My hour-long discussion on BBC Three Counties Radio

This morning I was in one of the BBC Three Counties Radio studios for an hour-long discussion with Jonathan Vernon-Smith (‘JVS’) on the topic of women in the workplace. The discussion was prompted by a recent report by the Women’s Business Council. When the file has been edited by he’ll post it on our YouTube channel along with more commentary, but I thought the followers of this blog might like to hear the discussion first. Here’s the iPlayer file, which should be accessible for seven days:

Four ladies contributed to the programme at various points – gender balance is a fine thing, isn’t it? – as you can see from the following timeline:

1:02:04 – 1:03:20 Introduction by JVS

1:05:58 – 1:13:26 Discussion between JVS and Ruby McGregor-Smith, chief executive of Mitie plc (a FTSE250 company) and chairwoman of the Women’s Business Council

1:13:27 – 1:20:21 JVS discussion with myself

1:21:19 – 1:28:33 We were joined by Caroline Criado-Perez, a journalist, feminist campaigner, and co-founder of Two further sections of the discussion at:

1:30:14 – 1:31:03

1:33:50 – 1:43:11

1:43:12 – 1:53:50 We were joined by Amanda Murrell who is the President of ‘Bedfordshire Businesswomen’. Part-way through this discussion, at 1:49:10, we were joined by a lady phoning the programme, ‘Ann from St Albans’. Ann spoke a great deal of common sense, and said that – given the chance – she’d vote for Justice for men & boys (and the women who love them). A fine woman.

I should like to thank JVS and BBC Three Counties Radio for giving me this opportunity to articulate some of our key arguments about the genders in the workplace. I also thank the ladies for their contributions.

One thought on “My hour-long discussion on BBC Three Counties Radio

  1. Congratulations on all the air time, and well done! 🙂

    It seems as if the discussion constantly gets confused between on the one hand, whether women should not be allowed to have a career, and on the other, whether women should get special treatment to compensate for perceived discrimination against them.

    But that are in fact discriminated against seems hard to prove. All women, I’m sure, have anecdotes of how they’ve been discriminated against, but so do I. It’s just not considered particularly “manly” to recount them. Besides, my personal anecdotes are not proof that, on the whole, I’ve been hindered more than I’ve been helped along the way. And we can prove that women do receive special treatment in some cases.

    A study from the US, Are there Glass Ceilings for Female Executives? (2009) notes that:

    Given executive rank and background, women are paid more than men, experience less income uncertainty, and are promoted as quickly. Amongst survivors, being female increases the chance of becoming CEO. Hence the gender pay gap and job rank differences are primarily attributable to female executives attriting at higher rates than males in an occupation where survival is rewarded with promotion and higher compensation.
    our results provide scant support for the view that female executives in publicly listed companies face glass ceilings.


    Our data on promotion and turnover, described in Section 3, are drawn from roughly 2,500 publicly listed firms, 30,000 executives and 60 job descriptions over a 14 year period

    This is in line with what Warren Farrell wrote in Why Men Earn More (2005):

    Shortly after this discussion with Liz, I was talking with some people after giving a workshop. A tall, silver-haired man hovered in the background. His patience was studied, as if calculating the costs and benefits of waiting. When the group dissipated, he stepped forward cautiously.

    “Listen, I’ve got a problem. In the past few years, our company has been sued for sex discrimination three times.”

    “You must be pretty involved with your company.”

    “How’s that?”

    “You use ‘I’ and ‘our company’ interchangeably.”

    “Oh,” he laughed, a tad embarrassed. “Well, the lawsuits are wreaking havoc on the company and me. They’re forcing us to put into legal fees what we should be putting into products and into raises for people who are working, not suing.

    “And the other thing is, it’s destroying morale. And not just among the men. After I gave a speech about the importance of hiring women, even one of my women managers said, ‘I like what you’re saying about hiring women, but the higher up in the company I go, the more afraid I am to hire a woman for the company, ’cause all three of the lawsuits we’ve received have been from women. I’m afraid of being the one to hire somebody who will sue the company.’ ”

    I switched to a softer, more of a tell-me-in-confidence tone. “Tell me . . . off the record. Are you paying women less than men?”

    He thought long enough to make me assume the answer was “yes.”

    Then he surprised me. “No. In reality, no. But sometimes it appears that we do.”

    “How so?”

    “Sometimes we promote a woman faster than we would a man, giving her the same job title as a man, but she has fewer years with the company.”

    “So you pay her less?”

    “Yes. We’d pay anyone with fewer years less, but we move good women more quickly than we move good men, which is really discrimination against men, but it ends up looking like discrimination against women when we pay them less for less seniority.”

    “Sort of ironic, huh?”

    “Yeah. In fact, it’s worse than that. […]”

    Sorry for the long quote. The book (I’m sure you’ve read it) is a very good read.

    (BTW, I recognize the lawsuit problem from a close female friend who worked in an executive position in a US Federal organization. She said that anytime she had to fire someone who was either a woman or part of a minority group, she was almost sure that she would have a lawsuit on her hands and would work twice as hard to ensure that she had all her bases covered – she never lost in court, but I personally witnessed her getting sued twice in two years. Both cases were ridiculous and she demonstrated that in court, but it’s still a big waste of time.)

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