A question of equality

Is your company female friendly? According to WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) it’s the macho workplace culture that puts women off working in SET (science engineering and technology) professions.

Apparently research into women’s experiences of working in science engineering and technology has shown that employers often block women’s promotional opportunities, they offer women less access than men to training and there is a lack of commitment to equal opportunities policies. Flexible and part time hours are rarely available and geographical mobility is sometimes taken for granted.

This is a pretty mixed bag of accusations and it is an idiotic and shortsighted management policy that won’t promote and train women just because they are women, but I am extremely concerned about any campaign that believes that women should get special treatment. If male employees aren’t offered part time or flexible hours why should they be offered to female employees: if male employees are expected to move at the drop of a hat then its got to be the same for women.

Surely this is not just a problem in SET industries it’s a social problem. Marie-Noelle Barton, Manager of the WISE campaign says, ‘At the moment, many SET employers have little regard for women with domestic responsibilities and they fail to translate equal opportunities into effective practice.’ This attitude implies that women are the only sex with domestic responsibilities is it only the woman who can shop for groceries, do the housework, do the school run? Why should an employer bear the brunt of an unequal domestic arrangement? If special treatment is given to women with ‘domestic responsibilities’ will that same treatment be dished out to single men who have to do their own cooking and cleaning too?

Barton goes on to say, ‘They [employers] need to understand that good family friendly policies and flexible working arrangements for both men and women makes sound business sense.’ Hear hear to that.

I can’t comment on whether conditions are worse for women in SET professions than in any other area. In medical and legal professions there are reckoned to be roughly equal numbers of men and women. But maybe those professions pay more so the women can afford some professional domestic help and concentrate on just one career.