Doug, I couldn’t agree more. It is indeed ludicrous – shameful even – that one of the world’s most powerful nations, fails to even meet the average on key indicators of gender power parity (of course, former Tory minister Douglas Hurd thinks there’s ‘too much’ feminism being bandied about – a position entirely contrary to my own).
In a report from the European Commission last year, the UK was shown to have failed to even attain mediocre levels of gender equality in national political representation, judicial leadership, top jobs in our national bank, senior government minister roles and top civil servants jobs. Why?
Perhaps our schools, colleges and universities are failing us and we’re just not smart enough. Not according to last year’s education system rankings: we have the third best education system in the world (although, if you listened to Michael Gove, you wouldn’t know it). Surely this high quality education system benefits girls and boys, women and men, no?
Maybe there are just more blokes? Nope. There are just over 25 million of each gender in England and Wales.
Could it be that women in the far more equal Nordic countries have fewer kids than British women do and so have more time to dedicate to their careers – that must be it. No. It’s not. Birth rates in the UK and Scandinavia have been more or less on a par for the past forty years.
So, we have a decent education system, there are loads of women in the country and women in the UK are having no more kids than women in countries with much greater power parity between men and women. And yet, in almost all professions that shape our culture and society, a disproportionate number of positions of power and influence are occupied by men.
OK, let’s ponder for a minute. Perhaps it’s because there are so few women in positions of power that makes the UK such a powerful nation. But then, uber equal Sweden is ranked as a highly powerful nation – sixth most powerful in the world, in fact. Turns out having greater gender equality doesn’t preclude a country from thriving economically and being player on the world stage.
So what’s going on? Surely not even Doug could claim British women are just not up to the challenge of leadership – not without causing his old boss to spin in her grave, anyway. The only conclusion I can draw is that ours is a blatantly sexist nation. Without a doubt, we are by no means the worst. But we’re also far too far away from being the best.
If you want to find out how the UK scores in various power parity comparisons, tune in to #power4women – I’ll be tweeting a shameful stat a day till we publish the next issue of Her Edit.