IT’S NOT rocket science, there must be more equality at the top writes Kirsty Dorsey
Tomorrow marks the 51st anniversary of the first woman in space. Her name was Valentina Tereshkova, and she travelled as a member of the former Soviet Union’s Vostok 6 mission in 1963.
Tereshkova flew little more than two years after the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. For that era, the time lapse is notable, and would suggest a degree of gender parity for those who would be astronauts.
Unfortunately, not so. After Tereshkova’s initial flight, nearly two more decades passed before the next female travelled into space. To date, less than 11 per cent of all astronauts from anywhere in the world have been women.
It’s easy to pass this off as a phenomenon of the job – the physical demands of space travel simply being too much for the vast majority of females.
But even back here on Earth, women are still being kept from the most lucrative and high-profile professions. It’s been half a century since Tereshkova took flight, but it seems this world is still marking far too many occupational “firsts” for women.
The turn of this year saw a flurry of such announcements, starting with Mary Barra’s appointment as chief executive of GM – the “first woman to run a major global auto-maker”.
This was quickly followed by news that Inga Beale would take over the running of Lloyd’s of London, the financial world’s ultimate boys’ club. She is the first female boss in that insurance market’s 325-year history, her appointment coming 40 years after the first woman was allowed on the floor as a Lloyd’s broker.
Meanwhile, Liv Garfield became one of only three women currently heading up a FTSE 100 company when she took over at water giant Severn Trent earlier this year.
We are now more than a decade into the 21st century, yet gender remains a noteworthy news line. Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other women’s liberation activists from the 19th century would no doubt be dumbstruck.
The issue came to the fore again last week when Andy Murray appointed former Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach.
The move sent shockwaves through the professional game, and brought into the open the thinly veiled fact that many in the men’s game look down on women’s tennis. Australia’s Marinko Matosevic was perhaps most blunt about it – “I don’t think that highly of the women’s game” – but others have said much the same in the relative privacy of the gents’ locker room.
Welcome news, then, that the Confederation of British Industry has set its sights on reducing the gender pay gap by putting an end to occupational segregation.
Its latest report – Building on Progress – says too many high-paying professions are still regarded as the domain of men, with women actively steered away from those options.
Until this comes to an end, equal pay is a futile objective. «