So long, farewell ….

So long, farewell ….

auf wiedersehen, goodbye.

Eight years after I set up this blog, I am now closing it, for reasons both personal and political.

I think the latter reasons are well known (the gender pay gap, recent high profile political events,  the continuing double glazing of the corporate glass ceiling) and it saddens me to see and feel that I honestly can’t say that I’ve seen much gender diversity progress made since I first started blogging on this topic in 2007 (for PwC) and then here in 2009.

Personally,  I am no longer working in a corporate diversity role,  despite many (many) attempts to continue to do so and nor do I now live in London,  where most of the events and launches which I used to attend and cover are held.  These twin changes to my home life have led to a slow but inevitable disengagement from the world of gender diversity, which in turn has left me feeling that I have less to say.

And a blogger with nothing to say is initially a blog “on hiatus” and then no blog at all.

IMG_20160726_100055However! I am still blogging about other stuff.

It’s very different and everyone who knows me in person from my former corporate life has been somewhat astonished as to the new direction that my life (and blogging platform) has taken.  I am now working from home in the beautiful North Dorset countryside and running an INCLUSIVE TO ALL bed and breakfast operation.  We opened our doors to the wonderful world of B&B in the summer of 2016 and to date have hosted over 5oo guests from countries all over the world.  As I type this,  we are fully booked tonight with guests from the UK, Barbados and Thailand.

SFLOWR 2017 lbp-15We offer three en suite rooms,  a hot tub and fabulous (even though I say so myself) breakfasts. It goes without saying that we welcome everyone and in fact have upon a number of occasions been specifically chosen by some guests due to our inclusive style and welcoming approach. And as well as bed and breakfast, we also offer daytime meeting rentals of parts of our stylish, contemporary home via space sharing site Vrumi or directly through our website. If you’re a company looking for a change of pace for an internal meeting or a client event – please keep us in mind.

For more information on this new direction,  please visit us at Sunflowers Bed & Breakfast Dorset – and check out the new blog and some of our feedback. If you’d like to come and stay,  please contact me to discuss your requirements and use the code INCLUSION for a discount. I hope that we’ll see you at ‘Sunflowers’ at some future point.

You can also follow my adventures in B&B-ing on Instagram and Facebook.

Thank you to everyone who’s subscribed, followed and commented on The Gender Blog over the years. It’s been a blast.


On gender neutral t-shirts and #100DaysofMay

On gender neutral t-shirts and #100DaysofMay

Interesting things arrive in your in-box when you’re a blogger on gender issues. In recent weeks,  these have included an infogram looking at female board members in some of America’s largest companies, an invitation to discuss the issues surrounding the UK gender pay gap  on American TV* and a link to a new website which markets gender neutral t-shirts with feminist, LGBTQ+ friendly, strong and thought provoking slogans.

No less a publication than the Wall Street Journal has recently written about the growth of gender neutral apparel, so I think that Zealo Apparel founder Josie is really onto something here.

She told me that she set up the range in part due to her frustration in finding lots of things, but specifically clothing, to be so highly gendered:

“My aim is to create a shopping experience as gender-neutral as possible so that people can choose products based on what they like and not whether it comes under “women’s” or “men’s”.” 

Zealo Cinnamon Rolls not Gender RolesEveryone who knows me IRL knows how much I love cinnamon, even to the point of carrying a tub of it in my handbag for 24/7 sprinkling opportunities,  so of course I particularly love this shirt >>>

Here’s a direct link to the feminist collection and Josie has kindly offered blog readers 10% off your order with code THEGENDERBLOG – so do check it out.

(*Due to timing issues, this didn’t happen,  but I appreciated the offer to momentarily be big in Kansas via NBC affiliate KSHB-TV. Perhaps another time.)

* * *

90360017_mayfeminist.jpgStill on the subject of t-shirts … here’s a reminder that,  back in the day, new Prime Minister Theresa May donned one of the Fawcett Society’s “This is what a feminist looks like” shirts in order to add her voice and support to the cause. Only time will tell if  she’s still holding fast to that promise,  but so far I’ve liked her reference to the gender pay gap on the steps of 10 Downing Street as she took over the reins of power – and her snappy retort at Prime Minister’s Question Time last week when being quizzed what her party had done for women (“It makes us Prime Minister!”) is undeniably true.

