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Wednesday, 18 July, 2001, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Still a man's world?
The report by the Office for National Statistics suggests men still enjoy the best of most worlds, despites decades of feminist campaigning.
Men still have higher incomes, outnumber women in management and in many professional occupations, and do less than a quarter of the cooking and domestic chores.
So do we still live in a man's world? Have women lost the battle for equal rights?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Clearly this is very much a man's world, regardless of the previous comments about men dying younger, etc. The real issue being debated is that of respect and dignity. If you pay a woman less that doing the same job, you are in effect denying her the respect and dignity to which she is entitled. This cannot be justified surely as everyone, regardless if sex or physical differences, are equal.
I would also say to B Thompson that many women support families with their salary alone, while many men simply support themselves. In any event, why should employers be expected to pay men more due to an out-dated notion of the male breadwinner.
Tim Green, England
In response to Sascha who wrote "If you want a family, your career will suffer", this is only true for women, if we were truly equal we would not be faced with this dilemma. You say that women campaigned to get choice, and choice involves trade-offs, why should it? The real inequality is thinking that women can only have a career OR a family, a combination that men have maintained for centuries.
I fail to see what "a shorter life expectancy" has to do with equal rights - it's hardly anything we can control. The real issue is women doing the same job but being paid less. Additionally it hasn't always got to do with competitiveness, some of the managers that I have had to deal with in my time are complete wet blankets and yet they still get paid more. I think the problem lies with how some men especially in high positions perceive women.
Why is it "degrading" for my wife to iron a shirt for me? She and I have agreed who does which jobs around the house and ironing is one of the jobs she does. If for some reason she can't do it then I do it myself. I don't see that it's anyone's business except ours who does which jobs around the house. What makes me sick is the people who want to be more equal than the others - the women who want everything that men have while keeping everything they have that men can't have. Even in our supposedly enlightened society it is considered unacceptable for a professional man to grow his hair long, yet women are fighting for the right to engage in front-line warfare!
Isn't it amazing that as soon as we mention men and women all the norms of reasoned debate are tossed aside. "Men are better at this, women are better at that"- codswallop! Some men are better at some things some women are better at others- I don't think any of the men here speak for me in their generalisations, whether I agree with their points or not. I am not a generalisation I am a free man!
Women's freedom won't be achieved until societies have got rid of religions. Most religions have been created by men to justify their unfair oppression of women. If religions say women are inferior, incapable of being priests, for example, inequality between sexes will always remain in people's minds.
I am old enough to remember when the Soviets were criticized for allowing females to work as coal miners, lumberjacks, etc. Today they hold such jobs thanks to the movement by activists to permit women to work at any line of endeavour. But it does become ludicrous to see pregnant paratroopers. World War II destroyed the traditional family and created latch-key kids and all the later social problems we have been experiencing ever since.
I'd just like to say to Jennie, who doesn't think there will ever be equality, you're right. I doubt there will ever come a day when a man is treated equally when trying to win the custody of his children in divorce. If men and women are truly equal why should the children always have to be "with their mother"? While the man is left with weekends and fat bills to pay. While women complain about washing-up, ironing and not being paid enough men are having their children used against them as weapons. That is a true inequality.
Kay, the statistics that the insurance companies have actually show that, when the hours spent on the road are taken into account, women do have just as many accidents as men. Men simply drive more hours in a given week.
I think that people in the UK seem far too obsessed with the whole issue. These are changing times, enjoy what we have made of this world.
I agree with the lady who pointed out that things are getting better through the generations. I am in the fortunate position to now earn considerably more than my partner and if this is still the case when we have children then it will be an automatic choice that he works part time (his job as a civil servant is more flexible than mine). We have equal responsibility in the home even though chores are separated (usually) traditionally, i.e. I iron his shirts while he empties the bins etc. I work in an organisation which is heavily female dominated and funnily enough the pay is more than equal and more than above average!
Equal rights? What rights? All women want 'equality' until it's time to pay the bills. Indeed equal rights is more wishful thinking than a reality. Viva 'man' power. But I wish women all the best and success in their unachievable struggle. Instead of insisting on elusive equal rights, why not emphasise co-existence?
The evidence on salaries is indisputable. Women are STILL being paid less than their male counterparts. The same applies to promotion opportunities, and though many women work full-time, they still do most of the housework.
