You’re wrong Edwina, barriers do still exist

Shelagh McKinlay speculates why women are under represented in the boardroom.

By MichelleS986 29/05/2012 12:26

Imagine if men held fewer than a third of the most senior positions in the UK. In politics the figure dropped to a fifth and in big business only 15 percent of the top jobs were held by men. Pretty shocking isn’t it? Shocking and, I admit, not true.


But in actual fact these statistics, gathered by the BBC, apply to the number of women holding down senior positions, not men.  Still shocking but sadly, not surprising. They show that women are under-represented in the boardroom and, as it turns out, in the courtroom, in politics, in the media, even in the school Head’s office. 


Do we shy away from taking responsibility, doubting that we have what it takes?


The big question is, why? Do our naturally demure and meek natures mean that we’d rather flutter our eyelashes and pour the tea, than take the lead? Do we shy away from taking responsibility, doubting that we have what it takes?


Speaking on BBC Breakfast news this morning the former MP Edwina Currie apparently supported this school of thought saying: “I think the way forward is for us women to be as good as we can get and to go and bang on that door and say 'Actually, you are missing really good talent here'.”


This is the well worn theory that women rule themselves out of the race to the top by refusing to put themselves forward. Basically, it says we only have ourselves to blame.


What a load of old cobblers.


Of course there is an issue about the extent to which women are taught from a young age to put others first, to conform rather than stand out from the crowd. But laying the blame at our door is missing the point.


Some women may lack the self confidence needed to win at the rat race, but many more are prevented from achieving by barriers not of their own making. Who collects the kids from school? Who looks after the ailing parents? Who, sadly, is still denied the opportunity to prove herself because of good old fashioned prejudice which does still exist?


Of course many men share parenting responsibilities, care for their wider family and many men support equality in the workplace.  But all the statistics show that the burden of domestic responsibilities falls mainly on women’s shoulders.


How many men would like to stay home with the kids but feel they don’t have the choice?


True equality is not just good for women, but good for men and wider society too. How many men would like to stay home with the kids but feel they don’t have the choice? How many families miss out because of that?


Let’s stop blaming women for not getting on in business, and get on with the business of breaking down the barriers which prevent all of us from fulfilling our potential.


Shelagh McKinlay is a writer and mother. Her interests include, politics, eating peanut butter with a spoon and George Clooney.
Follow Shelagh on Twitter @Shequeen
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