The Paula Principle

Flexibility and careers

In the PP I argue that one of the key changes - if not the key change - needed for a fairer recognition of women's competences is in the way we think about careers: getting away from the model of full-time continuous employment with progression along a linear ladder. Surely, you may say, this is disappearing out of the window - kept open to let the coronavirus out. Well, Timewise has just published its annual review of flexible working. In 2020 there was a big jump in the overall proportion of jobs offered on a flexible basis, from 17% to 24%. Progress has not been sustained at the same rate,…
Read More

Who participates in E&T: the F/M gap…

A recent piece by Petra Ahrens and Lise Rolandsen Agustin in Social Europe addressed gender equality in European institutions. They showed that there has quite strong progress towards numerical equality in the European Parliament; but this simple top-level statistic disguises how institutional mechanisms operate to sideline the issue. In particular: Gender equality is still habitually misunderstood as a ‘women’s issue’—often in a way which essentialises identity—or defensively restricted to its ‘business case’. Many MEPs continue to see gender equality as a niche with little to do with other policy domains and thus commitment to gender equality remains limited in a lot of committees and political groups. In addition, the growing…
Read More

International GPG scorecard

I'm something of a sucker for international comparisons. As it happens I'm also highly sceptical of many international ranking tables, which often court the publicity that comes from such ranking by overstretching the intrinsic validity of their measures. The Fawcett Society and Kings College's Global Institute for Women's Leadership have combined to produce Bridging the Gap an interesting set of case studies on gender pay gap reporting. The report centres round a score card which is used to rank the six participating countries. Happily it does so in a way which seems to me reasonable and helpful. The countries are Australia, South Africa, Spain, France, Sweden and the UK. I'll…
Read More

On not knowing: the arc of ignorance

"Saying 'I don't know' is becoming increasingly rare these days". That was Elif Shafak, the wonderful Turkish writer as she exchanged views with Bernard-Henri Lévy on the slightly-less-than-cheerful topic of Misery and Hope at a recent Kings Place event. (Chapeau to the KP for hosting these events as part of their distinctive programming.) I've just finished Shafak's latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees, an imaginative and genuinely moving account of a love affair that has to bridge Cyprus' bitter Greco-Turkish divide (and featuring a fig tree as one of the main characters...). Her simple phrase chimes with something I've been thinking about recently, often in relation to American political…
Read More

Meritocracy revisited

I've been thinking again about meritocracy, prompted in part by reading Adrian Wooldridge's bracing book The Aristocracy of Talent. From one angle, the Paula Principle is exactly about meritocracy: it deals with our failure to reward talent and competence fairly and appropriately. So it's been very welcome to have had access to such a broadly-informed and readable volume. The notion of meritocracy is itself contested, as shown by a recent Intelligence Squared debate between Wooldridge and the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel. Sandel's view is that merit is fine but meritocracy is not: it is a system of rule that allows those who rise to the top to justify their winnings.…
Read More

Peggy Seeger and crossovers

Forgive the self-indulgence, but I have to share a coincidence. Bear with me - there is more than one PP-related point to it. I was walking yesterday on Hampstead Heath, listening as I occasionally do to Michael Berkeley's programme of musical interviews, Private Passions. The guest this week was Peggy Seeger, the folk singer. At 86 she was sharp, full of humour and very open. Towards the end of the programme, Peggy talked about one of her most famous songs, "I want to be an engineer". She described its origins: she was doing the accounts when her partner Ewen MacColl came down and said they needed a song, urgently; Peggy…
Read More

Chinese women: linking PP and TH

"China's female professionals are fighting the world's lowest retirement age." The item in the FT caught my attention because it links my past and my present: the struggle for greater recognition for women's competences, across the full life course (Paula Principle, book done); and the changing definitions of where people stand in that life course (Triple Helix, book still very much to be done). I couldn't find trends on Chinese women's educational achievement in the OECD's comparative statistics. Gathering these will be a huge task. But I'd be willing to bet that in the metropolitan regions at least young Chinese women over outdoing their male contemporaries. However older women will…
Read More

GPG reporting internationally

Requiring companies to report on their gender pay gaps is becoming more common around the world. A 6-country analysis from the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King's College London draws on 80 interviews with people well placed to judge what impact this is having, and what the main challenges are. The countries' scorecards are below. The report's conclusions are to some extent predictable (though none the less valid for all that): a need for greater transparency and accountability; stronger sanctions; measurable targets; and integration of policies to deal with GPGs at all levels. But the insights from the launch's widely experienced panel discussion were particularly valuable. More than one…
Read More

The Known World

"A man does not learn very well, Mr Robbins. Women, yes, because they are used to bending with whatever wind comes along. A woman, no matter what the age, is always learning, always becoming. But a man, if you will pardon me, stops learning at fourteen or so. He shuts it all down, Mr Robbins. A log is capable of learning more than a man. To teach a man would be a battle, a war, and I would lose." This is Fern Elston speaking, in Edward P. Jones' wonderfully original and informative novel about slavery, The Known World. Fern Elston is a free black woman, a teacher, and she is…
Read More

WEF report: double depression

The latest World Economic Forum report on the Gender Pay Gap is depressing for two reasons. I applaud the WEF for its attention to the issue, but I find its 'solution' simplistic. First, it shows that worldwide the cause of greater equality has been put into reverse. The latest trends means that it will take "a staggering 257 years to close the gap on economic participation for women – compared to 202 years in last year’s report." We know that the pandemic has added to women's unpaid work burdens; caused many women to drop out of the employment; and hit the occupations in which women tend to work harder than…
Read More

Flexibility and careers

In the PP I argue that one of the key changes - if not the key change - needed for a fairer recognition of women's competences is in the way we think about careers: getting away from the model of full-time continuous employment with progression along a linear ladder. Surely, you may say, this is disappearing out of the window - kept open to let the coronavirus out. Well, Timewise has just published its annual review of flexible working. In 2020 there was a big jump in the overall proportion of jobs offered on a flexible basis, from 17% to 24%. Progress has not been sustained at the same rate,…
Read More

Who participates in E&T: the F/M gap…

A recent piece by Petra Ahrens and Lise Rolandsen Agustin in Social Europe addressed gender equality in European institutions. They showed that there has quite strong progress towards numerical equality in the European Parliament; but this simple top-level statistic disguises how institutional mechanisms operate to sideline the issue. In particular: Gender equality is still habitually misunderstood as a ‘women’s issue’—often in a way which essentialises identity—or defensively restricted to its ‘business case’. Many MEPs continue to see gender equality as a niche with little to do with other policy domains and thus commitment to gender equality remains limited in a lot of committees and political groups. In addition, the growing…
Read More

