Rise Up Doormats and Shake Yourselves!

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I never did like Monopoly much. One reason being that it went on far too long. The other, which often led to the game going on for far too long, was people making up extra rules. You could be mid-game and about to swipe some money and someone would say, ‘Oh, at our house we only pay half-rent on Vine Street.’

‘What?’

‘Well, they’re clearly not well-off if they’re living on Vine Street, are they? They need all the help they can get. That’s how we play it here.’

Sigh, and mentally add forty minutes to playing time.

Did I think to ask about any quirky rules invented by each and every household before picking up my little silver top hat? Of course not. I presumed that the normal rules would apply. Just as when interviewing for the variety of jobs that I have done over the years…shop assistant, teacher, estate agent…not once did I ask whether I would be earning the same salary as my male counterpart.

‘You didn’t ask’ is one of the arguments sometimes put forward as an excuse by employers found to be paying their male employees more than their female counterparts.

It might not be seen as downright dishonest but it seems to me that phrases like ‘you didn’t ask’ are slippery and disingenuous at best.

Claire Balding, one of the women who have signed the letter asking BBC management to address the subject of equal pay at the BBC, said that it wasn’t a question of women looking for huge pay cheques but was rather a question of parity, whether the employees are front-of-camera presenters or behind-the-scenes producers, directors or administrative staff. women-1209678_640

Looking for equal pay for the same job is surely not such an outrageous demand in 2017 and it is being called for by men as well as women. Not cranks nor the disillusioned but working men and women.

As a woman, I ask myself where we are going wrong. Too polite to ask what other staff are receiving? Too trusting in the employer’s sense of fair play? Too nice to ask for more?

Here’s what Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, thinks of women being nice:

‘Nice sends a message that the woman is willing to sacrifice pay to be liked by others.’ (‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg, publ. W.H.Allen, 2015)

Sandberg has plenty to say on the subject of women in the workplace. Following the BBC exposure, her observations about men and women seem particularly pertinent:

‘Men at the top are often unaware of the benefits they enjoy simply because they’re men, and this can make them blind to the disadvantages associated with being a woman. Women lower down believe that men at the top are entitled to be there, so they try and play by the rules and work harder to advance rather than raise questions or voice concerns about possible bias. As a result, everyone becomes complicit in perpetuating an unjust system.’

We could all do with channelling some Sandberg, learning to value ourselves as well as others, pushing ourselves forward without trampling over others and having our say as well as listening.

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