Tag Archives: politically correct

Cosmetic surgery part of staff retention policy

What can we offer you to renew your contract? Free language lessons? 5 weeks holiday? How about a free breast enhancement?

The New York Times reported that nurses in the Czech Republic were being offered such perks. One private sector nurse who opted for the cosmetic surgery had breast enhancement and liposuction, worth over £3,000, which she would never have been able to afford on her €1,ooo a month salary – less than earned by a bus driver.

There is a severe shortage of 5,000 nurses in the Czech Republic as they are attracted to Germany, Austria, and the UK and an intensive care unit in Brno had to be shut recently because of staff shortages.

As a former soviet republic the Czech Republic doesn’t suffer from political correctness (as evidenced by the recent survey on same-sex relationships) and still enjoys beauty pageants. And it seems both sexes see these perks as no different from giving cars or expensive holidays.

Of course some people are up in arms. Womens’ rights activist such as Jirina Siklova, a gender studies expert and sociologist, argues that offering nurses breast implants turns them into prostitutes.

The managing director of the private clinic referred to above says there is nothing sexist about helping women look beautiful. After struggling to attract qualified nurses applications are up 10% since the plastic surgery offer (which includes tummy tucks and face lifts) in return for which the nurses sign a 3-year contract.

There are many women around the world who believe that being beautiful is important even though that sometimes leads to them being discriminated against.

The nurse who was described in the report said; “I feel better when I look in a mirror. We were always taught that if a nurse is nice, intelligent, loves her work, and looks attractive, then patients will recover faster.” NHS take note! And it adds a whole new dimension to the idea of personal development.

And as we know from an earlier post not all academics frown on women making the best of themselves. Catherine Hakim, also a sociologist, is quite clear that women should use their erotic capital where necessary.

No country for grey-haired men

No country for grey-haired men In America it seems more and more men are seeking hair colouring since the recession.

Men of a certain age are trying to retain just enough grey hair to look distinguished but not so much that they look over the hill in the job stakes.

Over the last 10 years the number of men colouring their hair has doubled to 6% overall but risen to 10% for the  over 50s. Sales of DIY hair colouring have risen by the same amount.

First impressions are obviously … Read More

via EI 4u with permission

Women are the winners at work

You’d have thought Guardian writers and readers would be pleased to learn that women had actually won the battle of the sexes at work according to an article in the Times (19/12/10).

The problem is the author of the article, Carol Hakim, a senior research fellow in sociology  at the London School of Economics is not necessarily seen as politically correct.

She was after all the author of the Erotic Report in which she suggested that women who lacked brains could always make up for it by using their Erotic Capital.This should come as no surprise as all the evidence is that more attractive people earn more anyway.

Now she is saying that women have won because they can make a choice whether to pursue their careers or settle down and have a family and passing tougher quality laws will not make any difference.

She says that many women in top jobs have only “nominal families” with whom they spend little time. Half of all women in senior positions are child-free and a lot more have only one child cared for by other people. A long article in the Times magazine (1/1/11) by Camilla Cavendish on extreme working with the title; “we don’t know how she does it – but they do” seems to bear this out.

“She” being one of the extreme workers, a partner with a well-known management consultancy, with a family of three putting in 100 hours a week across different time zones; “they” being the support team comprising parents, the handyman, a PA, and a nanny. And, in case you were wondering, her husband is a very senior civil servant.

In her new report – Feminist Myths and Magic Medicine – Hakim says: “Equal Opportunities policies have succeeded in giving women equal access in the labour market (but) people are confusing equal opportunities with equal outcomes and there is little popular support for the kind of social engineering being demanded by feminists and legislators”.

She believes that new government policies to promote equality are pointless and based on “feminist myths” and that maternity leave shouldn’t be extended as it makes female staff less attractive to employers. You can see why she is so unpopular with Harmanites and if you want to read a rant about this you should look up Tanya Gold’s article in the Guardian (8/1/11).

She’s also not happy with the idea of quotas for women on boards but neither is anyone else and the government aren’t going to pursue that anyway. There is still the issue of pay differentials but most of us would rather see an end to bankers’ bonuses and over-inflated pay at the top of the public sector.

Female CEOs are making a big impact in getting companies through the recession as employees seem to trust them more and think they are more understanding. But there is a price to pay for some women who try to have it all as there is evidence that women in senior roles are more prone to stress-related ill-health such as heart disease.

Updated 14 January 2011: The question of workplace rights and in particular maternity leave is centre stage at the moment.  Yesterday a long piece in the Times by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an American academic and motherhood campaigner, explained why she thought women were paying too high a price career-wise for extended maternity breaks. She would have shorter breaks to allow the mother to get back to work provided she had a support team described in the Cavendish article.

Today in the Times Jill Kirby, director of the Centre for Policy Studies which published Hakim’s report,  joined the fray with: “More maternity rights are bad for mothers”. Referring to both Hewlett’s piece and the report by Carol Hakim she points out that for too long it’s been assumed that with enough workplace rights motherhood need not affect women’s lives but that the latest evidence proves that is not true – what Hakim referred to as the “feminist myth”.

Hakim’s research shows that those countries with the shortest statutory maternity leave, such as America, have more women in top jobs than other OECD countries. And in Sweden, where mothers get 14 months of maternity leave, women are more often found in low paid public sector work.