The Women’s Equality Party intend to hold the new PM’s feet to the fire and have launched a new campaign called #100daysofMay, in which they have set “six achievable goals for Theresa May to commit to by the end of her 100th day in office.”

They are asking her to show her commitment to gender equality by actioning these six goals, saying that “WE think the Prime Minister should commit to making all these changes by 22 October – her 100th day in Number 10.”

  1. Introduce compulsory sex and relationships education in all schools
  2. Guarantee sustainable funding for specialist services that tackle violence against women
  3. Invest in free universal childcare
  4. End the detention of people seeking asylum
  5. Ratify the Istanbul Convention to protect women from violence and abuse
  6. Commit to 50:50 representation in Parliament

More details on the campaign are available at the WE website. I fear Mrs. May may be otherwise engaged with matters Brexit and ISIS shaped between now and October,  but let’s see.


What we really (really) want on #MalalaDay

What we really (really) want on #MalalaDay

Malala and her mother_Feb 16Happy Birthday to activist Malala Yousafzai, 19 years old today and celebrating her birthday in Kenya visiting Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp.

Since recovering from her 2012 shooting at the hands of the Taliban,  Malala has gone on to advocate for child education, pass her GCSEs (in her second language), win the Nobel Peace prize (the youngest ever person to do so), appear on TIME magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people three times, suggest to Barack Obama that we need more school books instead of guns, set up her own foundation, teach her Mum (pictured left) to speak English, address the United Nations in New York, appear in an Oscar nominated film with her father and write a couple of autobiographies (read my review of one of them here).

Malala Fund logoNo young woman could be more inspirational or deserving of our best wishes – so please join me in celebrating #MalalaDay and wishing her the happiest of Happy Birthdays.

* * *

Malala hadn’t even been born when the Spice Girls released their iconic song Wannabe, the video for which has now been updated for a new generation. Twenty years after the Spice Girls’ sparked global girl power with their first hit, the chart-topper has been remade to highlight gender inequality issues faced by women across the world. The video features artists from India, Nigeria, South Africa, the UK, USA and Canada, a diverse roll-call that includes superstar Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez and London R&B trio M.O.

The remake aims to push a series of UN global goals including education, gender equality, equal pay for equal work, child marriage and an end to violence against women and has been launched by Project Everyone, a campaign which aims to eradicate poverty, injustice and fight climate change.

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want …



On the importance of being yourself at work – and a bit about Brexit …

On the importance of being yourself at work – and a bit about Brexit …

australian_flag_3Most airlines are still run by men (Carolyn McCall at easyJet being a notable exception to that rule) and not many businesses are run by a CEO who is also openly out – Tim Cook at Apple is one of those exceptions.  The Venn diagram of openly out, gay CEOs of airlines collides in the shape of Alan Joyce at Quantas,  who is the subject of this great BBC piece which examines both the benefits of diversity to a business and also how important it is to create a workplace in which everyone can be their true and authentic self.

In the article, Alan Joyce cites a conversation he had with a young girl of (Australian) indigenous heritage,  in which she asked him if he thought it would ever be possible for a young woman like her to be the CEO of a business like his.  His reply?

“Well, if a gay Irishman can become the CEO of Qantas then an indigenous lady can.”

During my time working as head of diversity and inclusion for a top Australian (ASX 20) engineering firm,  I was lucky enough to work with an NGO/social enterprise called CareerTrackers.  They specialise in finding paid internships for university students of indigenous heritage from Australia and the Torres Strait islands, as a way of creating career pathways into corporations (instead of following a more ‘usual’ path into roles in the public sector,  where quotas exist as a way of balancing the Australian workforce).  I worked with the founder and CEO of CareerTrackers,  a fantastically inspirational man called Michael Combs,  as well as about a dozen students,  who worked in different parts of the company for 12 weeks at a time in roles ranging from marine engineering to finance and HR. At the time, Quantas were (and I hope/bet they still are) a great supporter of CareerTrackers and took on lots of student interns, as well as providing free or subsidised flights to the team.

I thought of Michael and the CareerTrackers team as soon as I read the interview with Alan Joyce and I really hope that it was once of Michael’s interns who asked that great question of the Quantas CEO!

