Equal opportunities please…not equal outcomes

“People are confusing equal opportunities with equal outcomes”

Is this sense at last?? I was blown away at the weekend by this quote from Catherine Hakim, a sociologist at the London School of Economics. She has concluded, in a report to be published next year, that the pay differential between men and women is a result of women choosing to focus on their family rather than their career past the 30.

You don’t say???

Since I had children of my own in my mid-30s, it has become clear to me that to effectively hold down a senior position in business is generally incompatible with the needs of a young family. I’m not saying it’s impossible – with sufficient finances, the right childcare, top-notch organizational skills and (most importantly) the desire, it can be done, and there are plenty of examples. But for most women, it’s just too much.

Rather than putting quotas on how many women should be working in senior positions (a Government review is apparently considering recommending that company boards have at least 40% women) or equality of average earnings, I believe the Government should be supporting businesses to:

• offer more part-time work, flexible working hours and job-shares
• allow and even encourage working from home (and meaning it!)

And stop extending maternity benefits – this is not what it’s all about! (and can indeed have quite the opposite effect of disincentivising small businesses to hire women).

Most women are willing to offset salary for flexibility and that’s just fine. Other staff who are working longer hours should be paid more. No-one needs resentment in a workplace but that doesn’t mean that one size needs to fit all.

I’ve written here before about my concerns that the daughters we are raising see their mothers’ difficulties in balancing work and life and drop out of the workforce entirely. This is not good for women and not good for our economy. It’s great if Catherine Hakim’s report finally opens a few eyes about what is really needed. Generation Y will demand it. (And not just for women!!)

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