How much equality can women deal with?

This morning’s Australian Financial Review features a column by Catherine Fox (online is subscription or purchase only) reflecting on comments made by Stuart Rose, MD of UK retail giant Marks and Spencer.

I don’t know much about the guy, but his efforts in recent years to revive the struggling iconic British brand earned a certain level of general respect from me.  What I read today has totally undone all that respect.

In an interview with British Sunday paper The Observer, Rose asserted that ‘girls’ “have never had it so good.”

He makes many throw away comments which I perhaps wouldn’t even notice in a pub, delivered in person, with a smile.  However he was giving a press interview and thought it acceptable to call the interviewer (Elizabeth Day) ‘Darling’.  Quotes include:

“Apart from the fact that you’ve got more equality than you ever can deal with, the fact of the matter is that you’ve got real democracy and there are really no glass ceilings, despite the fact that some of you moan about it all the time. Women can get to the top of any single job that they want to in the UK. You’ve got a woman fighter pilot who went in to join the Red Arrows yesterday. I mean, what else do you want to do, for God’s sake? Women astronauts. Women miners. Women dentists. Women doctors. Women managing directors. What is it you haven’t got?”

In The Observer Elizabeth Day suggests there aren’t very many female CEOs and in the AFR Fox rightly adds that we would like equal pay, promotions… My own addition would be a little respect from business leaders.

Day comments that she thinks he might just be trying to wind her up, but is that really appropriate from someone in his position?

The bit that really sticks in my throat is the idea that we have more equality than we can ever deal with.  Even if he is joking about this (and I suspect he isn’t really) it is a thought held by many men.  We are pretty equal now, aren’t we?  Surely thats a nice big tick on the whole women’s rights check list?

But can equality come in half measures?

More than we can deal with?  Sorry Mr Rose… I can assure you I am very ready to handle total equality.  We aren’t there yet and I will settle for nothing less.


4 responses to “How much equality can women deal with?

  1. Um, I agree with Stuart Rose. I don’t think there’s anything I can’t achieve provided I’m willing to put in the required hard yakka.

    Liz Jones had a really interesting take on this in her Daily Mail column last week:—Sugars-chicks-robotic-successful-man.html?ITO=1490

  2. Thanks for that Kitty. I can’t work out Liz Jones’ opinion at all. One minute she is saying these women are not the example we want set, and that they dont demonstrate that women have made it in the workplace, then the next she goes on to say we need to stop moaning about it.

    She says its a bad thing for women to duck out of a restricted job market for a year to have children.

    She thinks women of child bearing age are a bad hire.

    I can’t agree with most of what she writes. Her own prejudices clearly demonstrate that women *are* hindered in the workplace by prejudice.

    Because I look “ripe” for marriage I am a bad hire?? I consider that a gender-based unsubstantiated prejudice.

    Also I can’t help wondering how much time the wife of her perfect male colleague has to spend away from her own workpalce looking after the children solo so he can dedicate such long hours to his job.

  3. In no world are women “ripe” for marriage or motherhood a “bad hire”. On the contrary, I have met some pretty impressive mothers managing companies with impressive skill and fortitude, and still give their children decent attention.

    And it a is pretty shit (pardon my language but there really is no better word) world when having children and attending to their nurture is both a feminine (and not requiring the full attention of both parties) and derogatory responsibility, when it is, in fact one of the most important roles an adult can have.

    The “good old days” were filled with single-income earners, even manual labourers, capable of financially supporting a household with stay-at home partners capable of managing a large household with many children. A pity that the modern era requires both parents to work long hours to support a modest home and 1-2 children.

  4. It’s laughable that you’d turn to a Daily Mail columnist for a balanced opinion on anything. The general consensus of any Daily Mail headline is that single mothers or immigrants or Europe or Ken Livingstone are the scourge of the nation.

    Stuart Rose was famous for his spats with Philip Green; one time at an awards do Green sent Rose a load of dancing girls to ‘congratulate’ him. Funny yet juvenile.

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