*  *  *

So, Brexit.  I feel the need to write something about this and add my voice and words to the thousands of op-ed pieces which have been generated over the past week since the referendum’s results were announced. I’m on holiday in Ireland at the moment and this is a huge news story over here; I’m quizzed on it by people as soon as they hear my English accent and the Irish press is covering it in great detail every day.  Ireland was very much pro-Remain ahead of the vote,  with PM Enda Kenny setting out his stall quite clearly last week (it seems a lifetime ago now, doesn’t it?).

I’ve spent most of my life passionately in favour of inclusion in all areas of life, society and the workplace so yes – I was very much a Remain voter and I was and am devastated at the idea that we, the British people, have seemingly opted to not be part of Europe anymore.  Add to this the fact that we seem to have gone from being a gloriously inclusive nation at the London Olympics in 2012 to now being a country where voicing a “send them home”, anti-immigrant narrative is ever more common and acceptable … and I am saddened in more ways than I can count.

There have been so many summaries of the most immediate consequences of Brexit but this one,  posted on Facebook last Friday 24th June by Phil Moss,  is to me the most insightful. His words are reproduced, with my thanks, here:

“This is the single biggest mistake that this country has made in my life. And it has made it with its heart, not its head. The economic repercussions have already started, and things are only going to get worse.

Good luck to everyone as they see their employment rights, human rights, legal protections and economic vitality destroyed as the protection of the EU umbrella is removed. Not to mention the effects of the global markets and the impact of new trade agreements.

To those who chose to use the EU Referendum as the opportunity to “give a kicking to politicians of all sides”, you should get a kicking yourselves, metaphorically. You have used your displeasure at the ‘Westminster elite’ to wreak horrific and long-lasting damage onto our country. And to those who focused solely upon stopping the “bloody immigrants”, immigration from non-EU countries is far higher than from EU countries, and the UK already controls immigration from non-EU countries. So well done. This was a referendum about membership of the EU, but it became everything but. People used it to vote against austerity, to vote against the political system, to vote against the lack of investment in the NHS and housing, but seemingly very few voted on the basis of the pros and cons of EU membership.

Finally, I have some words for David Cameron…

You gambled the entire future of your country on a political whim, in order to placate your party, by inserting the promise of a referendum into your 2015 GE manifesto. And you lost.

Your gamble has spectacularly failed, both through your own failings and those of an apathetic Labour Party, and we as a country will now reap the ‘rewards’ of your naivety through Brexit.

You may lose your job earlier than you hoped, but I don’t care about that. Prime Ministers come and go, but few make such cataclysmic mistakes. You have destroyed the UK’s reputation within Europe and the wider world, threatened our economy in the short, medium and long term, and created uncertainty for years to come.

This a sad day, one of the saddest of my life. We cannot undo the mistake that we have just made, and I fear for our country and its place in the world.”


#mindthegenderpaygap : mid year round up

#mindthegenderpaygap : mid year round up

Gender pay gap_coin stackThe gender pay gap continues to dominate as a major news story for 2016 – here’s my latest round up of the global stories, issues and challenges.

I joked about it on April Fool’s Day, but apparently, it can be done – bravo to the University of Essex,  who said they were  “impatient for change” and have thus given their female academics a pay rise to bring their average salaries level with the men. Facebook also maintain that they’ve closed their gap, although this BBC piece suggests (rightly) that it’s only half of the issue.

However, it transpires that academia in general suffers a huge gender pay gap; a new (US) study shows female PhDs in the science and engineering fields make 31% less than their male peers one year after graduation, according to a new study in the American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings. When controlling for the fact that women tend to earn degrees in fields that pay less than those in which more men earn degrees, the observed gap dropped to 11 percent. And the gap disappeared when controlling for whether the women were married and had children.

In the UK,  the new living wage came into law in April 2016 – but what does life look like on £7.20 an hour?

“From today, the National Living Wage will give around 900,000 women and half a million men an immediate pay rise in their hourly earnings. By 2020 this translates to 1.9 million women and 1 million men directly seeing a rise in their pay. The gender pay gap at the 10th percentile of the earnings distribution – including those working part-time – is expected to fall from 5.6% currently to zero by the end of the decade. Over the next five years women earning the National Living Wage will see their pay rise by over a quarter and growing more than 1.5 times faster than the salary of an average worker.”

[Source: UK government website]

What emerged from four USA news items?  

