A fertile post

Below is a comment submitted in response to a blog of mine challenging Mrs Moneypenny’s sense of value. I’ve kept it anonymous at the request of the author  (let’s call her K) but quote it in almost its entirety because it encapsulates so many PP issues.  In particular:

1.  Fairness is and should be central.  The driver is K’s sense of injustice at her discovery, not her desire for more money.    People should not have to work to find these things out, nor happen on them by chance.

2.  Part-timers often give better value.  Another, rather different, example:  I was listening the other week to Brian Moore – the former English rugby player, renowned ‘pit bull’  – on Radio 3’s Essential Classics.  Moore was a solicitor at the time he played for England.  The game then was amateur, so he had to take time off for training and, especially, for the Lions tours, which lasted several weeks.  This did not stop him bringing in his share of the firm’s income – as he (no doubt with fair force) reminded a colleague who once in the lift unwisely queried his absences.  As I say, a rather different example…

3.  Men’s level of attention to their comparative earnings status (or, as K says, their beliefs about this).  Yes, it’s a gender generalisation, but I’ve heard it from so many different quarters.  The issue for me is how to make management systems reward competence, not respond to perceptions of others’ earnings.

4.  Career horizons.  I find K’s comment on the ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?’ question very telling.   It’s fine for people to have done some thinking about their futures, but it’s not at all clear to me that it’s always a positive sign if a candidate for a job, or an existing staff member, is (or pretends to be) unblinkingly sure about their future several years down the line.  (Carrieres a Ciel Ouvert, an e-book by Soleine Leprince-Ringuet which I’ve just read,  is funny and insightful about career-testing questions put to high flyers).

5.  Men being more like women.  Yes, at least as far as attitudes to work and working time are concerned.  I’m still working out how to phrase this appropriately.

Anyway, here’s the post.  Thanks, K.

Nearly fifteen years ago I was a partner in a big law firm. I had a small child and was running a profitable, growing dept in 4 days a week. I resigned after I found out a male contemporary running a smaller, less profitable dept than me and billing fewer chargeable hours was being paid £40k more than me. £20k of the difference was because my pay was pro-rated down to 80% for my 4 day week (though on every measure, I was doing more for the firm than the full-timer). The other £20k was for, well, who knows. I didn’t actually resign because of the pay difference – I resigned because the managing partner refused even to justify it to me. Ironically, the same man declined to accept my resignation for 6 weeks because he didn’t want me to leave. Since then, with two (male) business partners I’ve built a restaurant business with over £20m t/o. I still take out less in salary now than I did as a lawyer, as we re-invest heavily to achieve growth without external funding. That drop in earnings doesn’t matter to me. My satisfaction comes from seeing a young team grow and mature, providing great customer service and building the business. But. It is highly noticeable that the men within the business demand more in pay and bonuses – and equity – than the women. And they do it not on the basis of their competences, but on the basis of what they were paid elsewhere, or what they believe other people are being paid elsewhere and therefore they ought to be paid.  I still work part-time. I have a teenager whom I want to have the time to support properly, I have a home and garden to keep under control, I write novels, and I like to have time for friends and family, for exercise, music, reading and thinking. Sometimes I feel foolish for not demanding what the other fellows demand, for staring blankly at the paper whenever I’m asked that supremely male career question: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?”, for not understanding why anyone thinks offering me a bonus will make me do a better job. (I wouldn’t do the job if I didn’t intend to do it to the best of my ability.) But honestly, I don’t think I am foolish. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking why women are less greedy and are more keen to spread their talents and skills over a broader range through their lives. Maybe we should be asking why men aren’t more like women.

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