International GPG scorecard

I'm something of a sucker for international comparisons. As it happens I'm also highly sceptical of many international ranking tables, which often court the publicity that comes from such ranking by overstretching the intrinsic validity of their measures. The Fawcett Society and Kings College's Global Institute for Women's Leadership have combined to produce Bridging the Gap an interesting set of case studies on gender pay gap reporting. The report centres round a score card which is used to rank the six participating countries. Happily it does so in a way which seems to me reasonable and helpful. The countries are Australia, South Africa, Spain, France, Sweden and the UK. I'll…
Read More

On not knowing: the arc of ignorance

"Saying 'I don't know' is becoming increasingly rare these days". That was Elif Shafak, the wonderful Turkish writer as she exchanged views with Bernard-Henri Lévy on the slightly-less-than-cheerful topic of Misery and Hope at a recent Kings Place event. (Chapeau to the KP for hosting these events as part of their distinctive programming.) I've just finished Shafak's latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees, an imaginative and genuinely moving account of a love affair that has to bridge Cyprus' bitter Greco-Turkish divide (and featuring a fig tree as one of the main characters...). Her simple phrase chimes with something I've been thinking about recently, often in relation to American political…
Read More

Meritocracy revisited

I've been thinking again about meritocracy, prompted in part by reading Adrian Wooldridge's bracing book The Aristocracy of Talent. From one angle, the Paula Principle is exactly about meritocracy: it deals with our failure to reward talent and competence fairly and appropriately. So it's been very welcome to have had access to such a broadly-informed and readable volume. The notion of meritocracy is itself contested, as shown by a recent Intelligence Squared debate between Wooldridge and the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel. Sandel's view is that merit is fine but meritocracy is not: it is a system of rule that allows those who rise to the top to justify their winnings.…
Read More

Peggy Seeger and crossovers

Forgive the self-indulgence, but I have to share a coincidence. Bear with me - there is more than one PP-related point to it. I was walking yesterday on Hampstead Heath, listening as I occasionally do to Michael Berkeley's programme of musical interviews, Private Passions. The guest this week was Peggy Seeger, the folk singer. At 86 she was sharp, full of humour and very open. Towards the end of the programme, Peggy talked about one of her most famous songs, "I want to be an engineer". She described its origins: she was doing the accounts when her partner Ewen MacColl came down and said they needed a song, urgently; Peggy…
Read More

Chinese women: linking PP and TH

"China's female professionals are fighting the world's lowest retirement age." The item in the FT caught my attention because it links my past and my present: the struggle for greater recognition for women's competences, across the full life course (Paula Principle, book done); and the changing definitions of where people stand in that life course (Triple Helix, book still very much to be done). I couldn't find trends on Chinese women's educational achievement in the OECD's comparative statistics. Gathering these will be a huge task. But I'd be willing to bet that in the metropolitan regions at least young Chinese women over outdoing their male contemporaries. However older women will…
Read More

GPG reporting internationally

Requiring companies to report on their gender pay gaps is becoming more common around the world. A 6-country analysis from the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King's College London draws on 80 interviews with people well placed to judge what impact this is having, and what the main challenges are. The countries' scorecards are below. The report's conclusions are to some extent predictable (though none the less valid for all that): a need for greater transparency and accountability; stronger sanctions; measurable targets; and integration of policies to deal with GPGs at all levels. But the insights from the launch's widely experienced panel discussion were particularly valuable. More than one…
Read More

The Known World

"A man does not learn very well, Mr Robbins. Women, yes, because they are used to bending with whatever wind comes along. A woman, no matter what the age, is always learning, always becoming. But a man, if you will pardon me, stops learning at fourteen or so. He shuts it all down, Mr Robbins. A log is capable of learning more than a man. To teach a man would be a battle, a war, and I would lose." This is Fern Elston speaking, in Edward P. Jones' wonderfully original and informative novel about slavery, The Known World. Fern Elston is a free black woman, a teacher, and she is…
Read More

WEF report: double depression

The latest World Economic Forum report on the Gender Pay Gap is depressing for two reasons. I applaud the WEF for its attention to the issue, but I find its 'solution' simplistic. First, it shows that worldwide the cause of greater equality has been put into reverse. The latest trends means that it will take "a staggering 257 years to close the gap on economic participation for women – compared to 202 years in last year’s report." We know that the pandemic has added to women's unpaid work burdens; caused many women to drop out of the employment; and hit the occupations in which women tend to work harder than…
Read More

Flexibility and careers

In the PP I argue that one of the key changes - if not the key change - needed for a fairer recognition of women's competences is in the way we think about careers: getting away from the model of full-time continuous employment with progression along a linear ladder. Surely, you may say, this is disappearing out of the window - kept open to let the coronavirus out. Well, Timewise has just published its annual review of flexible working. In 2020 there was a big jump in the overall proportion of jobs offered on a flexible basis, from 17% to 24%. Progress has not been sustained at the same rate,…
Read More

Who participates in E&T: the F/M gap…

A recent piece by Petra Ahrens and Lise Rolandsen Agustin in Social Europe addressed gender equality in European institutions. They showed that there has quite strong progress towards numerical equality in the European Parliament; but this simple top-level statistic disguises how institutional mechanisms operate to sideline the issue. In particular: Gender equality is still habitually misunderstood as a ‘women’s issue’—often in a way which essentialises identity—or defensively restricted to its ‘business case’. Many MEPs continue to see gender equality as a niche with little to do with other policy domains and thus commitment to gender equality remains limited in a lot of committees and political groups. In addition, the growing…
Read More

International GPG scorecard

I'm something of a sucker for international comparisons. As it happens I'm also highly sceptical of many international ranking tables, which often court the publicity that comes from such ranking by overstretching the intrinsic validity of their measures. The Fawcett Society and Kings College's Global Institute for Women's Leadership have combined to produce Bridging the Gap an interesting set of case studies on gender pay gap reporting. The report centres round a score card which is used to rank the six participating countries. Happily it does so in a way which seems to me reasonable and helpful. The countries are Australia, South Africa, Spain, France, Sweden and the UK. I'll…
Read More

On not knowing: the arc of ignorance

"Saying 'I don't know' is becoming increasingly rare these days". That was Elif Shafak, the wonderful Turkish writer as she exchanged views with Bernard-Henri Lévy on the slightly-less-than-cheerful topic of Misery and Hope at a recent Kings Place event. (Chapeau to the KP for hosting these events as part of their distinctive programming.) I've just finished Shafak's latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees, an imaginative and genuinely moving account of a love affair that has to bridge Cyprus' bitter Greco-Turkish divide (and featuring a fig tree as one of the main characters...). Her simple phrase chimes with something I've been thinking about recently, often in relation to American political…
Read More

Meritocracy revisited

I've been thinking again about meritocracy, prompted in part by reading Adrian Wooldridge's bracing book The Aristocracy of Talent. From one angle, the Paula Principle is exactly about meritocracy: it deals with our failure to reward talent and competence fairly and appropriately. So it's been very welcome to have had access to such a broadly-informed and readable volume. The notion of meritocracy is itself contested, as shown by a recent Intelligence Squared debate between Wooldridge and the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel. Sandel's view is that merit is fine but meritocracy is not: it is a system of rule that allows those who rise to the top to justify their winnings.…
Read More