They are more likely to stop working to care for aged or disabled relatives.
In short women's contributions to society and business is STILL being undervalued.
Solution. A day of protest. If ALL women downed tools for the day, the damage to this country, would make the recent fuel protest look like a
We live in a capitalist world and capitalism is the realm of competition and greed.
Men and women have both lost out. It is still a 'masculine' world and the women who have 'succeeded' have done so by complying with 'masculine' patterns of behaviour, or rather those which denote success under capitalism, i.e. greed, willingness to push harder than others, to 'succeed', to pawn their souls.
Capitalism does not give a hang for equality.
I'm sure a lot of the earning/career disparity is down to the naturally more competitive behaviour. It's not that men as a group are trying to keep women down. Men compete with each other, and generally more so than with women. The net result, like in a race, is that those who compete the hardest are more likely to be in the leading half of the field than the trailing pack. In today's commercial climate I just don't believe that many companies are prepared to pay more for an identical employee just because he is a man. It makes no sense. Rather, I think any earning disparity is more down to testosterone-charged bravado helping men in salary negotiations.
Yes, yes - they all want "equality" until it's time to mow the lawn.
Ben Drake, York, UK
I find that despite advances made by the feminist movement in the 60's and 70's there seems to be much inequality in the workplace. I have found - and my friends back in Ireland also complain - that educated women are being pushed into low-paying, low-level jobs with little chance of advancement. Men with a similar level of education are offered better positions and better salaries than us. It offends our sensibilities and defies sense.
Women are getting what they asked for: choice. Choice involves trade-offs. If you want a career, your family will suffer. If you want a family, your career will suffer. If you want both, that is understandable but probably not achievable. Feminists campaigned for years to give women choice, now you've got it. And why feminism? Why not humanism instead?
B. Thompson has taken my breath away with his/her outdated, arrogant attitude! I'm a 36-year-old widow with 2 children doing a responsible full-time job. If I don't earn the same as a male colleague, who is going to subsidise me and MY dependents? It's ignorance on this breath-taking scale that is holding back true equality.
Women who are married for years and then start moaning that their husband doesn't do enough of the housework only have themselves to blame. They made the decision to place themselves in that situation, the same as women who accept jobs with unfair wages, or women who take time off to have children. No one can expect their husband to change overnight, or to take a year off work without it affecting their career.
To Dave Tankard, UK, the reason insurance companies can say that women are better drivers, is because they have the statistics on car insurance claims to back them up. The reason they can't say that men are better drivers, is because - quite obviously - they aren't.
Lynne Guyton, UK
My husband is at home looking after our child while I work full-time to support the family. This is purely a financial decision.
When I get home from work, I play with my son and put him to bed. I then prepare and cook their meals for the next day.
I believe this is normal for a working mother. I would usually expect to add the housework to this, but I am fortunately able to afford a cleaner once a week.
I take care of the bills and family finances.
My husband looks after our son. He says women find it easier to multi-task and I think he is right. He is wonderful with our son, but he would rather be at work. If he were, I wonder how much role reversal there would be?
Why does the equality debate always focus on advancing women's issues!
I have a shorter life expectancy coupled with a higher legal retirement age. Research
into male cancers is about non-existant coupled with an NHS I perceive as having
a "who cares about men anyway?" attitude.
I believe in equal rights for ALL but somehow we are all discriminated against.
Women are still complaining, Mr B. Thompson, because it is simply not right that two people who do the same job should receive different wages based upon their sex. I would be interested to know what satisfaction outside the workplace it is you think that women have that men don't that makes it alright for this state of affairs to continue
I personally don't see much of a problem. It's a generation thing and things will continue to improve. My mum would die of shock if my dad actually picked up a vacuum cleaner or switched the washing machine on! My boyfriend on the other hand couldn't be more helpful around the house. We both work full-time and therefore we share the chores. There has never been an issue with one of us doing more than the other.
I fail to understand how women can continue to ask for equality when clearly they are better off than men. Men die earlier, they have poorer health, they have a higher rate of suicide, they are more likely to be a victim of violent crime, they are less well served by the education system, they receive state pensions later, they suffer discrimination in family courts and are now freely abused and ridiculed on film and TV and in other media in a way that women would not put up with.
