Aspects: Is New Woman at Work Now Gliding Up the Glass Escalator?; Ros Dodd Looks at the Role of Working Women Following the Launch of the Government's Sure Start Programme
Dodd, Ros, The Birmingham Post (England)
It was a rare moment of embarrassment for Peter Mandelson. After signing up Belinda Drew as a "role model" for a Government poster campaign aimed at enticing more women into science and engineering jobs, he found himself being questioned by the 23-year-o ld technician on the wisdom of trying to recruit females into traditionally male-dominated roles.
Would encouraging so many women into industry harm society by taking the male breadwinners' role away from them? she asked the Trade and Industry Secretary this week.
Mr Mandelson hedged slightly. "I think it would be wrong to stop women both working and bringing up families if that's their choice," he said. "Our job as a government is to provide support.
"People should have a sense of equality of worth and ambition, but also we need more women in science for the country's benefit."
Later, after the Minister had departed, Belinda said: "I think there's too much 'equality' going on. Men and women aren't equal; men can't have babies.
"If as a result of this campaign there was a massive surge of women into science jobs, there could be men on the dole because their jobs have been taken. The women could be at home as mothers."
As views go, Belinda's is a distinctly unfashionable one. Today's women expect to work, even if they have young children.
Consequently, widening the provision of child care has become one of the Government's main concerns. Yesterday, it unveiled its pounds 540 million Sure Start programme, which over the next three years will give families with toddlers better access to chi ld care, among other things.
Statistics predict that next year, for the first time, there will be a higher proportion of women than men in Britain's workforce.
Figures also show that out of those who graduated from university in 1996, more women than men found jobs. The same males were twice as likely to find themselves on the dole as females.
Women are still grumbling, however. They claim that a high percentage of working females are saddled with low-paid, part-time jobs and that even if there was more child care available, they wouldn't be able to afford it.
Yet an increasing number of women are snapping up top positions. Although only about 3.6 per cent of company directors are women, in 1974 the figure was just 0.6 per cent.
Now men have started complaining too. A recruitment executive claimed recently that women at work were riding a "glass escalator" rather than facing a glass ceiling. In other words, they were leap-frogging over their male colleagues simply because of the ir gender.
Simon Howard, chairman of Park Human Resources, told a conference of the Institute of Personnel and Development that it was now men rather than women who faced the biggest problems in the long-term job market.
"Much has been made of the glass ceiling for women in senior management positions, but I would argue that it is not so much a glass ceiling as a glass escalator," he said.
Mr Howard's claims were dismissed as "rubbish" by women concerned with quality at work.
"It's one way of attacking women to say, 'you only got promoted because you're a woman'," said Dr Sonia Lif a senior lecturer at Warwick University's business school. …