Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
Today’s Dom Post says that we need more women at top levels in the police force, and argues that a big part of the problem is the entrenched culture of sexism and misogyny. It goes even further than suggesting that the culture in the police force needs to change, saying:
Changing the culture of an organisation takes time, but the time for soft-footing the issue is past. If there are still police officers who cannot deal with women in the workplace they, not their female colleagues, should go.
And it fingers the sexual harassment and bullying of women officers as the big problem that stops women from making it to the top.
There are two explanations for the dearth of women at senior level. One is that the country’s 1564 sworn female police officers are good for patrolling the beat, making arrests and prettying up the station, but do not have the heads for more serious matters. The other is that the police culture is antagonistic towards women. Dame Margaret Bazley’s 2007 commission of inquiry into police conduct and a 2000 review of female participation in the criminal investigation branch suggests the latter is the case.
Dame Margaret’s inquiry focused predominantly on sexual misconduct, but it revealed a workplace in which antediluvian attitudes toward women persisted well into the 1980s and in which elements of the police hierarchy regarded allegations of sexual misconduct in the same way as the Catholic church. They were to be hushed up and tidied away rather than dealt with.
The 2000 CIB review revealed a similar culture. Author Prue Hyman, associate professor of economics and women’s studies at Victoria University, found an, at times, unwelcoming climate for women ”where mild gender harassment and workplace bullying is often tolerated”.
Wow. Tough talk. Watch out for senior police officers denying it all later on today…
But I don’t think that’s the only attitude problem that’s stopping women from getting to the top in the police force. Last Saturday’s Dom Post had a full page article about women in the police: What stops women becoming top cops?
There are some clues in the article about another huge problem for female police officers.
“Reviews have discussed how it takes a ‘special kind of woman’ to get ahead; that there are higher standards for women; that the police internal culture demands a certain assertiveness and personal resilience from women; that there is an element of sexism; and that all in all it’s an old boys’ club.”
She points to the recent departure of Ms Rose, and Superintendent Gayle Gibson, who retired last year.
The difficulty of combining work and family are a barrier to career progression, Ms Hornsby-Geluk says.
Dayle Candy, who had risen to the rank of detective senior sergeant when she quit in 2001, says she couldn’t juggle work and family. She had served 26 years.
“There was an atmosphere that persisted that I wasn’t capable of doing the job because I had a family. And there was very little discussion around changing that. The environment wasn’t created to change that.
One former senior officer believes entry to the top of the hierarchy requires a cop to have served as a detective inspector, an area commander and a detective senior sergeant – all demanding roles requiring long, often unpredictable hours that often don’t suit mothers.
Mr O’Connor wonders if the current push to get more officers serving on the front line will stall progress. “Police work is police work,” he says. “The [current] mantra is front line. What that means is, generally, shift work. Shift work is generally less family-friendly.”
He also accepts that many women officers have partners also in the force.
Both Ms Hughes and Ms Candy question whether the nature of frontline policing is compatible with family life.
“Women in every other workplace are balancing their work with their families, their husband. Does it upset families at times? Yes, it does. I think it is no different from any other workplace.”
Notice the theme in all of that? Childcare and family life is a problem. But more than that, notice who it is a problem for. It’s not a problem for male police officers. Instead, it’s a problem for women in the police force. Male police officers with children don’t have to worry about childcare, but female police officers do.
And therein lies a problem. For a woman to succeed in the police, she has to be a superwoman, juggling career and children and shiftwork, because this is all regarded as her responsibility. Who knows to what extent police bosses just don’t get around to promoting women because they look at her responsibilities, and decide that she won’t be able to manage. Maybe they don’t do this explicitly, but just make a casual hidden assumption that a woman who is a mother won’t be able to manage. That’s certainly the casual hidden assumption in all the quotes above.
A woman shouldn’t have to be a superwoman to succeed. That’s one of the key points that Anne-Marie Slaughter made in her article in The Atlantic: Why women still can’t have it all. Men aren’t required to be supermen to make it to senior positions, but women are. And one of the central reasons for that is that people still think that childcare and families are the woman’s responsibility.
Once again, my darlings, I’ve read the comments so you don’t have to. The things I do for you. You should all buy me bourbon and bonbons.
Liam Dann, whose columns I normally enjoy, wrote about the NZX requiring gender reporting from listed companies. So far, so…fine. He’s aware that writing about gender issues might “get him in trouble”, so I assume the very middle ground he’s steering is because of that. Though, why he’s mixing up reporting and actually having quotas is beyond me.
Here’s what we know. There are systemic reasons why there are few women in leadership roles in business, that involve undervaluing women’s skills, the impact of child care, and the fact that few women get mentored into senior positions. Little of this is addressed by the column, or in fact requiring disclosure, but it’s a step. I like to blame the fucking patriarchy, but you can choose your own cause. It’s worth mentioning the even tougher time women of colour and GLBT folk have, but that’s a very different column. That will never be published in the Herald.
So I have no beef with Mr Dann, particularly, which makes a nice change for Herald columnists. But the commenters never fail to live up to the lowest common denominator.