A lot of the differences are likely to be due to lifestyle choices. Not all women want a career equal to or better than a man's - many women want to work part-time so they can also take time to look after children. A flexible job is unlikely to be a high-paying job, so anyone (male or female) who wants such a job has to accept a lower salary. Women are more likely to take these jobs to fit in with their children's lives so averages are pulled down. It would be interesting to see how the genders compare on other surveys like life happiness - there's a lot more to measure than simply how many pounds are put in a bank account each month.
I think women now have more rights than they did 50 years ago. I know for a fact that I would not have been able to take time off to have my second child if I was working 50 years ago. The state is a lot more tolerable nowadays, but we still have a long way to go. The movements such as the suffragettes paved the way and it is up to us to make sure equality exists. If race equality is taken seriously, then why are women not taken seriously?
I think that basically women have achieved equality with men - all my university friends who were female got the best jobs in terms of salary when leaving university. Perhaps the statistics are skewed by the equality only existing strongly in 20 and 30 somethings. And also because of the career blip that pregnancy causes. Women are always going to have to accept that they will lose a few years from their career for the far more rewarding experience of having children.
Farhat Taj, Pakistan
Simple. Women have far more rights than any man. Ask any man who has gone through (or is going through) a divorce. The inequality is outrageous.
If men want to have children then they should be forced to recognise that they must share in the burdens of family. There is no biological imperative for a woman not to work outside the home and to contribute to society through her work. Biology dictates only that women bear and birth children. In light of this they require some social and medical support which men do not require. Everyone, however, requires a clean home, balanced nutrition, clean clothes, love and affection. If men are not going to understand by themselves that it is in their own best interests to take on their share of these, then they should be forced to. I would suggest a worldwide strike by women refusing to bear one single more child until men start doing their bit!
Is this a real battle? I don't think so. Employers seek people who are less sensitive, steady under pressure, who prefer their job to home and family, and are willing to work day and night. And, unfortunately, we - men - suit these demands.
I've found most of the main obstacles I face as a woman are placed there by other women. We're our own worst enemies. Increasing "family friendly" and "working woman friendly" (for "woman" read "mother" in that instance) policies in the workplace are anything but friendly to women like myself who have chosen to forego parenthood and domesticity. Modern feminism is only beneficial for those women who want it all - those of us who don't want it all are left out in the cold. I say equal rights for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, reproductive status - everything.
If I gave up work for a year to travel the world, I couldn't expect to progress in my career as fast as someone who stuck at their job. Women who take time off to have children can't expect special treatment.
The law already makes it potentially more expensive to employ women as a company is very likely to be lumbered paying maternity leave, having to employ someone to cover and keep the job open while the woman decides whether or not she is coming back to work after having a child.
Most women work full or part time now to compensate for high house prices, therefore juggling work with household chores must be shared. However, even though my husband does do a bit of cooking, gardening etc, he still manages to be able to hog the sofa with the remote control whilst I am always busy....I'm too busy to find out why.
Natassia Khan, UK
What on earth are you lot moaning about now? Women have got it better now than at any time in your history. You lot are living at the best time there has ever been for women and you're still complaining. True, you still may not earn quite as much as your male colleague in the same job, but then his income is all he has. He has to support himself and his dependants.
Why is it that insurance companies can say things like "women are better drivers" without any fear of reprisals? If they said, "men are better drivers" they would instantly be accused of sexism.
Equality has come a long way, though
we're not there yet. However, please
let's not confuse "equality" with "sameness". Of
course women and men should have equal
rights and opportunities at all levels, but
they will always be different, and this cannot be ignored.
Tamsin says; '... it can't be denied that women are much better at looking after a home and children than men...'
This is a perfect example of how far this issue has moved in favour of women. I can only imagine the outcry if a man was to say something similar, perhaps that 'women can't drive as well as men'.
There have been huge strides forward in relation to women's rights and equality in society. However, it can't be denied that women are much better at looking after a home and children than men and this leads to a conflict of interest for a family. Women are much happier to stay at home and bring up children as nature intended and men are there to get the food on the table - it's really quite simple.
Women have got equal, if not more rights than men. But unfortunately until men both WANT and DEMAND the same career flexibility that women have there will always be a "success" gap at work. The partners/ husbands of career women must be both able and willing to share domestic duties equally before the workplace will be more balanced.
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