Peggy Seeger and crossovers

Forgive the self-indulgence, but I have to share a coincidence. Bear with me - there is more than one PP-related point to it. I was walking yesterday on Hampstead Heath, listening as I occasionally do to Michael Berkeley's programme of musical interviews, Private Passions. The guest this week was Peggy Seeger, the folk singer. At 86 she was sharp, full of humour and very open. Towards the end of the programme, Peggy talked about one of her most famous songs, "I want to be an engineer". She described its origins: she was doing the accounts when her partner Ewen MacColl came down and said they needed a song, urgently; Peggy…
Read More

Chinese women: linking PP and TH

"China's female professionals are fighting the world's lowest retirement age." The item in the FT caught my attention because it links my past and my present: the struggle for greater recognition for women's competences, across the full life course (Paula Principle, book done); and the changing definitions of where people stand in that life course (Triple Helix, book still very much to be done). I couldn't find trends on Chinese women's educational achievement in the OECD's comparative statistics. Gathering these will be a huge task. But I'd be willing to bet that in the metropolitan regions at least young Chinese women over outdoing their male contemporaries. However older women will…
Read More

GPG reporting internationally

Requiring companies to report on their gender pay gaps is becoming more common around the world. A 6-country analysis from the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King's College London draws on 80 interviews with people well placed to judge what impact this is having, and what the main challenges are. The countries' scorecards are below. The report's conclusions are to some extent predictable (though none the less valid for all that): a need for greater transparency and accountability; stronger sanctions; measurable targets; and integration of policies to deal with GPGs at all levels. But the insights from the launch's widely experienced panel discussion were particularly valuable. More than one…
Read More

The Known World

"A man does not learn very well, Mr Robbins. Women, yes, because they are used to bending with whatever wind comes along. A woman, no matter what the age, is always learning, always becoming. But a man, if you will pardon me, stops learning at fourteen or so. He shuts it all down, Mr Robbins. A log is capable of learning more than a man. To teach a man would be a battle, a war, and I would lose." This is Fern Elston speaking, in Edward P. Jones' wonderfully original and informative novel about slavery, The Known World. Fern Elston is a free black woman, a teacher, and she is…
Read More

WEF report: double depression

The latest World Economic Forum report on the Gender Pay Gap is depressing for two reasons. I applaud the WEF for its attention to the issue, but I find its 'solution' simplistic. First, it shows that worldwide the cause of greater equality has been put into reverse. The latest trends means that it will take "a staggering 257 years to close the gap on economic participation for women – compared to 202 years in last year’s report." We know that the pandemic has added to women's unpaid work burdens; caused many women to drop out of the employment; and hit the occupations in which women tend to work harder than…
Read More

Flexibility and careers

In the PP I argue that one of the key changes - if not the key change - needed for a fairer recognition of women's competences is in the way we think about careers: getting away from the model of full-time continuous employment with progression along a linear ladder. Surely, you may say, this is disappearing out of the window - kept open to let the coronavirus out. Well, Timewise has just published its annual review of flexible working. In 2020 there was a big jump in the overall proportion of jobs offered on a flexible basis, from 17% to 24%. Progress has not been sustained at the same rate,…
Read More

Who participates in E&T: the F/M gap…

A recent piece by Petra Ahrens and Lise Rolandsen Agustin in Social Europe addressed gender equality in European institutions. They showed that there has quite strong progress towards numerical equality in the European Parliament; but this simple top-level statistic disguises how institutional mechanisms operate to sideline the issue. In particular: Gender equality is still habitually misunderstood as a ‘women’s issue’—often in a way which essentialises identity—or defensively restricted to its ‘business case’. Many MEPs continue to see gender equality as a niche with little to do with other policy domains and thus commitment to gender equality remains limited in a lot of committees and political groups. In addition, the growing…
Read More

International GPG scorecard

I'm something of a sucker for international comparisons. As it happens I'm also highly sceptical of many international ranking tables, which often court the publicity that comes from such ranking by overstretching the intrinsic validity of their measures. The Fawcett Society and Kings College's Global Institute for Women's Leadership have combined to produce Bridging the Gap an interesting set of case studies on gender pay gap reporting. The report centres round a score card which is used to rank the six participating countries. Happily it does so in a way which seems to me reasonable and helpful. The countries are Australia, South Africa, Spain, France, Sweden and the UK. I'll…
Read More

On not knowing: the arc of ignorance

"Saying 'I don't know' is becoming increasingly rare these days". That was Elif Shafak, the wonderful Turkish writer as she exchanged views with Bernard-Henri Lévy on the slightly-less-than-cheerful topic of Misery and Hope at a recent Kings Place event. (Chapeau to the KP for hosting these events as part of their distinctive programming.) I've just finished Shafak's latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees, an imaginative and genuinely moving account of a love affair that has to bridge Cyprus' bitter Greco-Turkish divide (and featuring a fig tree as one of the main characters...). Her simple phrase chimes with something I've been thinking about recently, often in relation to American political…
Read More

Meritocracy revisited

I've been thinking again about meritocracy, prompted in part by reading Adrian Wooldridge's bracing book The Aristocracy of Talent. From one angle, the Paula Principle is exactly about meritocracy: it deals with our failure to reward talent and competence fairly and appropriately. So it's been very welcome to have had access to such a broadly-informed and readable volume. The notion of meritocracy is itself contested, as shown by a recent Intelligence Squared debate between Wooldridge and the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel. Sandel's view is that merit is fine but meritocracy is not: it is a system of rule that allows those who rise to the top to justify their winnings.…
Read More

Peggy Seeger and crossovers

Forgive the self-indulgence, but I have to share a coincidence. Bear with me - there is more than one PP-related point to it. I was walking yesterday on Hampstead Heath, listening as I occasionally do to Michael Berkeley's programme of musical interviews, Private Passions. The guest this week was Peggy Seeger, the folk singer. At 86 she was sharp, full of humour and very open. Towards the end of the programme, Peggy talked about one of her most famous songs, "I want to be an engineer". She described its origins: she was doing the accounts when her partner Ewen MacColl came down and said they needed a song, urgently; Peggy…
Read More

Chinese women: linking PP and TH

"China's female professionals are fighting the world's lowest retirement age." The item in the FT caught my attention because it links my past and my present: the struggle for greater recognition for women's competences, across the full life course (Paula Principle, book done); and the changing definitions of where people stand in that life course (Triple Helix, book still very much to be done). I couldn't find trends on Chinese women's educational achievement in the OECD's comparative statistics. Gathering these will be a huge task. But I'd be willing to bet that in the metropolitan regions at least young Chinese women over outdoing their male contemporaries. However older women will…
Read More