First up, Gavin believes “the number of women in the top tier of our business community is an embarrassment.” to whom? What a total non-issue.” Well, Gavin, to anyone who believes that women deserve equality in all aspects of society, not just in name but in practice. Also, to anyone who wants our business community to be successful.
Lloyd wants “proper equality”: “Why is there such an unfair gender imbalance in home executives. Let’s set a quota for home Dads and force 50% of home Mums back into the workforce. Fair’s fair.” I agree, Lloyd, let’s do that. And watch childcare in workplaces increase exponentially. Because no woman ever stayed home to look after children because that’s what made financial sense, not because she’s a lazy slapper, right?
BONUS ROUND: What About The Menz AND gender essentialism. Top marks for you, ‘A Dad’: “Perhaps we can also get the gender imbalance fixed for dangerous jobs too. Too many men are dying from mining, the heavy engineering and the armed forces. Yes, a very divisive subject but very important to air because of the many complexities that relate to each gender. We will never be equal as we are physically and psychologically different.”
YouKnowIt’sThe Truth can’t bring himself make an argument, except to say “The phrase “PC gone mad” is often despised by many as it’s so over-used, but I can’t think of a better one in this instance.” IT’S PC GONE MAD! Next, those uppity bitches will want, like, proper healthcare and education. GOD!
Timespider thinks successful people are special snowflakes and we should laud all of them: “When a woman makes it to the top she deserves it if she made it by herself & good on her – we need more women like this”‘ Because no man ever received assistance, mentoring, special education. EVER. They all got there through hard graft and good genes.
In totally missing the point news, along with a good old-fashioned, strawman, please come down Westiman: “Women are given opportunity to obtain skill sets- as you put it-turn the telescope around and ask the same question for men. How many men are nurses and what a kerfuffle that caused. There is a fundamental difference and as soon as you try to smooth the difference out you have total confusion on the roles/skills of both genders- Quotas are not the answer- are women some kind of “Sealord” catch?”
Speaking of strawmen, thanks Gondwana: “Should the All Black panel be adjusted genderly and when was the last Silver Ferns coach a male (I nominate myself to be the first even though I know nothing about netball). Why not leave people to live their own lives if they are good enough and work hard enough and sacrifice enough they’ll get their regardless of their gender.”
Oh, but wait, Gondwana has more: “This government enforced social engineering will be the death of us all. And you’ll notice it only ever goes one way! Women are always portrayed as the poor innocent little victims of male prejudice and never of their own folly and poor choices in life!” government enforced social engineering! We’re getting close to bingo here, folks.
So, that must mean it’s time for a little bit of drive-by misogyny. Wolfman sez “If you want something stuffed up, give it to a woman, plenty of examples of this around the world.”
Oh, also, we women should just be quiet and wait our turn, according to CGD: “I believe in 20-30 years from now there will be many women with the skills and experience to be in executive roles in bigger numbers than there are now. Good things take time!”
Except, that of course, it’s all our own fault, because we suck, and should probably get back in the kitchen. Right, refugee? “Women dominate in the teaching professions. Boys are failing. Badly. No one seems to have any problem with that, but answer this. Why? The London School of Economics knows.”
A local journalist contacted me for comment on paid parental leave.
A Manawatu academic and advocate for women’s rights has slammed the government for threatening to veto moves to extend paid parental leave, accusing it of ignoring the needs of babies.
Professor Deborah Russell, a lecturer in accountancy at Massey University, working mother and a feminist blogger said while affordability was an issue, there was always a way if the need was great enough.
“We need to have a think about what are the important things to afford and at the moment we are not very good at directing funds towards small children.”
Dr Russell said if parental leave was extended it might encourage fathers to share more of the load of early childcare, giving them a chance to bond better with their children in the early stages of development.
“Women normally take the parental leave and the childcare duties and that can have a long term impact on their careers. If we extend paid parental leave to six months men might take it up or share the leave and so we lose that gendered dimension.”
Just to be clear, I’m not actually a professor, and given that the paper contacted me, rather than me contacting the paper, that word “slammed” is exciting, but perhaps not quite accurate. However, the journalist represented my views very fairly indeed, and captured the two ideas I most wanted to get across.
1. Childcare is heavily gendered, with women more-or-less always being responsible for it. This shortchanges both women and men. Women lose income and career progress, and men lose connection and confidence with small children. More paid parental leave might enable more men to share the childcare in those early weeks and months.
2. Saying paid parental leave is unaffordable only makes sense if we regard it as something that has to be funded in addition to everything else we already fund. If we were willing to re-examine all our existing spending commitments, such as giving farmers a tax break on the emissions trading scheme, and the lack of means testing around New Zealand superannuation, then it might turn out that more paid parental leave was affordable afterall.
The Sunday Star Times reported today that more and more women, and some men, are giving up paid work because childcare costs are simply too great.
The story is familiar: by the time a family pays for childcare in order to enable both parents to earn income, nothing is left over from that second income. It is simply too expensive. This certainly gels with my own experience, and with the experiences that other women have reported to me. Just last week, one of my cousins told me that she gave up on returning to her interesting job when she realised that she was looking around for cheaper childcare. Given the nature of her job, and the extent to which her partner travels, she needs bullet proof childcare, the sort where she is able to call half an hour before she is due to pick her kids up because an urgent task has come in. That kind of childcare is simply not available at a price where she will have money left over from her salary.
