There is no shortage of dispiriting indicators to highlight the work still to be done to address the issue of gender inequality in workplaces across Scotland.
The statistics attesting to the persistent nature of this scourge are plentiful. Women in full-time employment earn around 13 per cent less than their male counterparts. In part-time work, the disparity widens to 32 per cent. At senior positions, meanwhile, men continue to dominate – a mere 15 per cent of women are High Court judges while just 8 per cent of directors of FTSE 250 firms are female.
Despite a much-vaunted drive on the part of the Scottish Government to achieve a lasting equality, research no less disheartening seems to emerge every other day.
At first glance, a new academic survey of job satisfaction would appear to fall into that category. The report, from the University of Lancaster Management School’s department of economics, shows that women are considerably less satisfied in their work than they were in the early 1990s. Whereas a quarter of a century ago, female job satisfaction outstripped that of man, today they are broadly similar.
The immediate temptation is to bemoan the findings as the latest evidence of gender inequality’s stubborn streak. In fact, they represent a positive shift.
The fact that women’s job satisfaction has declined over the decades is because younger female workers now no longer expect and are comfortable with gender disparity, a trend academics refer to as the “contented female worker”. Instead, the working women of 2016 have the same aspirations and needs as their male colleagues.
The work, entitled Paradox Lost: Disappearing Female Job Satisfaction, found that 25 years ago, among both younger (classified as under 35) and older age groups, there was a significant female satisfaction advantage, with the advantage being much greater for older workers.
By 2008, the estimated size of this advantage was markedly reduced. Come 2012, academics discovered, there was essentially no difference in job satisfaction between men and women, including both younger and older workers.
As Professor Colin Green, a researcher on the project explained: “This revealing result suggests that while the early 1990s cohort aged out of a gender gap, young modern-day workers never had one in the first place. This fits with the view that female workers in the 1990s had lower expectations than their male counterparts and were simply more satisfied with a given set of working characteristics because of these lower expectations.”
This research is most welcome and highlights a significant shift that has taken place over the last generation. It is only right that men and women should view the role of work in their lives from an equal vantage point.
The challenge all of us now face is to resist the temptation of complacency and create workplaces that better serve women and create an environment and culture in which every employee is happier in their work.
Exposing past wrongs is always right
There are some who say that holding an investigation into historic crimes or allegations achieves little more than fostering division and bitterness. In parts of the world where such ill-feeling continues to blight ordinary communities, this is an appreciable concern.
But is impractical to believe that a lasting change can be achieved if the misdeeds of the past are simply swept under the carpet. In the case of Northern Ireland, which has endured so much bloodshed and suffering over the years, the need for accountability is particularly important. It may well be a painful process, but it offers the best hope for a brighter future.
The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland’s report into the police’s role in the 1994 Ulster Volunteer Force massacre in Loughinisland, Co Down, is a case in point. Dr Michael Maguire has ruled that one man suspected of carrying out the mass killing in the Heights Bar was a police informant, while the murder squad had been involved in a number of other killings in the years beforehand, but had avoided arrest because the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s Special Branch intelligence unit had withheld evidence from RUC detectives investigating the crimes.
The inquiry, which began in 2013, has been a comprehensive affair, spanning 200 witness accounts as well as ballistics tests on firearms recovered by the police. The passing of nearly two decades has allowed the latest developments in forensic science to shed new light on the circumstances of the massacre.
This alone justifies the ombudsman’s decision to investigation, but the reality is, the only thing required was to desire to expose truths and past failings that were covered up.