Is Jordan Peterson’s offence to the transactivist community a lesser one than that of leading feminist voices?

Professor Jordan Peterson faced little opposition to speaking at the Oxford Union last week. In fact by all accounts he was welcomed  at Oxford University despite his very public and consistent criticism of aspects of trans activist ideology . This is in stark opposition to leading feminists who have been no platformed in other universities for similar views. And to the violent protests that met women meeting in Oxford recently just to debate the consequences of any changes to Gender Recognition Act.

Professor Peterson has been in trouble at his own university in Toronto, Canada because of rejecting a rule forcing him to use particular pronouns of someone’s choice. In fact it was this suspension that made him something of a global star. He argues pretty persuasively that we do not choose our identity – it is something that is negotiated in society and is constantly in flux. Using gender identity as a social category rather than sex has led to 31 different gender identities being recognised in the state of New York and he says it is absurd and unworkable. And that it is undemocratic for a tiny percentage of the population to impose changes in language which everyone else is forced to  use. He sees it as an attack on free speech.

Yet even questioning the right of biological men to claim to be a woman (self ID) ‘I am a woman because I say I am’ has been enough for a number of well-known feminists to be barred from speaking publicly about anything!  Germaine Greer, whose work was life changing for many women of my generation,  faced fierce opposition to  speaking at Cardiff University and still faces abuse because of her views (she is speaking though at Oxford Union next month) ; Julie Bindel, a campaigner against male violence was no platformed by Manchester University  and  Linda Bellos, a lifelong feminist activist was banned from speaking at Cambridge University. All three are critical of the transgender ideology, particularly of self ID. Why  is that  Professor Peterson, who  is  dismissive of  feminism, was applauded almost unreservedly  at Oxford yet women who have been activists and done huge amounts to promote the equality of women are being silenced because of views that they actually share with Peterson? Is it because he has an adoring fan club of mostly young men?


Gender Pay Gap Reports: Entrenched segregation and how big bonuses for men create the biggest gender pay gap

The last minute and presumably reluctant release of their gender pay gap reports earlier this month by the majority of companies with over 250 employees warned us that there would be some difficult reading.  No doubt hoping theirs would be buried in the swamp of thousands of others if they left it to the last day shows that leaders know full well some of the inequalities that still exist in their organisations. I know that in some instances PR consultants as well as lawyers have been hauled in to restore any brand reputational damage.

Yes the gender pay gap is a clumsy measure. To know that there are more men at the top of almost all organisations is nothing new to us, but it is still uncomfortable to see this uneven representation when it is laid out in statistics. And as well, to see this vertical segregation of men and women result in some huge pay disparities. But the exercise is useful because by looking closely at the figures we can also use them to see where more work or even some work needs to be done.

Vertical and horizontal segregation

The publication of the quartiles is revealing and these numbers are invaluable to companies in any gender audit. In the vast majority of organisations   women dominate the bottom two quartiles and it switches for the next higher two.  Looking at ways to promote women into more senior positions is on most companies’ to do diversity list and efforts can be redoubled. The missing statistic which I am sure companies may have themselves and should also look at it is in which divisions in the organisation men and women are working. Horizontal segregation is as important as vertical segregation. Who works where and what is the impact on gender pay differentials? Are women over represented in certain departments? Which departments are most valued? This should provoke a debate on the meaning of value and whether it is time to address some of the assumptions that dictate levels of pay.

A further line of questioning for organisations is this. Is there a correlation between the highly paid parts of an organisation and their cultures? Does the culture operate to exclude and/or marginalise women from the most highly prized parts of a company?  In my experience this is very often what happens and my survey is designed to capture this kind of exclusion / marginalisation.

 A useful measure of success of diversity initiatives

The gender pay audits can be used as a measure of success of gender diversity initiatives. Organisations are part of a wider labour market with its own inequalities and that itself is part of wider society where there is still gender inequality. So  there are limits on what can be done. But some organisations have worked hard over many years to achieve better representation of women throughout their organisations and it is interesting for these companies to see when and to what extent the work has paid off. Certainly a company like National Grid which has invested in many years of diversity work shows that even a numerically male dominated organisation can still achieve good results in gender parity.

Women at National Grid make up less than a third of the bottom quartile but are still nearly a quarter of the top quartile – a far less differential than in many female dominated companies. And the pay gap is much smaller than the average with women’s   median hourly rate being only 1.9% lower than men’s.