But there is a curious anomaly in our funding of childcare and education. As it turns out, for many parents, the turning point is when their children head off to school. School is virtually free, “donations” and stationery aside, and it is freely available to every five year old in the country. We fund reasonably comprehensive childcare and education for five year olds, but not four year olds. The anomaly exists for historical reasons, but it seems to me that it could usefully be reviewed. Just like our existing spending could usefully be reviewed, both a part of a national conversation about what kinds of support we want to see young families getting.
Today is International Women’s Day, a celebration which takes different forms in different countries. In New Zealand, it serves as a day to consider the progress that women have made, and the progress that is yet to come.
The New Zealand Herald focuses on the biggest concerns facing women, with various facts and stats, and an interview with Rowena Phair, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. The issues are… interestingly framed, in the way that Sheryl Sandberg’s analysis of why we have so few women leaders for TED is interestingly framed (video at link). Sandberg is Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, and her advice for women about how to get to top positions is all about how to behave like men. She pays no attention to systemic problems that confront women, and instead offers advice for individual women, not contemplating even for a moment that it might be better to look at the whole way our society structures work and work expectations. See Julie’s post at The Hand Mirror for a discussion of the Sandberg talk: Too few women leaders.
The CEO of Women’s Affairs tells us that the top five issues facing women are:
1. Balancing home life with paid work
2. Staying healthy
3. Getting the right reward for their skills
4. Backing themselves as leaders
5. Feeling safe in relationships.
All good issues to focus on, of course, but look at the advice that is given for each issue.
1. Balancing home life with paid work:
“A big issue for women is managing those responsibilities.”
2. Staying healthy:
“New Zealand women need to make sure they leave space in their busy schedule to take care of themselves.”
3. Getting the right reward for their skills:
“Women are concerned about their financial future, especially in their 20s, and Phair said one way this can be dealt with is by considering all the options available to them in the workforce.
4. Backing themselves as leaders:
“Women are really active in their communities, they’ve got opinions to contribute, but they’ve really got to have the confidence in their convictions…”
5. Feeling safe in relationships:
“It’s very unusual for men to be physically violent without some behaviours that lead up to that so women can keep themselves safe by being very alert … and to get help as quickly as they can.” She said young women are particularly vulnerable to abusive relationships. “Woman really need to keep their eyes open in relationships.”
With the exception of the first, it’s all about what individual women can do to change things. No discussion of systemic factors that might work against women. For example, it sounds like the easiest thing in the world to find a bit of time to stay healthy, but if you are trying to care for small children, and trying to work, then just finding the time to do anything extra can be difficult, even when it’s home based. As for trying to get to the gym, well, you have to sort child care first, so the cost can be considerable. Getting up and going for a run in the mornings might do, until winter darkness closes in. And even then, someone has to be a home to care for the children.
Getting the right reward for their skills? The evidence is that even when women don’t take time out for child care, and do push just as much for higher salaries, they still don’t get paid as much as their male colleagues, because it’s not nice for women to negotiate, so women who do negotiate are punished for it. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. More recently, Catalyst found that:
When women did all the things they have been told will help them get ahead—using the same tactics as men—they still advanced less than their male counterparts and had slower pay growth. (Source)
Being a leader in your community – it’s up to you to be confident in yourself. No mention of the constant put-downs that women are subject to, from on-going commentary on their appearance and what they wear (vide Helen Clark and Julia Gillard) to being spoken over, to the dispiriting experience of saying something insightful and helpful, only to have it ignored, until a man two seats further along the table says exactly the same thing, and the point is taken up with enthusiasm.
And the last one – that’s a real doozy. It’s up to the woman to keep herself safe in violent relationships, and the person who perpetrates the violence is not responsible for his, or more rarely her, violence at all.
We are hearing the CEO through the filter of the NZ Herald reporter, so we can’t be sure that Phair herself framed those issues and responses in exactly that way. Even so, it is at least disconcerting to find no attention paid to the systemic issues that women face. Instead, it’s all individualised, and the remedies are all focused on what individual women can do.
On the other hand, the Herald’s reporting is several light years ahead of what Stuff has come up on International Women’s Day. You can find out How to look 10 years younger! In a transparent piece of advertising for a book masquerading as editorial content, women are told that they need to use the right make-up so that they can look younger. The book’s author says that she loves, LOVES! working with older women, aged over 35, because they can look 10 years younger with the right make-up. And of course, it is a woman’s duty to look as young as possible, because older women are simply socially unacceptable.
This 46 year old woman declines.
For a much more inspiring analysis of International Women’s Day, take a look at Scuba Nurse’s post, where she writes about all the good things for women in New Zealand, as well as noting where there is still work to be done: International Women’s Day 2012. And over at Hoyden about Town, Mindy has some Sobering thoughts on the eve of International Women’s Day, reviewing the international statistics on violence against women.