GPG reporting internationally

Requiring companies to report on their gender pay gaps is becoming more common around the world. A 6-country analysis from the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King's College London draws on 80 interviews with people well placed to judge what impact this is having, and what the main challenges are. The countries' scorecards are below. The report's conclusions are to some extent predictable (though none the less valid for all that): a need for greater transparency and accountability; stronger sanctions; measurable targets; and integration of policies to deal with GPGs at all levels. But the insights from the launch's widely experienced panel discussion were particularly valuable. More than one…
Read More

The Known World

"A man does not learn very well, Mr Robbins. Women, yes, because they are used to bending with whatever wind comes along. A woman, no matter what the age, is always learning, always becoming. But a man, if you will pardon me, stops learning at fourteen or so. He shuts it all down, Mr Robbins. A log is capable of learning more than a man. To teach a man would be a battle, a war, and I would lose." This is Fern Elston speaking, in Edward P. Jones' wonderfully original and informative novel about slavery, The Known World. Fern Elston is a free black woman, a teacher, and she is…
Read More

WEF report: double depression

The latest World Economic Forum report on the Gender Pay Gap is depressing for two reasons. I applaud the WEF for its attention to the issue, but I find its 'solution' simplistic. First, it shows that worldwide the cause of greater equality has been put into reverse. The latest trends means that it will take "a staggering 257 years to close the gap on economic participation for women – compared to 202 years in last year’s report." We know that the pandemic has added to women's unpaid work burdens; caused many women to drop out of the employment; and hit the occupations in which women tend to work harder than…
Read More

Flexibility and careers

In the PP I argue that one of the key changes - if not the key change - needed for a fairer recognition of women's competences is in the way we think about careers: getting away from the model of full-time continuous employment with progression along a linear ladder. Surely, you may say, this is disappearing out of the window - kept open to let the coronavirus out. Well, Timewise has just published its annual review of flexible working. In 2020 there was a big jump in the overall proportion of jobs offered on a flexible basis, from 17% to 24%. Progress has not been sustained at the same rate,…
Read More

Who participates in E&T: the F/M gap…

A recent piece by Petra Ahrens and Lise Rolandsen Agustin in Social Europe addressed gender equality in European institutions. They showed that there has quite strong progress towards numerical equality in the European Parliament; but this simple top-level statistic disguises how institutional mechanisms operate to sideline the issue. In particular: Gender equality is still habitually misunderstood as a ‘women’s issue’—often in a way which essentialises identity—or defensively restricted to its ‘business case’. Many MEPs continue to see gender equality as a niche with little to do with other policy domains and thus commitment to gender equality remains limited in a lot of committees and political groups. In addition, the growing…
Read More

International GPG scorecard

I'm something of a sucker for international comparisons. As it happens I'm also highly sceptical of many international ranking tables, which often court the publicity that comes from such ranking by overstretching the intrinsic validity of their measures. The Fawcett Society and Kings College's Global Institute for Women's Leadership have combined to produce Bridging the Gap an interesting set of case studies on gender pay gap reporting. The report centres round a score card which is used to rank the six participating countries. Happily it does so in a way which seems to me reasonable and helpful. The countries are Australia, South Africa, Spain, France, Sweden and the UK. I'll…
Read More

On not knowing: the arc of ignorance

"Saying 'I don't know' is becoming increasingly rare these days". That was Elif Shafak, the wonderful Turkish writer as she exchanged views with Bernard-Henri Lévy on the slightly-less-than-cheerful topic of Misery and Hope at a recent Kings Place event. (Chapeau to the KP for hosting these events as part of their distinctive programming.) I've just finished Shafak's latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees, an imaginative and genuinely moving account of a love affair that has to bridge Cyprus' bitter Greco-Turkish divide (and featuring a fig tree as one of the main characters...). Her simple phrase chimes with something I've been thinking about recently, often in relation to American political…
Read More

Meritocracy revisited

I've been thinking again about meritocracy, prompted in part by reading Adrian Wooldridge's bracing book The Aristocracy of Talent. From one angle, the Paula Principle is exactly about meritocracy: it deals with our failure to reward talent and competence fairly and appropriately. So it's been very welcome to have had access to such a broadly-informed and readable volume. The notion of meritocracy is itself contested, as shown by a recent Intelligence Squared debate between Wooldridge and the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel. Sandel's view is that merit is fine but meritocracy is not: it is a system of rule that allows those who rise to the top to justify their winnings.…
Read More

Peggy Seeger and crossovers

Forgive the self-indulgence, but I have to share a coincidence. Bear with me - there is more than one PP-related point to it. I was walking yesterday on Hampstead Heath, listening as I occasionally do to Michael Berkeley's programme of musical interviews, Private Passions. The guest this week was Peggy Seeger, the folk singer. At 86 she was sharp, full of humour and very open. Towards the end of the programme, Peggy talked about one of her most famous songs, "I want to be an engineer". She described its origins: she was doing the accounts when her partner Ewen MacColl came down and said they needed a song, urgently; Peggy…
Read More

Chinese women: linking PP and TH

"China's female professionals are fighting the world's lowest retirement age." The item in the FT caught my attention because it links my past and my present: the struggle for greater recognition for women's competences, across the full life course (Paula Principle, book done); and the changing definitions of where people stand in that life course (Triple Helix, book still very much to be done). I couldn't find trends on Chinese women's educational achievement in the OECD's comparative statistics. Gathering these will be a huge task. But I'd be willing to bet that in the metropolitan regions at least young Chinese women over outdoing their male contemporaries. However older women will…
Read More

GPG reporting internationally

Requiring companies to report on their gender pay gaps is becoming more common around the world. A 6-country analysis from the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King's College London draws on 80 interviews with people well placed to judge what impact this is having, and what the main challenges are. The countries' scorecards are below. The report's conclusions are to some extent predictable (though none the less valid for all that): a need for greater transparency and accountability; stronger sanctions; measurable targets; and integration of policies to deal with GPGs at all levels. But the insights from the launch's widely experienced panel discussion were particularly valuable. More than one…
Read More

The Known World

"A man does not learn very well, Mr Robbins. Women, yes, because they are used to bending with whatever wind comes along. A woman, no matter what the age, is always learning, always becoming. But a man, if you will pardon me, stops learning at fourteen or so. He shuts it all down, Mr Robbins. A log is capable of learning more than a man. To teach a man would be a battle, a war, and I would lose." This is Fern Elston speaking, in Edward P. Jones' wonderfully original and informative novel about slavery, The Known World. Fern Elston is a free black woman, a teacher, and she is…
Read More

WEF report: double depression

The latest World Economic Forum report on the Gender Pay Gap is depressing for two reasons. I applaud the WEF for its attention to the issue, but I find its 'solution' simplistic. First, it shows that worldwide the cause of greater equality has been put into reverse. The latest trends means that it will take "a staggering 257 years to close the gap on economic participation for women – compared to 202 years in last year’s report." We know that the pandemic has added to women's unpaid work burdens; caused many women to drop out of the employment; and hit the occupations in which women tend to work harder than…
Read More

