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.
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.