  • A new study found that women hold less than a third of “middle skill” jobs—which include roles like welders, mechanics, and IT support staff. Researchers say that if just 10% of the women with similar, but lower-paid gigs moved into these fields, it could double median female earnings;
  • Top US women footballers filed a complaint for equal pay;
  • And Fortune shared five things every woman needs to know before she renegotiates her salary. A new Glassdoor survey blew up the myth that men – unlike women- are great at asking for higher salaries, finding that more than half of all employees settle for their employer’s first offer. However, those women who do try to negotiate tend to be less successful, according to the survey, which found that 15% of men are able to talk their way into a higher paycheck, vs 4% of women;
  • The gender wage gap is especially pronounced among highly educated men and women in white-collar jobs, an analysis by The Wall Street Journal shows. Women without a high-school diploma were paid 79% as much as male peers in 2014, whereas women with a bachelor’s degree or higher were paid 76% as much as male peers. This may be in part because white-collar jobs such as CEOs, doctors, and engineers reward working long hours and job hopping, two behaviours that can be tricky for working parents (ie, mothers). And as gap watchers already know, wage transparency, pay studies, and other one-off remedies won’t do much to fix the problem. What might? Cheaper childcare, more flexible workplaces, and increased parental leave (along with dads who are willing to take it).

I love a story which suggests that corporate diversity programmes can make a difference – and this report from the Harvard Business Review finds that women perceived as “high-potential” receive a pay premium, making even more than their male counterparts. There’s a catch, of course: that pay boost is far more likely to kick in if they work for a company with overarching diversity goals.

It’s not just about the UK  and the USA, though. A new survey shows that while India has a gender pay gap, it narrows when men and women are working at the same level. Men in India earn an average of nearly 19% more than women, but just 3.5% more if they work at the same level at the same firm.

Yet another new study looks at how becoming a mother affects the gender pay gap in different countries. Interestingly, having a child in Ireland puts a big dent in working mothers’ salaries, while it barely registers for mums in Italy, Spain and Belgium. This Irish op-ed piece really reflects the writer’s frustration with the current set up, doesn’t it?

It’s been interesting to watch actresses emerge as public advocates for pay equality and equal opportunities at work. True, their massive pay cheques make it difficult to feel too outraged on their behalf. Yet their celebrity may make their actions useful to working women with less clout. House of Cards star Robin Wright recently explained how she got the show’s producers to pay her as much as co-star Kevin Spacey.

“You better pay me or I’m going to go public,” Wright recalls saying. “And they did.”

The last time I wrote about the gender pay gap impacting pocket money,  my Facebook page was alive with comments saying it wasn’t so – but this latest survey suggests that, broadly speaking,  there is still a pocket money gap of 13%! What I still can’t wrap my head around is why – can parents please comment and shed some light?

Finally,  at the other end of the age spectrum, both the TUC and the New York Times report on the extent to which the gender  pay gap is impacting retirement; in the UK, women have barely half the pensions of men and the same is true in the USA – women are in far worse shape than their male counterparts when it comes to retirement. Because women make less over our lifetimes and thus have lower pensions, we are 80% more likely than men to be in poverty at age 65 and older.

Celebrating the end of the #genderpaygap – with Barbie

Celebrating the end of the #genderpaygap – with Barbie

The UK government has announced that the gender pay gap has been closed and that all female workers are now paid at least as much as their male counterparts in all areas of work, if not more in certain key areas such as healthcare and STEM roles. Hailing this as a triumph for his government’s policies, the UK Prime Minister commented that “casting sunlight on the discrepancies”  had proved to be such a success as a political strategy that he intended to use it as an approach in other areas of policy and urged future USA President Trump to follow his lead. The House of Commons burst into spontaneous applause across all party benches when the announcement was made,  with many MPs commenting, approvingly, that fixing the gender pay gap a mere 46 years after the legislation to do so was enacted showed great dedication to the cause of pay equity.

The Secretary General of the TUC commended the Prime Minister on his continuing support for gender equality and noted that telling women to “calm down, dear” was indeed the best way to address female colleagues.

Mattel New Male BarbieMeanwhile, in a continued effort to make its iconic line of dolls more representative of today’s culture, Mattel have announced the release of its first male Barbie, which it hopes will inspire girls to dream about what it’s like to hold a top-ranking job in the workforce.

