200 years to equality

// 5 January 2007

It will take women 200 years before we achieve equal representation in Parliament, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission.

As reported in the Independent, it will also be 60 years before men no-longer outnumber women in City boardrooms and 40 years in the judiciary.

If the “glass ceiling” is to be shattered, the EOC says nearly 6,000 women must find jobs among the 33,000 top posts in the public and private sector surveyed. Jenny Watson, chair of the EOC, said: “Today’s troubling findings show just how slow the pace of change has been … They suggest it’s time not just to send out the head-hunters to find some of those ‘missing women’, but to address the barriers that stand in their way.” The EOC warns that the absence of women in key decision-making posts means democracy is at risk.

No kidding. How can our system be truly democratic or representation if women’s voices are not heard in Parliament and in the corporate world?

What difference does it make? Consider one of the big issues on the political agenda today: nuclear power.

Many studies have shown that women oppose nuclear power in far greater numbers than men. Just over a year ago, a Guardian poll found “sharp gender differences”. Roughly two out of three men said they supported building a new generation of nuclear power stations, compared to one in three women.

Something to bear in mind as America wakes up to its first female speaker?

The report says women from ethnic minorities account for just 0.4 per cent of FTSE 100 directors and 0.3 per cent of parliamentarians. The EOC is calling for an extension of the right to request flexible working to all, and the availability of more high-quality, well-paid flexible and part-time work at higher levels.

It also wants political parties to target women’s representation before the next election.

Meanwhile, Ugly Betty is about to hit Channel 4. The hugely successful US comedy, adapted from a Colombian telenovela, stars America Ferrara as Betty, a Latina from Queens, who landed her job in journalism because her boss wouldn’t want to sleep with her.

As Ampersand says, the show is at its best when dealing with race and class issues. But Ferrara is a brilliant actor, and Betty is an unusually interesting and thoughtfully-drawn character.

Betty’s boss is a good guy within the show’s plot, but his constant sleeping around – and his objectification of and indifference to his many sexual partners – is treated harshly by the show’s writers. Betty’s boyfriend, Walter, is cute (in a totally non-mainstream-media way) and sweet, but he’s also petulant and whiny whenever Betty makes her career a higher priority than being Walter’s always-on-call girlfriend.

What’s the Sun’s take? To start a national search for real-life Ugly Betties! It doesn’t give much in the way of criteria, except to say that they are looking for women in similar situations who are also called Betty. Jesus.

Photo by paul goyette, shared under a Creative Commons license

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