a group of amateur chess players, augmented by mid-level machines, were able to beat both Grand Masters and supercomputers working separately.

So team work may become more and more important in an age of increased automation.  The question is, how is it rewarded?  Women, typically, are seen as more likely to possess teamwork skills.   One of my interviewees put it this way:

“Women are interested in ‘getting stuff done’; they hate game-playing and internal politicking; they only build networks if they see them as a genuine vehicle for getting things done, and not for the same reason as men do, ie personal advancement. Their language is about ‘we’, about looking for complementary skills in a team, recognising that they themselves cannot do it all.  For men it is about ‘I’; competitive; their personal career.”

In other words women are – as a generalisation – more likely to behave in ways which maximise the overall capacity of the group   But how are these teamwork skills recognised?  For the organisation this is obviously good news, but who benefits as a result?  I’d love to see some evidence on how this ‘invaluable’ skill is actually valued – especially since it might help us reach a better accommodation with the robots.


I confess I’d never heard of womenomics before, but an interesting piece in last weekend’s Financial Times put me right. It’s based on a profile of Miho Otani, a Japanese woman who commands a 3500 tonne warship.  She is intended to represent Prime Minister Abe’s drive to have women occupy 30% of the country’s management position by 2020 .  (‘Abenomics’ was coined to describe the PM’s economic strategy, hence the fellow-neologism.)  The initiative, apparently, stands little chance of reaching its target.

In a way Japan, with Korea, encapsulates the Paula Principle more than any other country.  Japanese women are highly educated.  Young Japanese women enter the labour market in large numbers.  But their career patterns show how poorly used their competencies are, at least as measured by pay.

The first chart below shows that some progress has been made on the overall gender pay gap in Japan.  It shrunk by about six points in the first decade of the century;  but it remains very high by international standards.

The second pair of charts tell a story that is both very simple and quite complex.  On the one hand in Japan, as elsewhere, the pay gap increases very significantly as people get older.  This is well-known, crucial but very often overlooked in the discussion.  I guess we could say ‘intersectionality’ is at play here – i.e. age combines with gender to magnify the effects. But Panel A presents only cross-sectional data.  Older women have fewer qualifications, especially in a society such as Japan where women’s education has progressed so quickly in recent decades.  So we would expect a big difference in the pay gap between different age groups.

This is where Panel B introduces interesting information.  It compares the position for the same cohort, at two different time points.  The cohort was born in the first years of the 1970s, and the pay gap was measured when they were in their late 20s and again when they were in their 30s.    As young women starting out on their careers they experienced a sizeable gap but one that was not that much above the OECD average (and well below some countries from eastern Europe).  But ten years on Japanese women, along with their Korean counterparts , experience the highest pay gap of all OECD countries.


Commander Omani is obviously making her way in what would be a very tough environment in any culture or country.  The territorial tensions in the Pacific area are hotting up, with very real possibility of maritime clashes.  She is in a very big job.  She may not have many female equivalents in other parts of her country’s economy.






We went on Saturday to the Turkish film Mustang , which tracks the passage from childhood of five girls.  The girls live with their uncle and grandmother (the parents have disappeared, perhaps dead) in quite a rural area, 1000 km from Istanbul.  In the first phase of the film they are carefree and vivacious, larking around with boys at the end of school term and chattering non-stop with each other.

Gradually the tenor of the film changes, as the older people assert traditional cultural mores.  Two of the girls are married off to boys they only meet on the day of the betrothal.  The others resist in various ways, but the house is turned literally into a prison, as bars are nailed across the windows, and locks turned.  The atmosphere of the film turns steadily darker, as the clash of generations and cultures catches the girls in its grip.


The film is far from perfect (though we differed in our ratings).  I found the girls too beach-Californian in appearance, and there are several points of total implausibility – indeed the film doesn’t really pretend to plausibility, but this makes it quite hard to gauge the strength of its critique.  But it’s a very powerful insight into the stresses of growing up in a country where there are such conflicting pressures.

Turkey is right at the crossroads of a number of huge tensions – military, political and cultural, as well, obviously, as the enormous stress provoked by the Syrian crisis.   I have no detailed knowledge of the country,  or sympathy for the current regime there, but my perception is that its treatment at the hands of the West has been exploitative and often duplicitous, most notably a decade or more ago on its supposed access to the European Union.

Education may be helping them cope with these stresses;  but it may also drive some of them.  Women in Turkey have not yet quite caught up with men in their educational achievement.  But is in other OECD countries, that is the  inevitable trend.  Girls of the Mustang generation will be outperforming their male equivalents.   Their parents and grandparents may seek to maintain the old traditions, but it will be a rough ride.











Graduates and non-graduates: RF & HEPI

Two reports have come out in the last few days which complement each other well.

The first is from the Resolution Foundation, and focuses on the much-neglected group of people who have some qualifications but are not graduates.  This is the RF exactly fulfilling its remit of shedding light on what is happening to the middle segments of our society – squeezed or not.   Given the number of people who hold vocational qualifications, and the number of times we hear about the UK’s lack of intermediate skills, it’s absurd that we pay so little attention to them.