A spokesperson commented that:

“Girls will have fun imagining the new Barbie make an unimpeded climb up the corporate ladder” and Mattel executives have also announced plans for a boardroom play set that lets multiple male Barbies sit around a conference table making long-term strategy decisions while a regular female Barbie sits nearby keeping minutes of the meeting. “Since 1959, Barbie has been inspiring young girls and sparking their creativity. We believe that by introducing a male version of the doll, girls will be able to see that every opportunity and every avenue for success is open for them to imagine. Now, girls can truly envision being anything at all,” he added.

Mattel later confirmed the new male Barbie will only be available in white.

wp-1458909288347.jpegAll of the above? Just fiction, courtesy of my imagination and that of The Onion.  Happy April 1st

Back to business as usual …

PS: this is my 200th blog post! How apt.

Four Things I’ve Liked This Week

Four Things I’ve Liked This Week

Here we have a Buzzfeed-esque list of “4 Things” which have caught my eye of late: things which made me laugh, made me (fleetingly, before I remember the weather, #8monthsofsnoweachyear) want to emigrate to Canada, made me mentally crown a member of the British Royal family this week’s #HeforShe champion and made me recall an early brush with a culture very, very different from my own.

Meme riposte to can anyone stop HillaryFirstly,  this meme response to a Time magazine cover from 2014 made me laugh.

“Can Anyone Stop Hillary?”  was the question in a televised debate: and here we have the great reply.


Justin Trudeau UN WomenIn my 2015 round up of people and stuff I loved, I referenced the then newly minted Canadian leader Justin Trudeau as a hero for saying, in a very matter of fact way “Because it’s 2015 …” when asked why he had a 50/50 gender split in his cabinet. He’s gone on to consolidate his feminist credentials; Fortune magazine did a nice round up of five times that he’s been a feminist hero and I especially like this quote, from JT’s recent editorial in the Globe and Mail:

“Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities for men and women, about everyone having the same choices without facing discrimination based on gender. Equality is not a threat, it is an opportunity.”

So yes please Mr Trudeau, do please keep saying you’re a feminist.

Prince Harry on feminismAnother, perhaps unlikely, bloke was outed as a gender champion last week when Prince Harry visited Nepal and spoke in support of gender equality at the Girl Summit. I would love to see him do more of this type of work – I think he has huge influence and reach and,  removed from the burden of pressure to be a future monarch,  he could really build his own portfolio and platform in support of women, girls and education.

“There are way too many obstacles between girls and the opportunities they deserve,” the 31-year-old prince told the crowd [at the Summit]. “We need to acknowledge that so many countries and cultures are failing to protect the opportunities of young women and girls in the way they do for boys,” he continued.

The royal, who admitted he has not spoken out on the challenges of young girls in the past, embraced the opportunity and encouraged others to do the same.

“We won’t unlock these opportunities for young women and girls unless we can change the mindset of every family and community. To achieve this, it cannot just be women who speak up for girls,” he said.

Finally, a recent story in The Observer took me back in time and reminded me of my first foray into volunteer work when I was still at school. We currently hear so much about refugees from Syria but the paper went to catch up with a number of Vietnamese refugees, who found themselves in the UK in the early 1980s after their rescue from terrifying boat journeys (hence being referred to in tabloid terms as “the boat people”) and subsequent re-homing in Peterborough.  At the time,  the Cambridgeshire city was dubbed a ‘new town’ and was in the throes of expansion and development; businesses were lured there with cut price offices and rates and new housing estates seemed to spring up almost overnight.  The then Mayor made some of these new properties available to a number of Vietnamese families and I came to know them when I spent two afternoons a week with them as part of my volunteer work (in lieu of playing hockey!) at school.

The programme was nominally about teaching the adults English,  but in reality it became much more about learning life skills and how their new life and society actually worked. So whilst we did spend time sitting in their kitchens doing English lessons together (numbers, colours, names, food and drink, and putting stickers up on items around the house – door, chair, TV, sink, fridge) we also went out and about together so that my new friends could learn how to use public transport,  how to use the public library, what to do in a shop (how to queue, for example … I remember this causing much puzzlement), how to sit in a café and order from the waitress.

I did this for nearly two years before I left Peterborough to go away to university and I loved it – and I know that I learned as much from my new friends as they ever learned from me, not least the capacity to look at life through a different lens and see things from another point of view. It was wonderful to read the article and learn about how the families settled and became successful; there is one very successful young woman featured in the article and I wonder if I met her when she was a child.