Work like a man….
What do Theresa May and
Grayson Perry have in common?
Maybe not very much. But on Desert Island Discs recently, May chose Walk Like A Man as one of her numbers. She hurriedly added that much though she swings along to the song, she did not mean it as a message to any ambitious females, who should walk their own walk.
Recently in the New Statesman Perry asks, how did the straight, white man get the keys to the kingdom, and when will he give them back? He goes for ‘Default Man’ as the label for this, saucily explaining his reasons : “I like the word ‘default’, for not only does it mean ‘the result of not making an active choice’, but two of its synonyms are ‘failure to pay’ and ‘evasion’, which seems incredibly appropriate.”
I doubt if May would go far along with that line of thinking, but there is some interesting overlap in their refusals to accept the standard male norm. Perry expresses very well what I have been arguing in making the case for ‘reverse convergence’ in respect of careers:
“Default Man feels he is the reference point from which all other values and cultures are judged. Default Man is the zero longitude of identities.” (my stress). We need a redrawing of the maps (or is it a reorientation of compasses), with a different set of standard reference points when it comes to defining careers and evaluating competences. Included in this might be more men actively choosing to pursue horizontal careers, not the default vertical orientation.
Maybe Grayson will take to wearing leopard skin shoes. Meanwhile, back at the statistical ranch, I came across some interesting figures – led to them, once again, by the excellent Flip Chart Fairy Tales. In early 2012, the numbers of men and women in ‘Professional Occupations’ was more or less equal. Now, women are out ahead, with nearly 2.8 million in that category, compared with 2.55 million men. The number of professional women has grown by 4.8% in the last year, whilst men have gone down by 0.5%. The trend is pretty clear.
But link it, as FCFT does, to pay: the number of people earning over £20K has gone down. Is this a coincidence – that as women come to the fore in professional occupations the modal salary (overall – not just for professionals) is dropping? I’m sure there is more to it than this. But we may have here at least a partial explanation of the ‘hollowing out’ of the labour market: it’s to do with how pay is determined, as well as with technological change…..