The report produces quite a neat typology of non-graduates:  from ‘ladder climbers’ , who have reasonable career prospects, through ‘no way up’ to ‘needing a boost’.  The most PP-relevant group are the  “Skilled-but-stuck – Overqualified mums in part-time work”.  They are:

o 16% of non-graduates

o Mostly mothers working in low-paying occupations like sales & customer service

o Their route has not made the most of their education: over-qualified for their sector, more likely

to work part-time

o Their median hourly wage is £10.50; £8.25 for part-timers.

This is a big group of women whose competences are often heavily under-utilised.  The part-time effect is very strong – see PP posts passim.  One very interesting consequence is that the graduate premium – the amount graduates are paid more than non-graduates – is higher  for women than men: not because women graduates are paid better than men (indeed not) but because women non-graduates are paid so much less than their male equivalents.

The report makes excellent use of cohort data.  This reveals how the pattern of younger generations earning more than their predecessors has broken down.  Those born in 1983 were earning less at age 30ish than those in the previous generation.  And the typical graduate from the 1980s cohort – now in their mid-thirties – earns 15 per cent less than the typical graduate from the 1970s cohort did at the same age.

Unsurprisingly, graduates displacing non-graduates is a particularly strong reason for the difficulties the latter encounter.  Here a sectoral breakdown is important. Non-graduate displacement  happens particularly in public administration and health – exactly the sectors where women work most.

The RF report dovetails well with the recent analysis from the Higher Education Policy Institute of male underachievement in higher education.  This chronicles exactly the phenomenon which first prompted me to work on the PP:  the consistent, and now long-standing, pattern of male underperformance in education.

” UCAS’s latest End of Cycle report shows the entry rate for men increased by much less than for women in 2015, widening the gap between the sexes to a record 9.2 percentage points at age 18, meaning young women are now 35 per cent more likely to go to university than men. If this differential growth carries on unchecked, then girls born this year will be 75 per cent more likely to go to university than their male peers.”

On current trends, the gap between rich and poor will  be eclipsed by the gap between males and females within a decade.  Moreover males are more likely to drop out;  and get lower grades if they finish.

HEPI is admirably clear that this is not a matter of moral panic over male failure

 “Policymaking is not a zero-sum game in which you have to choose between caring about female disadvantage or the socio-economic gap or male underachievement. All three matter.”

But, as we know, the payoff to this higher achievement is not there.  Men still go into better paying work.  The report suggests a number of reasons:

work. Compared to female undergraduates, male undergraduates typically:

•• start their job search earlier;

•• are more confident about their prospects;

•• are less daunted by approaching employers;

•• are less concerned about many of the steps in making a job application;

•• are less likely to seek job security;

•• are less likely to desire work for ‘a cause they feel good about’;

•• believe job stereotypes less; and

•• are not as keen on careers with less structured entry procedures (such as cultural, charitable and media jobs as opposed to financial, engineering and information technology roles).

In short, putting these two studies together helps us to look at both graduates and non-graduates; to get a sense of just how deep the impetus is behind women’s outdoing men educationally;  and to get a firmer grip on the need to how what happens in one part of society (gender patterns of entry into HE) interacts with other parts (career blockage for female non-graduates).  These relationships are not easy to grasp in a single frame, but we need to try to keep them in some kind of focus.


Grandparenting and the club sandwich

An interesting piece in yesterday’s Financial Times on grandparents (in the main, grandmothers) who find themselves an essential part of their children’s (mainly daughters) childcare arrangements.  This is, often, at the expense of their own career, which may have just been taking off again.

The lead story (for those of you who aren’t behind the FT’s paywall) is about an accountant, Tracey Conway, who had moved up from 2 days a week to 5 days – and has now gone down again to help look after her grandson, as her daughter pursues her career at the bank.  She finds much to be happy about it, especially her strong link with the little boy, but it’s meant that her professional skills at yet again in semi-limbo.

The FT gives useful information on how grandparents can get leave for this kind of thing in various countries, and various organisations such as Santander.  In the UK the government recently ‘announced a plan’ to change the rules on parental leave so some of it can be transferred to grandparents.  It’s not clear if that plan will actually happen.   It has happened in Germany.

The impact of demography on skills is gradually attracting more attention.  A recent Institute of Directors report gives  much-needed plug for lifelong learning – hurrah.  It says:

“just 69 per cent of 50 to 64-yearolds today are in paid work compared to 83 per  cent of their younger counterparts. Ominously, by 2025 there will be 750,000 fewer people aged between 16 and 49, but 3.7 million more people aged between 50 and 64…. The UK economy will have to make adjustments to provide and then to capitalise upon a greater supply of educated older labour.”

The IoD report doesn’t mention that an increasing proportion of these will be well-qualified women, but I hope they’d see the logic of supporting grandparental leave.

The demographic reach goes further.  We know about the sandwich generation.   But the FT piece gives us a new variant:  the ‘club sandwich generation’ – signalling the growth of 4-generation families.  This gives rise to some fairly mind-boggling permutations, e.g. member of G2 looking after elderly member of G1 and at the same time G3′s small G4 member…


Why any skills assessment can’t ignore older women

Older women are habitually treated as marginal figures in the labour force .   I’ve just come across some figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that really drive home why this should no longer be the case.