A female dominated company, Marks and Spencer also started implementing equal opportunities policies years and years ago like other retailers with predominantly female workforces.  Women’s representation throughout the organisation is fairly consistent and two thirds of the top quartile are women with 75% in the lowest quartile. The median pay gap is very low at 3.3% (mean 12.3%)

However some organisations have found it difficult to achieve good results despite a focus on gender equality and diversity. Goldman Sachs has been noisy enough about gender equality over the years. It has even won an Opportunity Now award a few years  for its initiative 10,000 Women  which  aimed to provide  microfinance for this number of women in Africa. However closer to home it is struggling to get women into senior positions. Only 17% of the top quartile are women whilst 62.4% of the lowest quartile are. Women’s mean hourly rate is 55.5% lower than men’s and median rate 36.4% lower.

The bonus gap

Almost everywhere I looked, whatever the size of the median hourly pay gap, the bonus gap was way, way bigger. Goldman Sachs, renowned for its huge remuneration packages, published a whopping 72.2% mean bonus pay gap (67.7% median).

And in organisations where the pay gap hourly rate figures were ‘good’, these were often not matched by similar size bonus gap figures. At Marks and Spencer  although more women  (76%)  than men (66%)  received bonus pay the bonus pay gap is vastly skewed in favour of the minority of men, with the gender gap shooting to 53% mean (15.9% median) lower for women. I do think the mean is important to look at when talking about bonuses because these large gaps mean the figures are being skewed by some very large numbers at the top, an important part of the story.

Ernst & Young, another organisation with an exemplary history of diversity and inclusion work, reported a 15% pay gap with 35% of women making up the top quartile. Yet when it came to bonuses a similar pattern emerged. Women’s mean bonus pay was 43.5% lower than men’s and women’s median bonus pay is 35.2% lower than men’s.

McKinsey has been consulting on and researching the benefits of gender diversity for a number of years now, publishing their reports Diversity Matters annually. The management consultancy had reasonably good statistics for women in the top quartile… 35% were women compared to the bottom quartile where 60% were women and the median hourly rate was a little below the average at 14.3%. However these relatively good figures get blown out of the water with the publication of their bonus figures.  Women’s mean bonus pay was 76% lower than men’s and 52.5% lower than men’s (median).

Whilst companies sought to explain differences in pay by the fact that there were not enough women in senior positions they were pretty silent on the bonus differences.


The pattern I see in these reported figures is consistent. It is that whatever the demographic of the organisation, or how evenly distributed men and women are throughout an organisation, there exists a top most senior group of predominantly men whose pay is so high it skews the figures dramatically (you can tell this from the mean averages of bonuses as against the median).

It is to be applauded that bonuses were included in the reporting requirements as one of the biggest obscurers of pay is the bonus culture. The accepted use of the bonus system to pay men disproportionately more than women needs to be challenged.

The glass ceiling is in fact very flexible… it shifts like cling film to protect the most elite, the most powerful and the best paid in any organisation. Yes, we are talking at this level about the kind of salaries few of us would dream of, but the exposure and analysis of this is important when addressing the lack of women in leadership roles.

Gender Pay Gaps – further reflection on the BBC pay debacle

Gender Pay Gaps –   further reflection on the BBC pay debacle

I have been spending time looking at some of the 2017 Gender Pay Gap Reports  in some detail and will be writing on them shortly but so far I have not found anything that has disappointed me as much as the huge gender pay chasm that was revealed in the publication of the BBC’s most highly paid stars last July.

However that may be because none of the companies have voluntarily published any actual earnings figures which is how what got the BBC into such trouble.  The interesting fact is that despite the BBC UK having a relatively low gender pay gap of 9% (published following its equal pay audit last year), and nearly half its employees being women almost throughout the organisation, this huge gender disparity of pay in the highly paid quartile can still occur. So we would probably be equally disappointed by actual earnings disparities if other companies did publish them.  Judging by the size of some of the reported pay gaps, these senior male executives must be paid very well indeed to skew the results so heavily, even in female dominated companies.

I bring up the BBC pay revelation of last year because it needs ongoing attention, shining a light on what may be happening elsewhere. I found the article written by Sarah Montague in the Sunday Times this week quite heart wrenching. On the face of it this was gender discrimination of the most odious kind.  This is not a cut throat profit driven investment bank but a publicly funded organisation that likes to think of itself as politically correct in every way. Complicated remuneration packages have made it very difficult to compare salaries, making inequality of pay hard to establish. But to sit side by side with someone ostensibly doing the same job for so many years only to find he is valued at nearly five times more than you are must be devastating. I will not reiterate her experience but I am glad she has written this   and as she says there will be literally thousands of women who are being underpaid compared to their male colleagues without them knowing. It is only by insisting on further transparency than the current gender pay reports require that any of us can know.

