Kathy Foley has a nice piece in the Irish Examiner on the slimy nature of discrimination in today’s workplace. Extracts:


With more options than ever; young Irish Women believe they can have it all. But unless society’s expectations change and unofficial discrimination is stamped out, they face the same guilt trip and glass ceiling as previous generations, writes Kathy Foley

Prosperity engenders opportunity. As Ireland has boomed, the fortunes of its young women have skyrocketed. In the space of a couple of generations, the prospects and opportunities for Irish girls have changed utterly.
My mother had to leave the civil service when she got married. When I was choosing a third-level course in the early 1990s, it was repeatedly emphasised to me that nursing and teaching were the most suitable options for girls.

Little over a decade later, girls outperform boys in almost every Leaving Cert subject and, consequently, dominate every aspect of third-level education. They take up well over half of places in high-points university courses and outnumber boys across the system. …

It must be wonderful to be a 20-year-old woman heading towards graduation. They have thrived at third level and have a world of options open to them. Maybe they’ll go travelling, have fun and see the world before returning to an interesting, well-paid job. Once in the workforce, they’ll shimmy up the career ladder with the same ease they bounced through the education system. Not only that but they’ll have a beautiful, eco-friendly home, consume only the best of organic food and, ultimately, combine that thrusting career with life as a yummy mummy to adorable, highly-achieving children.
After all, that’s what they’ve been led to expect. If Angeline Jolie and Nigella Lawson can do it, why can’t they? Sorry girls. You’re hurtling headlong towards a reality check. Having it all is impossible …

In many sectors, women of childbearing age are viewed as potential liabilities. Rowan Manahan, a career management expert and MD of Fortify Services, says unofficial discrimination against women who are pregnant or who could get pregnant is widespread:

“A line I consistently hear when companies are hiring is, ‘Yeah, that person is great, but I don’t feel like paying for three maternity leaves in the next seven years’ – and I hear it as frequently from females as from males.”

“I recently dealt with two women, one a surgeon and one a lawyer, both at the top of their game, and both of whom had decided independently to remove their engagement rings prior to job interviews,” he says. “This is the discrimination that dare not speak its name. It’s appalling and it is endemic.”

Manahan says companies tend to take a short-sighted view, worrying more about immediate profits than the long-term value experienced women can add to corporate success.

“Most corporations are looking to trim any bit of fat out of the P&L account. It’s all about the bottom line of returns to shareholders. They may have a lovely mission statement but when a conflict of interest arises between being properly respectful of women as being the only people capable of bearing the next generation and dropping profits because of maternity leave and women taking days off to mind children, there’s no choice for most corporations. The discrimination is all very below the radar and frankly a little bit cowardly.”

“Tom Peters (the American management guru) has a great line: What gets measured gets done,” says Manahan. “If chief executives are being measured on earnings-per-share, they can’t (won’t? will never?) stand up at the AGM and say, ‘Well I was super-dooper to all the mothers in our organisation.’ If issues around working mothers are not being measured, they are not being done. Change has to happen at societal level with childcare and maternal rights as a statutory requirement or funded by the State.”

Kathy’s excellent blog is here