A Female-Friendly Labour Market is needed

14 August 2013

Women have a new ally in Mark Carney, the new Governor of the Bank of England.

Having ensured the presence of an image of a historical literary female figure on a £10 note, Mark Carney turned his attention to the more pressing issue of the lack of presence of women members of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee over the past three years.  

Appointments to the currently men-only Committee are the responsibility of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and interestingly, there are also no women Ministers in the Treasury at the moment.

In contrast, Mr, Carney is looking for a female successor in good time at the Bank of England and promised to “grow top female economists all the way through the ranks “ to that effect.

He also wants to see more women on the boards of large business organisations.

They are certainly needed.

Women bring values to business that are at the opposite pole from those that surged through The City in the last decade.

Women generally prefer risk awareness and risk aversion, decision-making by consensus, straight-forward talking to the power language of managerialism, and they are less engaged in self-promotion.

Mr Carney implies this when he told the banking sector of its past failures : “There has to be a change in the culture of these institutions” with “ a focus on the real economy”, that “mis-selling products to customers to turn a profit undermines the effectiveness of banks.” , and that money that is used simply to make money is “ socially useless”.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has been forthright in calling for the Government to introduce quotas that would help  women to be appointed to boards.

In April, as progress remained elusive, she said,

“The only way we will end the old boys' network is if the government introduces compulsory quotas for the composition of boards, as recommended by the European Commission.

“Without this, female board members will continue to be a rarity.”

Measures such as changing working practices through working from home (teleworking ) and discouraging early evening meetings all add up towards a more balanced work-life style that working women seek .

However, if we want to accelerate the rate of change then audacious determination is required through the introduction of quotas for women on boards.

To that purpose, Jenny Marra MSP has attempted to secure higher representation of women on public boards in Scotland , but each attempt has been voted down by the Scottish Government.

As she reflected in a speech in Holyrood,

 “At the heart of the matter is the fact that, as all sides of this chamber agree, gender should not matter, and board appointments should be made on merit and merit alone.

“However, what the Scottish National Party Government and the Tories fail to realise, but the Scottish Labour Party always has, is that no matter how much we will it to be irrelevant, the reality of the culture for those seeking positions at Scotland’s boardroom level is that gender matters, and that the situation is usually to the detriment of women.”

Mr. Carney has other duties towards working women in general.

They are paying for the recession as the UK Government’s austerity programme continues to roll back the progress that women have made principally through working in the public sector.

Many public sector jobs have been cut.

These were once the security that many women depended on to raise the living standard of their families.

90,000 women in Scotland are unemployed, and there are more public expenditure cuts to come in a sector already hard-hit.

Underemployment  (seeking more hours of work or a more skilled job ), increased competition for part-time jobs that fitted in with family duties, and very high childcare costs  add to the deterioration in job prospects.

Mr Carney has made many friends in his early days as the new Governor of the Bank of England.

He is to be commended for intending to “grow top female economists all the way through the ranks " of the bank to increase the prospects of his successor being the first-ever female Governor of the Bank.

But Mr Carney knows that his biggest test is how he creates a much more female-friendly labour market that meets the needs of the much wider group of women in work or looking for work .



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