Postnote: BBC Worldwide (as opposed to just the UK) published their Gender Pay Gap Report  and the gap measured nearer 17%.

Still relevant today…. a note from 2014

Diary of a gendered world – February 20th 2014

I have in front of me two pieces of research on gender at work and the lack of women in senior leadership both published by large influential corporates. The first one is McKinsey’s latest  report, Moving Mindsets on Gender Diversity and the second one is  Winning Hearts and Minds – How CEOs talk about gender parity  published by Kings’ College and written by Elisabeth Kelan with the support of KPMG.

I have  also just  been listening to Radio 4 PM on the radio and hearing the horrific account of a twenty year woman in Northern India who has been gang raped by thirteen men at the request of a village elder. She is in an acute condition in hospital and of course there is discussion now in the media  about the high incidence of rape and sexual violence in India – a discussion that only really began eighteen months ago following the brutal gang rape and subsequent death of a young physiotherapist on a bus in New Delhi….

Much as I believe the sincerity of the two corporate reports and the desire for change within organisations, only when we as a society begin to make the link between these and the gang rape in India will any meaningful change take place….


postnote…I still believe this to be true. We must try to link the macro picture of women’s lives everywhere with the micro we focus on when it comes to working for gender equality.

Challenging the Celluloid Ceiling at the Oscars 2018

Frances McDormand got right to the nub of it with her acceptance words last night at the Oscars in Los Angeles.  Asking every woman who had been nominated for an Oscar to stand up  and then saying to the rest of the audience… look, women have their own stories, give us the finance to make them!

Sexual harassment is but a symptom of the core problem in the film industry which McDormand exposed last night. Power and money behind the scenes determine the movies, both in what is made and how it is made and who is in them.  And this background picture is very male. The concentration of this power in the hands of men has resulted in the abuse, exploitation and arguably over sexualisation and stereotyping of women in film. This is the #timesup story now.  Women need to make their own movies, tell their own tales.   A recent study conducted by San Diego State University, looked at the top 250 films at the US box office in 2017 and found that women make up only 11% of the directors. This has risen from a mere 7% in 2016. And 83% of all films had no female writers at all. For all its liberal polish Hollywood is still back in the dark ages when it comes to women’s equality.

Perhaps uniquely the film industry has the ability to contribute to ideology in a way few other industries can. What we see on screen not only mirrors but shapes what we see in society. It is almost always men’s standpoint we see when we go to the cinema no matter what gender the actors on the screen.   Only one woman director, Kathryn Bigelow has ever won an Oscar (The Hurt Locker). Greta Gerwig got the fifth ever Oscar nomination to a female director this year for Ladybird (in the award’s 90 year history).  Actresses with enough clout are now  producing their own films and TV series as  they find the choice of parts limited and/or stereotyped.   Recent female led productions like Big Little Lies, produced by Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon and Margot Robbie’s I Tonya among others are telling stories through women’s eyes…   The celluloid ceiling is now being challenged and it is high time.

Further interesting statistics can be found here.

Part Two. Women’s Anger

Other commentators have talked of men feeling victimised so it is not just Matthew Parris. I suggest that the discomfort that men and indeed some women are feeling about the current stories involving men’s behaviour to women is actually a profound discomfort with women’s anger.  Because the #MeToo and #Times Up movements are  not a joined up feminist campaign with a strategy but symptoms of women’s anger and women do have a lot to be angry about. I first discovered that it was ok for women to be angry when I read Mary Daly’s extraordinary polemic Gyn/Ecology at university many moons ago. I also learned quickly that angry women are punished culturally so it is not surprising that we have seen so little of women’s anger expressed in history… the suffragettes and the second wave feminists certainly but both were described/ dismissed as harridans, harpies and generally disgraceful examples of women at the time.  But in the face of how women and girls are treated at the hands of men all over the world is there any other reaction that is more appropriate than anger? This is righteous anger and because it has been repressed for so long sometimes it may not look pretty.  Women are not used to being angry and men are not used to seeing it.

Several years ago I took part in a group analytical weekend on Gender, Sex and Power. You can guess that there were not many men on it but those that were, were all supportive, pro-feminist men. On day three a woman recounted that she had been followed and threatened by a man on her walk home the evening before. This had the effect of bringing out comments from other women about men’s behaviour they found upsetting. The anger of women in that group was being expressed quite cautiously but was palpable. Of all places this was a therapeutic setting and should have felt safe. However the men were deeply unsettled and felt attacked (sort of like Matthew Paris). One man even jumped up and left the group, followed by a couple of others. The male facilitator lost control of the group and the women were left with their angry feelings now mixed with that familiar feeling of guilt at having caused men to be angry. Yes it is complex and difficult. I suggest that this is what is taking place today. We do not have sufficient language and experience of discussing these issues. I understand it must be hard as a man to hear how your own sex behaves towards women, and to want to distance yourself from it, but the lid is off and we know that blame can no longer be put at the feet of a few perverted men. Sexism and misogyny are enmeshed in the fabric of most cultures in different ways and must be worked through for us all to move forward.

