Chwaere Teg means ‘fair play’ in Welsh – a good title for an organisation that is doing excellent work promoting equality issues in Wales. I was in Newport last night giving a lecture for them on Paula (and chapeau to them – they aim to alternate female and male speakers in their lecture series, though the audience was 90% female).
We had quite some discussion on careers. Chwaere Teg produced last year an excellent report, A Woman’s Place, on women in the Welsh workforce. Welsh women are upping their learning – 55% have recently taken part in adult education or training, compared to just 39% in 1996, and a full three-quarters of these did so to help their career. Many woman feel that their skills are not fully used , and this is especially the case in lower-paid jobs. But the proportion of women saying they want promotion has dropped since the 1996 survey. The explanation is probably that the economic climate has depressed expectations/aspirations.
I ran into some flak for expressing opposition to 50/50 proposals. I’ll repeat that I believe 50/50 arrangements may be necessary as a kickstart in some circumstances. But for me it reinforces the unfortunate idea of a simple binary division, and goes against all the thinking and research which shows that men and women overlap on most characteristics. If we want targets – and they are often necessary – then realistic thresholds, e.g. of a minimum 1/3, are much more suitable (as well as being practically much more manageable).
One participant came up with a great phrase in relation to how we get things to change. Organisations, she said, either have to feel the heat or see the light. And she went on that since there’s not much heat around, we need to keep generate as much light as possible.