Here are the key points:

1.  The participation rate for women aged 55+  is already over one-third.  That, if I’ve understood the figures correctly, is of all women aged 55+, i.e. including centenarians and beyond.

2.  Nearly one third (32.8%) of F aged 65-69 will be in work by 2024.  So much for conventional ways of giving us the labour force figures, stopping at 65.

3.   Nearly one quarter  (22.4%) of all F aged 65-74 are already in work, rising to 26.2%  by 2024.   This amount to 4.9 million women.

More figures, if you want them, below.   I’m going to look now for the UK equivalents, where the trend is surely similar.   The point of course is that this segment of the labour force will be increasingly highly qualified, and will have accumulated massive experience as well.  Just as importantly, it means that even if women take a partial or total career break to bring up children, they will very often have a full 30 years or so of working life ahead of them after that.

This radically affects the kinds of  calculation to be made over the costs of jettisoning or ignoring all those skills.  I recall one friend telling me that at age 55 or so she had decided against going back to do a Masters, in part because she wouldn’t have enough time to put the new qualification to work.  This was 8 or 10 years ago, and even then she began to think it might have been a wrong decision.  We can see from the figures just how the horizons have extended.


Workers 55 years and older. In contrast to the declining trend of the youth labor force, the number of workers 55 years and older in the labor force grew from 15.5 million in 1994 to 23.0 million in 2004. Then, in 2014, their number climbed to 33.9 million, nearly 11 million more than in 2004. The group’s share of the total labor force also increased, from 11.9 percent in 1994, to 15.6 percent in 2004, to 21.7 percent in 2014. The 55-years-and-older age group is projected to increase its number in the labor force to 40.6 million in 2024, and its share is expected to reach nearly 25 percent that year. Within the group, the labor force share of the 55-to-64-year-olds increased from 8.9 percent in 1994, to 12.2 percent in 2004, to 16.4 percent in 2014.The group’s share of the total labor force is expected to grow to 16.6 percent over the next decade, and within the 55-years-and-older group, the older subgroups will increase their shares faster than the younger ones.  [my itals]



Adam Smith’s dinner: man-made?

Two PP-relevant books to report on.

Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner has a chirpy title  and a distinctive style.  Katrina Marçal is a Swedish journalist who lays about her with relish.  Her main target is homo economicus, beginning with the eponymous Scottish original.  The answer to the title’s question is ‘his mother’, and Marçal’s treatment of AS is characteristic of her general approach:  vigorous, often amusing, landing some good heavy punches, but not exactly even-handed.  Old Adam gets labelled as an advocate of every=man-for-himself, with not much nuance about it, which is a tad simplistic.

It’s an enjoyable and stimulating book, and many economists deserve the mauling they get.  When it comes to skills, Marçal observes:

“Who says that you don’t become a better boss by getting a household to run smoothly?  Who says that one can’t become a better analyst by taking care of children? As a parent you’re an economist, diplomat, handyman, politician, cook and nurse.”

It’s not a wholly original point, but we are now getting more of a discussion on what types of skills are required in different jobs, and the question of what makes a good economist is certainly worth more than a long dinner conversation.  Conversely, how we define and reward the skills demanded of care workers is also moving up the agenda, and Marçal points out how big the projected recruitment deficits are for these workers: 130,000 in Sweden, which rewards them better than most.

Finally, I enjoyed another thought-provoking point from George Soros (whose solution to the Eurozone crisis – that Germany should leave it – I have find totally convincing, and have never met anyone who could argue against it).  He is quoted is saying that the market is not always right; in fact it’s always wrong –  it has to be wrong for people to play it.

Who Cooked AS' dinnerman-made

The other book is Man-Made, by Eva Tutchell and John Edmonds.  This is based on 100 interviews with successful people, almost all women and mostly from the UK.  It makes many good points, including several that cover the PP ground: the importance of self-confidence, the role of networks, the persistence of discrimination.   They also deal with the issue of just how far women should, or should be expected to, model themselves on male patterns.  One of their interviewees reports herself as having at one point ‘fallen into the trap’ of wearing a black trouser suit and adopting a generally sharp and unsympathetic style, until she realised this was not doing her of her colleagues any good.

Man-Made is clear, applied and readable.  It forcefully reminds us of the overt sexism that still exists in the workplace, in different forms.   Tutchell is the lead author but it’s good to see a man joining in the debate.  The book focusses only on top people, which is fair enough but limits its scope.  My main beef with it is the unexamined assumption that equality means exactly 50/50.  The authors scoff at unambitious thresholds of 30% participation levels.  They discuss quotas, but  not the difficulties around an exact split.  How does this square with most thinking on gender, which does not see it is a binary split?   What is wrong with 60% women on boards?  What  (seriously) would they do about transgenders or those who would like to refuse a gender allocation?  The assumption is the equality is to be understood in the simple numerical sense.  A pity ( all the more important since they argue that the business case for greater equality is not that strong; it’s the fairness one that counts). 

So, what sort of chef cooks Christine Lagarde’s dinners?