Women, why are we given urinals as a sop for gender equality?

Pictured is Anne Boden, CEO of Starling Bank. Click on the photo to read my interview with her

Have you heard about the Women’s Budget Group? Full marks if you have although I have to confess that I hadn’t until very recently. I will admit the link between loo provision and the Women’s Budget Group appears tenuous on the face of it but there is one, trust me. It is classic example of men thinking they are making decisions which are gender neutral when in fact they are reinforcing the status quo and sometimes making things worse. This is as true in the world of economics as in everything else, so it was with some delight that I came across the Women’s Budget Group.

I discovered them through this article in The Guardian newspaper; they have a thirtieth birthday coming soon so they’ve been around for quite a while. The article was entitled ‘Economics will stay a man’s game while women are kept out of the equation.’ Obviously that got my attention. Here’s an extract:

What do gender-blind policies mean in practical terms? One example: transport. The cumulative cuts in fuel duty will cost the exchequer £9bn a year by 2020. The Treasury says this is gender neutral: both men and women drive. *But men are more likely to own cars, drive cars with higher fuel consumption and go longer distances. At the same time, public transport, on which women rely more than men, has received so little investment that the sight of a bus in rural areas is a rare event.

Another example: unequal pay means that no single woman on median earnings can afford to buy or rent an averagely priced house in any region in England. Average rent takes 43% of a woman’s median earnings, 28% of men’s.

And a third: we have a growing crisis in care because this precious commodity is valued so poorly. Between 2005 and 2014, the number of hours of unpaid care rose by 25% from 6.5bn to 8.1bn hours a year – that’s mainly women’s work – at the same time as debt and low wages mean women have to hold on to employment, however insecure.

“Women are disproportionately affected … as a result of structural inequalities which mean they earn less and have more responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work,” says Prof Diane Elson, chair of WBG’s commission on a gender-equal economy that reports next year. “It doesn’t have to be like this. Our positive vision for an alternative economy puts care and wellbeing of people and planet front and centre.”

What is The Women’s Budget Group?

The group is made up of academics, researchers and campaigners, is independent and not for profit. Its Director is Mary-Anne Stephenson, previously director of The Fawcett Society.

Our vision is of a caring economy that promotes gender equality. For over 30 years we have examined economic policy and asked ‘who benefits?’.

We produce robust analysis and aim to influence the people making policy. We also work to build the knowledge and confidence of others to talk about feminist economics by offering training and creating accessible resources.

Anyone can join for free (I just have). They send out a regular newsletter and post regularly on their blog; here’s on example. It is about Brexit (yes, I know, but this is actually relevant), specifically the impact it will have on women, something you won’t find in many Government analyses.

…for the NHS where there is real concern that trade deals will mean opening procurement out to more private bidders. With women making up 77% of NHS staff and disproportionately relying on its services for maternity and mental health, this is another public service where underfunding, understaffing and increased privatisation threatens women’s livelihoods.

*This reminds me of the theatre that thought it was doing a ‘good thing’ by making all its toilets unisex in response to complaints that women always had to queue in the interval. It failed to take into account the fact that the men’s loos still had urinals in so women did not want to use them. In effect, they simply disadvantaged the women by allowing men into the women’s toilets and leaving the men’s still men only. I don’t have the facts, but I am thinking a panel of men made that decision.

Next Course for Women – personal and professional development

My kitchen uncharacteristically tidy. The table extends to seat 8 participants.

My next RenewYou course for women is at my home, near Bath on Monday, October 14th. We have had lots of enquiries and several bookings already, which is great. If you’re looking for a confidence boosting day focusing on what next for you, come and join us. More details are here. If you’re not sure if it’s what you need or want right now, talk to me. No hard sell, I promise. If I don’t think it’s right for you, I will tell you. I’m about to deliver my third, or it might be the fourth, RenewYou to staff at Edinburgh University where they love it. You will, too. (Does that count as ‘hard sell’? Whoops.) You don’t have to be an academic to enjoy it, though. Women from all walks of life have benefitted from it: CEOs, administrative assistants, NHS staff, local government employees, self employed women, businesswomen, and those on a career break. I frequently get emails from women who attended years ago telling me that it is still having a positive impact on them, which is so wonderful to hear. Check it out. I’d love to see you and I will even cook for you!


Posted on August 27th, 2019 by

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