Flexibility and careers

In the PP I argue that one of the key changes - if not the key change - needed for a fairer recognition of women's competences is in the way we think about careers: getting away from the model of full-time continuous employment with progression along a linear ladder. Surely, you may say, this is disappearing out of the window - kept open to let the coronavirus out. Well, Timewise has just published its annual review of flexible working. In 2020 there was a big jump in the overall proportion of jobs offered on a flexible basis, from 17% to 24%. Progress has not been sustained at the same rate,…
Read More

Who participates in E&T: the F/M gap…

A recent piece by Petra Ahrens and Lise Rolandsen Agustin in Social Europe addressed gender equality in European institutions. They showed that there has quite strong progress towards numerical equality in the European Parliament; but this simple top-level statistic disguises how institutional mechanisms operate to sideline the issue. In particular: Gender equality is still habitually misunderstood as a ‘women’s issue’—often in a way which essentialises identity—or defensively restricted to its ‘business case’. Many MEPs continue to see gender equality as a niche with little to do with other policy domains and thus commitment to gender equality remains limited in a lot of committees and political groups. In addition, the growing…
Read More

International GPG scorecard

I'm something of a sucker for international comparisons. As it happens I'm also highly sceptical of many international ranking tables, which often court the publicity that comes from such ranking by overstretching the intrinsic validity of their measures. The Fawcett Society and Kings College's Global Institute for Women's Leadership have combined to produce Bridging the Gap an interesting set of case studies on gender pay gap reporting. The report centres round a score card which is used to rank the six participating countries. Happily it does so in a way which seems to me reasonable and helpful. The countries are Australia, South Africa, Spain, France, Sweden and the UK. I'll…
Read More

On not knowing: the arc of ignorance

"Saying 'I don't know' is becoming increasingly rare these days". That was Elif Shafak, the wonderful Turkish writer as she exchanged views with Bernard-Henri Lévy on the slightly-less-than-cheerful topic of Misery and Hope at a recent Kings Place event. (Chapeau to the KP for hosting these events as part of their distinctive programming.) I've just finished Shafak's latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees, an imaginative and genuinely moving account of a love affair that has to bridge Cyprus' bitter Greco-Turkish divide (and featuring a fig tree as one of the main characters...). Her simple phrase chimes with something I've been thinking about recently, often in relation to American political…
Read More

Meritocracy revisited

I've been thinking again about meritocracy, prompted in part by reading Adrian Wooldridge's bracing book The Aristocracy of Talent. From one angle, the Paula Principle is exactly about meritocracy: it deals with our failure to reward talent and competence fairly and appropriately. So it's been very welcome to have had access to such a broadly-informed and readable volume. The notion of meritocracy is itself contested, as shown by a recent Intelligence Squared debate between Wooldridge and the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel. Sandel's view is that merit is fine but meritocracy is not: it is a system of rule that allows those who rise to the top to justify their winnings.…
Read More

Peggy Seeger and crossovers

Forgive the self-indulgence, but I have to share a coincidence. Bear with me - there is more than one PP-related point to it. I was walking yesterday on Hampstead Heath, listening as I occasionally do to Michael Berkeley's programme of musical interviews, Private Passions. The guest this week was Peggy Seeger, the folk singer. At 86 she was sharp, full of humour and very open. Towards the end of the programme, Peggy talked about one of her most famous songs, "I want to be an engineer". She described its origins: she was doing the accounts when her partner Ewen MacColl came down and said they needed a song, urgently; Peggy…
Read More

Chinese women: linking PP and TH

"China's female professionals are fighting the world's lowest retirement age." The item in the FT caught my attention because it links my past and my present: the struggle for greater recognition for women's competences, across the full life course (Paula Principle, book done); and the changing definitions of where people stand in that life course (Triple Helix, book still very much to be done). I couldn't find trends on Chinese women's educational achievement in the OECD's comparative statistics. Gathering these will be a huge task. But I'd be willing to bet that in the metropolitan regions at least young Chinese women over outdoing their male contemporaries. However older women will…
Read More

GPG reporting internationally

Requiring companies to report on their gender pay gaps is becoming more common around the world. A 6-country analysis from the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King's College London draws on 80 interviews with people well placed to judge what impact this is having, and what the main challenges are. The countries' scorecards are below. The report's conclusions are to some extent predictable (though none the less valid for all that): a need for greater transparency and accountability; stronger sanctions; measurable targets; and integration of policies to deal with GPGs at all levels. But the insights from the launch's widely experienced panel discussion were particularly valuable. More than one…
Read More

The Known World

"A man does not learn very well, Mr Robbins. Women, yes, because they are used to bending with whatever wind comes along. A woman, no matter what the age, is always learning, always becoming. But a man, if you will pardon me, stops learning at fourteen or so. He shuts it all down, Mr Robbins. A log is capable of learning more than a man. To teach a man would be a battle, a war, and I would lose." This is Fern Elston speaking, in Edward P. Jones' wonderfully original and informative novel about slavery, The Known World. Fern Elston is a free black woman, a teacher, and she is…
Read More

WEF report: double depression

The latest World Economic Forum report on the Gender Pay Gap is depressing for two reasons. I applaud the WEF for its attention to the issue, but I find its 'solution' simplistic. First, it shows that worldwide the cause of greater equality has been put into reverse. The latest trends means that it will take "a staggering 257 years to close the gap on economic participation for women – compared to 202 years in last year’s report." We know that the pandemic has added to women's unpaid work burdens; caused many women to drop out of the employment; and hit the occupations in which women tend to work harder than…
Read More

Flexibility and careers

In the PP I argue that one of the key changes - if not the key change - needed for a fairer recognition of women's competences is in the way we think about careers: getting away from the model of full-time continuous employment with progression along a linear ladder. Surely, you may say, this is disappearing out of the window - kept open to let the coronavirus out. Well, Timewise has just published its annual review of flexible working. In 2020 there was a big jump in the overall proportion of jobs offered on a flexible basis, from 17% to 24%. Progress has not been sustained at the same rate,…
Read More

Who participates in E&T: the F/M gap…

A recent piece by Petra Ahrens and Lise Rolandsen Agustin in Social Europe addressed gender equality in European institutions. They showed that there has quite strong progress towards numerical equality in the European Parliament; but this simple top-level statistic disguises how institutional mechanisms operate to sideline the issue. In particular: Gender equality is still habitually misunderstood as a ‘women’s issue’—often in a way which essentialises identity—or defensively restricted to its ‘business case’. Many MEPs continue to see gender equality as a niche with little to do with other policy domains and thus commitment to gender equality remains limited in a lot of committees and political groups. In addition, the growing…
Read More

