Sexism is alive and well in the charities world

Men have a greater sense of entitlement when it comes to promotion, says Rosamund McCarthy

Men are twice as likely to bag the top charity jobs as women - and the pay gap is widening. A double whammy. No wonder there has been such controversy about these recent revelations, which came from a survey by chief executives body Acevo.

The survey's findings chime with recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that the UK gender pay gap has widened to a shocking 17.1 per cent. The slow progress that was being made is now in reverse.

Some say the glass ceiling isn't a result of discrimination; it's simply that women favour quality of life over higher earnings. Piffle. Men and women are both interested in quality of life, but men tend to have a greater sense of entitlement. When it comes to salary negotiations, women are terrified of being labelled shrill or aggressive, whereas men strut their stuff, convinced of their value in the marketplace.

But the elephant in the room is not what happens in the office; it's what happens at home. There is ample evidence to show that women and men progress on fairly even tracks until children come along, when it quickly goes pear-shaped.

If Acevo is serious about closing the pay gap, it should start by monitoring what male chief executives do at home. In its 2008/09 pay survey I will expect to be told how much they look after the kids, rush home for an unexpected emergency, put the rubbish out and, most of all, clean the toilet. You don't have to be a forecasting genius to predict that their women will shoulder the burden of domestic tasks. Small wonder that male chief executives earn more when there are no wages for housework.

And even when women defy the statistics and become leaders, there is still a problem. Take the poisonous coverage of Dame Suzi Leather in the Daily Mail and Private Eye. How are her "sultry smile, tight top and husky tones" in any way relevant to her job of chairing the Charity Commission? Has national reporting of the NCVO and Acevo ever lingered pruriently over Stuart Etherington's gorgeous body or how Stephen Bubb has coiffed his hair? Even when women break through the glass ceiling, they are met with a brick wall of male sexism.

Rosamund McCarthy is a partner in law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite and writes in a personal capacity.


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