Part One. If men like Matthew Parris feel victimised…..

I like Matthew Parris; I like a lot of his work even if I don’t always agree with him. He has got a bit obsessive over the Brexit decision which I can only think has tainted his usual intelligence and empathy. Or else feminism really has got an awful lot of work to do. It is worrying for women if a ‘liberal minded’ man of considerable intellect has failed to grasp even the basics of feminism. His particular complaint aired on the Today programme this morning is that there has been too much media coverage of women and women’s issues and many men like him are beginning to feel victimised. This is astonishing and particularly disappointing at a time when women are celebrating 100 years of having the vote. And to talk of being victimised in the light of readily available statistics showing that women are still murdered by their partners or ex partners at the rate of two a week, domestic violence is rife as is rape and sexual harassment – is frankly narcissistic as well as disrespectful.

The Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson did all women proud with some brilliant responses to Matthew Parris’s complaints.  So engrained is our masculine bias in all things cultural that when women dominate any platform even once, it feels strange and can provoke cries of ‘unfair’ from men. But it is women now who are saying they are fed up with the years of domination everywhere and in many forms by men. It is not a coincidence that Today has a female editor, Sarah Sands and her touch on the programme’s content is evident and welcome.  I know that many men are threatened by the increasing independence and voice of women but I would never have counted Matthew Parris as one of them. We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, so Matthew hang on to your hat, there is a lot more to come.

The real test of the gender pay gap

The gender pay gap  has rightly been in the news a lot recently, as companies, most of whom have been dragging their feet, have to report by April this year. Most of the big gender pay gaps reported so far including Easyjet, Aviva, Virgin Money are easily explained away by the fact that it is men who still hold the majority of well-paid and senior positions in organizations. It is not much of a surprise that senior managers are paid more than clerical workers, pilots are paid more than air stewardesses. Apart from encouraging more women into senior positions there is a limit to what companies can do to radically change. The outrage about the BBC’s publication of its figures was that, from an outside perspective, men and women seemingly doing exactly the same job were being made very different salaries. There was John Humphries and Sarah Montague sitting side by side on many mornings presenting the Today programme, and one was being paid more than three times as much as the other. That, if proven, would be illegal. The BBC argument boiled down so far is that there is just a far greater value placed on men than women. And this is the nub of most discrimination and hard for all of us to acknowledge today.

So what is very exciting and of real challenge to the gender pay gap everywhere is the news that female shop workers are taking their employer Tesco to court on an equal pay claim. They will be arguing that their work is of equal value to the male warehouse workers, who  are paid more per hour than they are, and receive better overtime pay.

The limits of equal pay legislation became apparent soon after its implementation in 1975. The fact that men and women were segregated into different jobs meant that direct comparisons then were few and far between and indeed still are. The Equal Pay Act was amended in 1983 and a new regulation which provides for claims of equal pay for work of equal value came into force in 1984. This has proved to be an invaluable (if lengthy and complex) route for women, challenging as it does the notion that skills and value are objective.

Equal pay legislation has been in place for over forty years. We must not forget that before then it was perfectly legal for companies to pay women half what they paid men. It seems incredible today but it was accepted that women were valued less than men in society and that followed them into the workplace. The hangover of women’s lesser social status is still with us. To put it bluntly, on the whole women’s jobs pay less than men’s jobs. Women are crowded into underpaid sectors of the labour market, sometimes known as the five C’s – caring, cleaning, clerical, cashiering and catering. These are structural labour market inequalities which we should all be questioning. Arguably we should be using these facts for pay demands rather than a simple public /sector private sector one.

As a society we really need to ask questions about value. Why should train drivers who are overwhelmingly male earn twice as much as highly qualified nurses overwhelmingly female? Do we as a society think that train drivers are twice as valuable?

The last big case of this kind was the case of the female Birmingham council workers who won their equal pay case based on work of equal value in 2010.