International GPG scorecard

I'm something of a sucker for international comparisons. As it happens I'm also highly sceptical of many international ranking tables, which often court the publicity that comes from such ranking by overstretching the intrinsic validity of their measures. The Fawcett Society and Kings College's Global Institute for Women's Leadership have combined to produce Bridging the Gap an interesting set of case studies on gender pay gap reporting. The report centres round a score card which is used to rank the six participating countries. Happily it does so in a way which seems to me reasonable and helpful. The countries are Australia, South Africa, Spain, France, Sweden and the UK. I'll…
Read More

On not knowing: the arc of ignorance

"Saying 'I don't know' is becoming increasingly rare these days". That was Elif Shafak, the wonderful Turkish writer as she exchanged views with Bernard-Henri Lévy on the slightly-less-than-cheerful topic of Misery and Hope at a recent Kings Place event. (Chapeau to the KP for hosting these events as part of their distinctive programming.) I've just finished Shafak's latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees, an imaginative and genuinely moving account of a love affair that has to bridge Cyprus' bitter Greco-Turkish divide (and featuring a fig tree as one of the main characters...). Her simple phrase chimes with something I've been thinking about recently, often in relation to American political…
Read More

Meritocracy revisited

I've been thinking again about meritocracy, prompted in part by reading Adrian Wooldridge's bracing book The Aristocracy of Talent. From one angle, the Paula Principle is exactly about meritocracy: it deals with our failure to reward talent and competence fairly and appropriately. So it's been very welcome to have had access to such a broadly-informed and readable volume. The notion of meritocracy is itself contested, as shown by a recent Intelligence Squared debate between Wooldridge and the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel. Sandel's view is that merit is fine but meritocracy is not: it is a system of rule that allows those who rise to the top to justify their winnings.…
Read More

Peggy Seeger and crossovers

Forgive the self-indulgence, but I have to share a coincidence. Bear with me - there is more than one PP-related point to it. I was walking yesterday on Hampstead Heath, listening as I occasionally do to Michael Berkeley's programme of musical interviews, Private Passions. The guest this week was Peggy Seeger, the folk singer. At 86 she was sharp, full of humour and very open. Towards the end of the programme, Peggy talked about one of her most famous songs, "I want to be an engineer". She described its origins: she was doing the accounts when her partner Ewen MacColl came down and said they needed a song, urgently; Peggy…
Read More

Chinese women: linking PP and TH

"China's female professionals are fighting the world's lowest retirement age." The item in the FT caught my attention because it links my past and my present: the struggle for greater recognition for women's competences, across the full life course (Paula Principle, book done); and the changing definitions of where people stand in that life course (Triple Helix, book still very much to be done). I couldn't find trends on Chinese women's educational achievement in the OECD's comparative statistics. Gathering these will be a huge task. But I'd be willing to bet that in the metropolitan regions at least young Chinese women over outdoing their male contemporaries. However older women will…
Read More

GPG reporting internationally

Requiring companies to report on their gender pay gaps is becoming more common around the world. A 6-country analysis from the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King's College London draws on 80 interviews with people well placed to judge what impact this is having, and what the main challenges are. The countries' scorecards are below. The report's conclusions are to some extent predictable (though none the less valid for all that): a need for greater transparency and accountability; stronger sanctions; measurable targets; and integration of policies to deal with GPGs at all levels. But the insights from the launch's widely experienced panel discussion were particularly valuable. More than one…
Read More

The Known World

"A man does not learn very well, Mr Robbins. Women, yes, because they are used to bending with whatever wind comes along. A woman, no matter what the age, is always learning, always becoming. But a man, if you will pardon me, stops learning at fourteen or so. He shuts it all down, Mr Robbins. A log is capable of learning more than a man. To teach a man would be a battle, a war, and I would lose." This is Fern Elston speaking, in Edward P. Jones' wonderfully original and informative novel about slavery, The Known World. Fern Elston is a free black woman, a teacher, and she is…
Read More

WEF report: double depression

The latest World Economic Forum report on the Gender Pay Gap is depressing for two reasons. I applaud the WEF for its attention to the issue, but I find its 'solution' simplistic. First, it shows that worldwide the cause of greater equality has been put into reverse. The latest trends means that it will take "a staggering 257 years to close the gap on economic participation for women – compared to 202 years in last year’s report." We know that the pandemic has added to women's unpaid work burdens; caused many women to drop out of the employment; and hit the occupations in which women tend to work harder than…
Read More

Flexibility and careers

In the PP I argue that one of the key changes - if not the key change - needed for a fairer recognition of women's competences is in the way we think about careers: getting away from the model of full-time continuous employment with progression along a linear ladder. Surely, you may say, this is disappearing out of the window - kept open to let the coronavirus out. Well, Timewise has just published its annual review of flexible working. In 2020 there was a big jump in the overall proportion of jobs offered on a flexible basis, from 17% to 24%. Progress has not been sustained at the same rate,…
Read More

Who participates in E&T: the F/M gap…

A recent piece by Petra Ahrens and Lise Rolandsen Agustin in Social Europe addressed gender equality in European institutions. They showed that there has quite strong progress towards numerical equality in the European Parliament; but this simple top-level statistic disguises how institutional mechanisms operate to sideline the issue. In particular: Gender equality is still habitually misunderstood as a ‘women’s issue’—often in a way which essentialises identity—or defensively restricted to its ‘business case’. Many MEPs continue to see gender equality as a niche with little to do with other policy domains and thus commitment to gender equality remains limited in a lot of committees and political groups. In addition, the growing…
Read More

International GPG scorecard

I'm something of a sucker for international comparisons. As it happens I'm also highly sceptical of many international ranking tables, which often court the publicity that comes from such ranking by overstretching the intrinsic validity of their measures. The Fawcett Society and Kings College's Global Institute for Women's Leadership have combined to produce Bridging the Gap an interesting set of case studies on gender pay gap reporting. The report centres round a score card which is used to rank the six participating countries. Happily it does so in a way which seems to me reasonable and helpful. The countries are Australia, South Africa, Spain, France, Sweden and the UK. I'll…
Read More

On not knowing: the arc of ignorance

"Saying 'I don't know' is becoming increasingly rare these days". That was Elif Shafak, the wonderful Turkish writer as she exchanged views with Bernard-Henri Lévy on the slightly-less-than-cheerful topic of Misery and Hope at a recent Kings Place event. (Chapeau to the KP for hosting these events as part of their distinctive programming.) I've just finished Shafak's latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees, an imaginative and genuinely moving account of a love affair that has to bridge Cyprus' bitter Greco-Turkish divide (and featuring a fig tree as one of the main characters...). Her simple phrase chimes with something I've been thinking about recently, often in relation to American political…
Read More

Meritocracy revisited

I've been thinking again about meritocracy, prompted in part by reading Adrian Wooldridge's bracing book The Aristocracy of Talent. From one angle, the Paula Principle is exactly about meritocracy: it deals with our failure to reward talent and competence fairly and appropriately. So it's been very welcome to have had access to such a broadly-informed and readable volume. The notion of meritocracy is itself contested, as shown by a recent Intelligence Squared debate between Wooldridge and the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel. Sandel's view is that merit is fine but meritocracy is not: it is a system of rule that allows those who rise to the top to justify their winnings.…
Read More

