Ambassadors for women at work

I find myself in the unlikely company of Ivana Trump and Jim Yong Kim. The ‘US first daughter’ and the president of the WB wrote a joint piece yesterday in the Financial Times on the enormous dividends which would flow from greater  economic participation by women.

They point to better board level decision making; higher productivity; and more household spending on food, education and health.   They identify blocks to realising these benefits:  lower access to finance; legislative constraints, for example on land ownership ; and narrower occupational options.

I’ll sign up to all of that.  A broad consensus is clearly emerging….

Two other PP-relevant newspaper items caught my eye.  A Sunday Times piece talks about Silicon Valley’s ‘toxic’ culture, and quotes Ellen Pao as blaming this on the influx of greedy male graduates.  Pao is a venture capitalist who sued her firm for gender discrimination.  She lost, but raised a lot of issues around the behaviour of financiers.  Now she’s pointing a finger at a culture of greed, powered by young hyper-aggressive men who a generation ago would have gone to work on Wall Street but now go west. ‘Hyper-aggressive’ is an interesting term;  it raises questions about where we draw the line between energy, ambition and legitimate risk-taking on the one side, and unnecessary and counterproductive behaviour on the other.

Then the Guardian weighs in with a piece about the crumbling of Japan’s egalitarian and solidaristic work ethic.  I already had Japan down as an extreme example of the Paula Principle – behind only South Korea –  with very highly educated women but a persistently high gender pay gap.  More and more workers are now on part-time and temporary jobs, and OECD data shows that the wage gap between full-timers and part-timers is 45% for men and 31% for women.  Japan has long had a problem with its working hours culture, with presenteeism  a major feature and many employees working huge amounts of overtime.  Now the full-time/part-time divide is making itself felt there too.

Will we see Ivana Trump pitching for women’s rights at work, from California to Japan?  These days,anything is possible.

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