Nearly 4,500 women working in traditionally female dominated roles such as cleaning care and catering  for made individual claims against  Birmingham Council for which they worked, comparing themselves with male workers, such as grave diggers, street cleaners and refuse collectors.  During the seven week hearing the tribunal heard how a man doing the same pay-graded job as a woman could earn four times more than her. Under a bonus scheme male refuse collection staff sometimes received up to 160% of their basic pay. In one year a refuse collector took home £51,000 while women on the same pay grade received less than £12,000. The council appealed and lost in 2012 and is stilling paying out compensation to the women.

An early example of and equal pay for work of equal value claim (Enderby 1997) which affected a whole profession was the case of a senior speech therapist who compared her work (dominated by women) to clinical psychologists and pharmacists which at the time were mostly male. It took Professor Enderby eleven years but she won.

Pandora’s box has been opened – surely the business world is next?

At a time when a tiny percentage of the population are offended by whether they are being asked to tick male or female on a form and are actually taken seriously, it is shameful that the extent to which women are marginalised and excluded through sexual harassment and sexually harassing cultures is only just now being revealed.

As a young City analyst in the eighties I was warned about a number of business leaders that I should avoid being on my own with, particularly in social settings. One well known retail CEO tried to get in a lift with me late one Friday night and was stopped by one of his colleagues. The annual Investment Analysts’ dinner should have remained a male only event, such was the eye opening behaviour of many of the men there at the end of the evening.  In those days it came with the territory and you learned to deal with it, or left.

My experience as a consultant advising on culture and gender, is that it is still the case that wherever a workplace is predominantly male, women can be made to feel unwelcome in a myriad of ways.  Individual sexual harassment and more importantly a culture which condones it is one such way.

In the late nineties and early 2000’s many large organisations introduced codes of conduct around behaviours at work,  including sexual harassment. But in many less regulated and less centralised workplaces, insisting on respectful behaviour has been more difficult and employees working in those environments often have had no recourse to support. They rely on having a good boss and if he is the problem, tough.

The emphasis on behaviours has lessened in recent times as attention turned to the more intangible barriers to women’s progress at work. Sexual harassment fits uneasily into the diversity discourse where notions of discrimination and power are absent.  My survey on gendered organisational cultures has a section on sexuality including asking about unwanted sexual attention. Clients have often asked me to remove this section, perhaps fearful of the results.

When an issue is not acknowledged, it is not discussed but it does not go away. It remains underground until such time as its existence is revealed and is legitimised as wrongdoing – usually by the male dominated establishment. Until this point women’s experiences and even complaints can be dismissed or passed off as individual misfortunes. Now that the establishment is no longer colluding with but condemning sexual harassment, women now feel more confident in speaking out. This explains why the floodgates have opened. Surely the business world is next.

Hollywood exposed – the floodgates open

Gosh, a lot is being written about the behaviour of Harvey Weinstein!  He has always been described as someone who made stars and now the world knows what some of them had to suffer to ‘succeed’. Sexual   favours are still a currency in the entertainment industry and his behaviour is at the extreme end of a continuum familiar with women there.   Most women in the entertainment industry have experienced  attempts of sexual coercion, in one form or another, subtle or not so subtle, so the collective shock of the great and the good is a little hard to believe. At least Ryan Gosling said he was disappointed in himself. As we know,  sexual harassment and particularly this type of individualised behaviour is not confined to one or two superstar movie moguls nor to the glossy backdrop of Beverley Hills.

Its disclosure was timely for me for a purely personal point of view.  I was digging out a research study on sexual harassment in the UK armed services that I conducted with my colleagues Robin Schneider and Alexis Walmsley at Schneider Ross in 2006 because the topic was back in the news and I wondered why our research was no longer referred to. Diversity consultants get used to our reports being put in that proverbial desk drawer but this one was big, cost a lot of taxpayers money and if I do say so myself shed a lot of light on the behaviour of men towards women in the workplace and so relevant to other industries.  It can be found buried in the archives of the MOD website! A version of the survey was done by them internally in 2015 but because of changes they made and a different sample comparisons could not really be made with our findings.

In our study the majority of individualised incidents were perpetrated by senior men over junior women. Inappropriate sexualised behaviour has a number of different purposes. In some male dominated industries it is a way of warning women off male territory or of reminding them of their inferiority.

We found a lot of the individualised sexual harassment was really a form of bullying.  As many, many of us have insisted over the years this really isn’t about sex or desire at all, because if men want sex they can usually find it even if it means paying for it. No, this is about humiliation, deference , submission and the pleasure some men get from forcing women to submit in whatever way that means to them.  But as Hollywood continues to be dominated by a male power elite and films are made almost entirely  from a male perspective with perhaps an occasional  nod to female emancipation,  this furore may be the catalyst for an in depth debate about the entertainment industry and the subjection of women within it, that is long overdue.