Peggy Seeger and crossovers

Forgive the self-indulgence, but I have to share a coincidence. Bear with me - there is more than one PP-related point to it. I was walking yesterday on Hampstead Heath, listening as I occasionally do to Michael Berkeley's programme of musical interviews, Private Passions. The guest this week was Peggy Seeger, the folk singer. At 86 she was sharp, full of humour and very open. Towards the end of the programme, Peggy talked about one of her most famous songs, "I want to be an engineer". She described its origins: she was doing the accounts when her partner Ewen MacColl came down and said they needed a song, urgently; Peggy…
Read More

Chinese women: linking PP and TH

"China's female professionals are fighting the world's lowest retirement age." The item in the FT caught my attention because it links my past and my present: the struggle for greater recognition for women's competences, across the full life course (Paula Principle, book done); and the changing definitions of where people stand in that life course (Triple Helix, book still very much to be done). I couldn't find trends on Chinese women's educational achievement in the OECD's comparative statistics. Gathering these will be a huge task. But I'd be willing to bet that in the metropolitan regions at least young Chinese women over outdoing their male contemporaries. However older women will…
Read More

GPG reporting internationally

Requiring companies to report on their gender pay gaps is becoming more common around the world. A 6-country analysis from the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King's College London draws on 80 interviews with people well placed to judge what impact this is having, and what the main challenges are. The countries' scorecards are below. The report's conclusions are to some extent predictable (though none the less valid for all that): a need for greater transparency and accountability; stronger sanctions; measurable targets; and integration of policies to deal with GPGs at all levels. But the insights from the launch's widely experienced panel discussion were particularly valuable. More than one…
Read More

The Known World

"A man does not learn very well, Mr Robbins. Women, yes, because they are used to bending with whatever wind comes along. A woman, no matter what the age, is always learning, always becoming. But a man, if you will pardon me, stops learning at fourteen or so. He shuts it all down, Mr Robbins. A log is capable of learning more than a man. To teach a man would be a battle, a war, and I would lose." This is Fern Elston speaking, in Edward P. Jones' wonderfully original and informative novel about slavery, The Known World. Fern Elston is a free black woman, a teacher, and she is…
Read More

WEF report: double depression

The latest World Economic Forum report on the Gender Pay Gap is depressing for two reasons. I applaud the WEF for its attention to the issue, but I find its 'solution' simplistic. First, it shows that worldwide the cause of greater equality has been put into reverse. The latest trends means that it will take "a staggering 257 years to close the gap on economic participation for women – compared to 202 years in last year’s report." We know that the pandemic has added to women's unpaid work burdens; caused many women to drop out of the employment; and hit the occupations in which women tend to work harder than…
Read More

Flexibility and careers

In the PP I argue that one of the key changes - if not the key change - needed for a fairer recognition of women's competences is in the way we think about careers: getting away from the model of full-time continuous employment with progression along a linear ladder. Surely, you may say, this is disappearing out of the window - kept open to let the coronavirus out. Well, Timewise has just published its annual review of flexible working. In 2020 there was a big jump in the overall proportion of jobs offered on a flexible basis, from 17% to 24%. Progress has not been sustained at the same rate,…
Read More

Who participates in E&T: the F/M gap…

A recent piece by Petra Ahrens and Lise Rolandsen Agustin in Social Europe addressed gender equality in European institutions. They showed that there has quite strong progress towards numerical equality in the European Parliament; but this simple top-level statistic disguises how institutional mechanisms operate to sideline the issue. In particular: Gender equality is still habitually misunderstood as a ‘women’s issue’—often in a way which essentialises identity—or defensively restricted to its ‘business case’. Many MEPs continue to see gender equality as a niche with little to do with other policy domains and thus commitment to gender equality remains limited in a lot of committees and political groups. In addition, the growing…
Read More

International GPG scorecard

I'm something of a sucker for international comparisons. As it happens I'm also highly sceptical of many international ranking tables, which often court the publicity that comes from such ranking by overstretching the intrinsic validity of their measures. The Fawcett Society and Kings College's Global Institute for Women's Leadership have combined to produce Bridging the Gap an interesting set of case studies on gender pay gap reporting. The report centres round a score card which is used to rank the six participating countries. Happily it does so in a way which seems to me reasonable and helpful. The countries are Australia, South Africa, Spain, France, Sweden and the UK. I'll…
Read More

On not knowing: the arc of ignorance

"Saying 'I don't know' is becoming increasingly rare these days". That was Elif Shafak, the wonderful Turkish writer as she exchanged views with Bernard-Henri Lévy on the slightly-less-than-cheerful topic of Misery and Hope at a recent Kings Place event. (Chapeau to the KP for hosting these events as part of their distinctive programming.) I've just finished Shafak's latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees, an imaginative and genuinely moving account of a love affair that has to bridge Cyprus' bitter Greco-Turkish divide (and featuring a fig tree as one of the main characters...). Her simple phrase chimes with something I've been thinking about recently, often in relation to American political…
Read More

Meritocracy revisited

I've been thinking again about meritocracy, prompted in part by reading Adrian Wooldridge's bracing book The Aristocracy of Talent. From one angle, the Paula Principle is exactly about meritocracy: it deals with our failure to reward talent and competence fairly and appropriately. So it's been very welcome to have had access to such a broadly-informed and readable volume. The notion of meritocracy is itself contested, as shown by a recent Intelligence Squared debate between Wooldridge and the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel. Sandel's view is that merit is fine but meritocracy is not: it is a system of rule that allows those who rise to the top to justify their winnings.…
Read More

Peggy Seeger and crossovers

Forgive the self-indulgence, but I have to share a coincidence. Bear with me - there is more than one PP-related point to it. I was walking yesterday on Hampstead Heath, listening as I occasionally do to Michael Berkeley's programme of musical interviews, Private Passions. The guest this week was Peggy Seeger, the folk singer. At 86 she was sharp, full of humour and very open. Towards the end of the programme, Peggy talked about one of her most famous songs, "I want to be an engineer". She described its origins: she was doing the accounts when her partner Ewen MacColl came down and said they needed a song, urgently; Peggy…
Read More

Chinese women: linking PP and TH

"China's female professionals are fighting the world's lowest retirement age." The item in the FT caught my attention because it links my past and my present: the struggle for greater recognition for women's competences, across the full life course (Paula Principle, book done); and the changing definitions of where people stand in that life course (Triple Helix, book still very much to be done). I couldn't find trends on Chinese women's educational achievement in the OECD's comparative statistics. Gathering these will be a huge task. But I'd be willing to bet that in the metropolitan regions at least young Chinese women over outdoing their male contemporaries. However older women will…
Read More

