Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sex and Power 2008 - Report from EHRC

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission have released their first Sex and Power report for 2008. This report was originally produced annually by the Equal Opportunities Commission and due to the merging of the EOC into the EHRC last October, the 2007 report failed to materialise.

Unfortunately the news from the report is not good showing that fewer women now hold top posts in most of the measured categories than in 2006, and that at the present rate of progress is will be 200 years before women have equal representation in parliament. This is a short video from the Equality and Human Rights Commission discussing the report.

Reading the comments made on the Independent Online site shows that this is still a topic that inflames passionate debate and which draws out strong sexist comments from both men and women. (scroll to the bottom of the Independent article for comments if you follow the link above)

There is no doubt that if there are men in power who believe, as some commentators do, that men are essentially better at leadership than women - then equality will take a long time. Having been in positions of leadership as both a man and as a woman perhaps I can inject a different perspective.

My experience and study suggests not that men are better than women, but that women tend to do leadership differently. Unfortunately because men have monopolised power and leadership for the past few thousand years, there is a tendency to measure leadership by a male model - ie a hierarchical model of command and control.

My studies suggest that women are more inclined to what I would describe as a networked model, where women seek not to be at the top of an organisation but rather at the centre of it. This different approach to leadership which I have attempted to introduce into GenderShift is not easy to work with because of the tendency of competitive people, primarily men in my experience, to try to take over.

Regrettably the EHRC appear to have decided to discontinue what I consider to be a more useful and interesting publication - Facts about Women and Men in Greater Women. This publication now two years old provides detailed statistics about underlying inequality highlighting the real causes of the problem - pay and employment inequality.

However I believe the fundamental cause of the power inequality is that men tend to be more competitive where women tend to be more collaborative. It is for this reason that many women drop out the power struggles in public life to run their own organisations on a more networked and collaborative basis, hence the steady growth of women owning their own businesses.

The difficulty with understanding any of this is that the moment anyone defines gendered behaviour someone will highlight an exception. Which leads us to needing to understand that masculinity and femininity are not necessarily tied to male and female bodies - which every trans person knows.


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