Claire Black: Women aren’t ‘pushy’ for asking for fair pay

Jennifer Lawrence said she has given up trying to 'state my opinion and still be likeable'. Picture: Getty
Jennifer Lawrence said she has given up trying to 'state my opinion and still be likeable'. Picture: Getty
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SUFFRAGETTE is in cinemas, the Great British Menu banquet honoured the Women’s Institute, and Playboy will no longer feature images of naked women because that is – note there was zero irony in this statement – “passé”.

Are we perhaps having a moment? A gender equality – the aspiration for it and the struggle to achieve it – is totally vital and it benefits not just women but everyone moment?

I really hope so, not least because I’ve just read the brilliant new research published by the YWCA Scotland. The Status of Young Women in Scotland report is the first ever snapshot of the issues affecting young women in Scotland today and it is impressive (young women are so smart and cool and great), salutary (87 per cent of young women aged 11-21 in Scotland feel that women are judged more on their appearance than their ability) and inspiring.

Written, produced and designed by young women, the report is based on face-to-face interviews with more than 60 of them aged between 16 and 30. The themes they covered were derived from YWCA Scotland’s #GenderLightbulb blog where women shared real-life experiences of being treated differently based on their gender. How about this: “No matter what I wear, I can’t remember the last time I left the house without having men harass me on the street. For example I was walking to the doctor in jeans and a T-shirt, and counted nine different times of men bothering me – honking the car horn, shouting degrading stuff and racial stuff too.” Or: “I’m doing a male-dominated science degree and I’ve noticed that my lecturer really doesn’t listen to me when I talk up, but nods, agrees and engages when my male classmates do the same.” Or: “I’m very conscious that everybody at an executive level in my organisation is male and they make all the decisions.”

When it comes to work, the issue often seems to be about not wanting to be seen as pushy or too demanding. Young women often discover they’re being paid less than their male colleagues for the same job. This reminded me of everyone’s favourite – okay, my favourite – A-lister, Jennifer Lawrence, who wrote last week she’s given up trying to “state my opinion and still be likeable”.

The revelation that she’d been paid less than the men she starred with was what galvanised Lawrence. “I failed as a negotiator,” she said. “I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled’. At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the internet and realised every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled’.”

But, and it pains me to do this, I have to disagree. Women being paid less than men isn’t women’s fault. Yes, it might be that we don’t like being seen as difficult or spoiled but I don’t reckon men like that either. The fact is that when they ask for a pay rise they’re not viewed that way. And that, for my money, is the real problem.

A much-missed Menace

LOVED and lost gay bookshops are like buses, it seems. It was only last week that I mentioned the wonderful and still missed West and Wilde that was once on Edinburgh’s Dundas Street. And then a couple of days later, I heard about another one. It was called Lavender Menace (isn’t that wonderful?) and it was on the city’s Forth Street and was run by a woman called Sigrid Nielson and a man called Bob Orr. The bookshop features in a documentary that is being shown next week (23 October at Walpole Hall, Chester Street) in Edinburgh. It’s called Coming Out and it was a groundbreaking STV programme about society’s attitude to homosexuality first shown in 1983. A series of interviews with mainly gay men (a couple of women do appear but lots of lesbians pulled out for fear of the impact on their lives of being identified as gay). It is moving and a bit shocking, not least for the number of times you will witness people being asked how they feel about being viewed as “perverts”. Things have come a long way, mercifully. Part of the BFI’s Britain on Film project, the night will feature Edinburgh playwright James Ley, who has been commissioned to write a play about Lavender Menace, and Nielson in conversation. The event is free and you can book in advance online here

My passwords shame

ONLINE crime has reached epidemic proportions. According to the recently released Crime Survey for England and Wales, one in 22 adults who was asked had been a victim of cybercrime, including having their computers infected with a virus or their emails hacked. It has triggered lots of advice about how you can stay safe online, which in turn has triggered my shame about how seriously poor my passwords are.

The problem is that if I use random words for passwords (that’s the advice) I won’t remember them. And if I use different passwords for everything that requires a password then I will lose my mind. There is no solution. «