GPG reporting internationally

Requiring companies to report on their gender pay gaps is becoming more common around the world. A 6-country analysis from the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King's College London draws on 80 interviews with people well placed to judge what impact this is having, and what the main challenges are. The countries' scorecards are below. The report's conclusions are to some extent predictable (though none the less valid for all that): a need for greater transparency and accountability; stronger sanctions; measurable targets; and integration of policies to deal with GPGs at all levels. But the insights from the launch's widely experienced panel discussion were particularly valuable. More than one…
Read More

The Known World

"A man does not learn very well, Mr Robbins. Women, yes, because they are used to bending with whatever wind comes along. A woman, no matter what the age, is always learning, always becoming. But a man, if you will pardon me, stops learning at fourteen or so. He shuts it all down, Mr Robbins. A log is capable of learning more than a man. To teach a man would be a battle, a war, and I would lose." This is Fern Elston speaking, in Edward P. Jones' wonderfully original and informative novel about slavery, The Known World. Fern Elston is a free black woman, a teacher, and she is…
Read More

WEF report: double depression

The latest World Economic Forum report on the Gender Pay Gap is depressing for two reasons. I applaud the WEF for its attention to the issue, but I find its 'solution' simplistic. First, it shows that worldwide the cause of greater equality has been put into reverse. The latest trends means that it will take "a staggering 257 years to close the gap on economic participation for women – compared to 202 years in last year’s report." We know that the pandemic has added to women's unpaid work burdens; caused many women to drop out of the employment; and hit the occupations in which women tend to work harder than…
Read More

Flexibility and careers

In the PP I argue that one of the key changes - if not the key change - needed for a fairer recognition of women's competences is in the way we think about careers: getting away from the model of full-time continuous employment with progression along a linear ladder. Surely, you may say, this is disappearing out of the window - kept open to let the coronavirus out. Well, Timewise has just published its annual review of flexible working. In 2020 there was a big jump in the overall proportion of jobs offered on a flexible basis, from 17% to 24%. Progress has not been sustained at the same rate,…
Read More

Who participates in E&T: the F/M gap…

A recent piece by Petra Ahrens and Lise Rolandsen Agustin in Social Europe addressed gender equality in European institutions. They showed that there has quite strong progress towards numerical equality in the European Parliament; but this simple top-level statistic disguises how institutional mechanisms operate to sideline the issue. In particular: Gender equality is still habitually misunderstood as a ‘women’s issue’—often in a way which essentialises identity—or defensively restricted to its ‘business case’. Many MEPs continue to see gender equality as a niche with little to do with other policy domains and thus commitment to gender equality remains limited in a lot of committees and political groups. In addition, the growing…
Read More

International GPG scorecard

I'm something of a sucker for international comparisons. As it happens I'm also highly sceptical of many international ranking tables, which often court the publicity that comes from such ranking by overstretching the intrinsic validity of their measures. The Fawcett Society and Kings College's Global Institute for Women's Leadership have combined to produce Bridging the Gap an interesting set of case studies on gender pay gap reporting. The report centres round a score card which is used to rank the six participating countries. Happily it does so in a way which seems to me reasonable and helpful. The countries are Australia, South Africa, Spain, France, Sweden and the UK. I'll…
Read More

On not knowing: the arc of ignorance

"Saying 'I don't know' is becoming increasingly rare these days". That was Elif Shafak, the wonderful Turkish writer as she exchanged views with Bernard-Henri Lévy on the slightly-less-than-cheerful topic of Misery and Hope at a recent Kings Place event. (Chapeau to the KP for hosting these events as part of their distinctive programming.) I've just finished Shafak's latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees, an imaginative and genuinely moving account of a love affair that has to bridge Cyprus' bitter Greco-Turkish divide (and featuring a fig tree as one of the main characters...). Her simple phrase chimes with something I've been thinking about recently, often in relation to American political…
Read More

Meritocracy revisited

I've been thinking again about meritocracy, prompted in part by reading Adrian Wooldridge's bracing book The Aristocracy of Talent. From one angle, the Paula Principle is exactly about meritocracy: it deals with our failure to reward talent and competence fairly and appropriately. So it's been very welcome to have had access to such a broadly-informed and readable volume. The notion of meritocracy is itself contested, as shown by a recent Intelligence Squared debate between Wooldridge and the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel. Sandel's view is that merit is fine but meritocracy is not: it is a system of rule that allows those who rise to the top to justify their winnings.…
Read More

Peggy Seeger and crossovers

Forgive the self-indulgence, but I have to share a coincidence. Bear with me - there is more than one PP-related point to it. I was walking yesterday on Hampstead Heath, listening as I occasionally do to Michael Berkeley's programme of musical interviews, Private Passions. The guest this week was Peggy Seeger, the folk singer. At 86 she was sharp, full of humour and very open. Towards the end of the programme, Peggy talked about one of her most famous songs, "I want to be an engineer". She described its origins: she was doing the accounts when her partner Ewen MacColl came down and said they needed a song, urgently; Peggy…
Read More

Chinese women: linking PP and TH

"China's female professionals are fighting the world's lowest retirement age." The item in the FT caught my attention because it links my past and my present: the struggle for greater recognition for women's competences, across the full life course (Paula Principle, book done); and the changing definitions of where people stand in that life course (Triple Helix, book still very much to be done). I couldn't find trends on Chinese women's educational achievement in the OECD's comparative statistics. Gathering these will be a huge task. But I'd be willing to bet that in the metropolitan regions at least young Chinese women over outdoing their male contemporaries. However older women will…
Read More

GPG reporting internationally

Requiring companies to report on their gender pay gaps is becoming more common around the world. A 6-country analysis from the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King's College London draws on 80 interviews with people well placed to judge what impact this is having, and what the main challenges are. The countries' scorecards are below. The report's conclusions are to some extent predictable (though none the less valid for all that): a need for greater transparency and accountability; stronger sanctions; measurable targets; and integration of policies to deal with GPGs at all levels. But the insights from the launch's widely experienced panel discussion were particularly valuable. More than one…
Read More

The Known World

"A man does not learn very well, Mr Robbins. Women, yes, because they are used to bending with whatever wind comes along. A woman, no matter what the age, is always learning, always becoming. But a man, if you will pardon me, stops learning at fourteen or so. He shuts it all down, Mr Robbins. A log is capable of learning more than a man. To teach a man would be a battle, a war, and I would lose." This is Fern Elston speaking, in Edward P. Jones' wonderfully original and informative novel about slavery, The Known World. Fern Elston is a free black woman, a teacher, and she is…
Read More

WEF report: double depression

The latest World Economic Forum report on the Gender Pay Gap is depressing for two reasons. I applaud the WEF for its attention to the issue, but I find its 'solution' simplistic. First, it shows that worldwide the cause of greater equality has been put into reverse. The latest trends means that it will take "a staggering 257 years to close the gap on economic participation for women – compared to 202 years in last year’s report." We know that the pandemic has added to women's unpaid work burdens; caused many women to drop out of the employment; and hit the occupations in which women tend to work harder than…
Read More