In the UK 12 months maternity leave regardless of how long you have worked for a company and even if you are part-time is bound to make employers think twice of appointing a “womb in waiting”.  Employers can’t even ask questions about family plans lest they are accused of discrimination and government plans to change maternity leave to parental leave are unlikely to make any difference if 30 years’ experience of that in Sweden is anything to go by.

The last labour government’s legacy on equal opportunities, and the idea of protected characteristics and indirect discrimination, spear-headed by Harriet Harperson is to say the least not business-friendly. Women who want careers and a family have tough decisions to make but at least they have that choice now they have more than matched men in higher education and achieved equal pay in most economic sectors.

Getting women on board

Back in July I posted a blog about Alpha Males and made reference to the paucity of women in board-level jobs and the Norwegian attempts to overcome it by passing legislation in 2008 requiring all listed companies to have 40% of directors women.

Apparently it wasn’t very popular as businesses felt that inexperienced women would push out experienced men and women though they would be seen as token appointments. The fuss has died down now, according to a report by Carly Chynoweth in the Sunday Times (24/10/10); “Where quotas can succeed”.

She cited the Norwegian Institute for Social Research in Oslo where researchers found that 70% of male directors and more than 50% of women directors said that the quota has either made no difference or improved things (I’d love to know the split between women and men on how they rated the level of improvement). Only 11% of men and 1% of women felt that working on a board had become more difficult.

Female directors now hold a higher than average number of positions because of the demand for experienced women and the effect has been to replace younger, less-experienced, men – thus keeping standards high. Back in 2004 a survey of companies on the Oslo stock exchange found that 75% of board members were male, aged between 56 and 69 years of age, had attended Bergen Business School and all lived within 5 miles of west Oslo.

Diversity wasn’t an issue: women were just ignored when recruiting directors. Quotas aren’t new to Norway, their Labour party has had a 40% women quota for elections for 30 years, and proponents argue that having a quota didn’t give women an unfair advantage but just stopped them being overlooked. Before the quota was imposed females made up 29% of directors and this rose to 44% in 2008 before dropping to 38% in 2010.

Here in the UK the proportion of female directors has risen from 6.4% in 2001 to 13.6% in 2010, comparable to similar increases across Europe: from 9% to 12%. Spain, which also introduced a quota in 2008 with a target of 40% by 2015, has increased its percentage of female directors by 67% bringing the proportion up to 11%, France is considering a quota of 40% by 2016 after increasing the proportion by 57% to 12%, and Holland is aiming for 30% by 2016.

In the UK headhunters think that chairmen are looking for more balanced boards with an increase in demand for female non-executive directors (NEDs). Whilst Norway doesn’t appear to be recruiting women from other Nordic countries it seems European businesses are keen to recruit British women, who now seem in short supply as many already have NED portfolios.

In fact having a flexible NED portfolio might be more attractive to women than pursuing a career as a CEO considering there are only 5 in FTSE 100 companies. And in financial companies at least, male directors still earn more than female ones. According to the Chartered Management Institute the average salary for men is £150, 283 and £126,704 for women.

According to a more recent story by James Ashton in the Sunday Times (7/11/10) the government is now considering introducing a quota for women on boards of directors. Research at Cranfield shows that the  proportion of women on boards has doubled in the past 8 years to 12% but the financial crisis put the progress on hold as companies turned to more experienced men to help them out of recession. A 40% quota has been mooted which would mean that FTSE 100 companies would need to triple their female board members from the existing 100.

As mentioned above some countries already have quota systems but the government is hoping that companies will recruit more women without a quota being enforced. The Prime Minister pledged to bring in legislation to ensure companies recruited more women, suggesting that half the candidates on long lists for directors should be women and that vacancies should be more widely advertised.

There are mixed views about quotas with some believing they don’t work at all. The government’s review, led by former trade minister Lord Davies, is open for consultation until the end of November with a report due in the New Year.

Updated 31 December 2010: It now seems unlikely that the government will impose quotas for women directors. According to The Times today, Lord Davies has said in his commentary; “Quotas have proved successful in some countries but I am not convinced they are the right method to encourage progress.Female executives need to be recognised for the talent and skills they possess.”

He is considering other initiatives to tap the pool of potential women directors and has “thought about the merits of setting up an academy for female executives.” So positive action rules OK? More sensibly he argues for more transparency in the recruitment process and a best practice code for headhunters.

Employers’ organisations have differing opinions on the matter. The CBI believes that companies should have targets for the appointment of women and have to explain why they miss them but the IoD dismisses the idea as an “undesirable quick-fix solution” and one that politicises the issue of women in the boardroom and promotes gender diversity above other inequality issues.

See also:

“Pay Differentials”

“Why are we worrying about gender pay differences”

“What sex is your job”

Updated 10 February 2011: Those bureaucrats in Brussels are now getting involved. They are drawing up  proposals to have at least 40% women on all publicly registered companies. Initially the scheme will be voluntary but if companies fail to sign up it could become compulsory by the year-end.

The proposal is being championed by the Justice commissioner Vivien Reding and would require companies to employ 30% of women at board level by 2015 and 40% by 2020. She says if companies fail to achieve appropriate self-regulation by the end of 2011 “we must initiate an EU legal instrument”

The Luxemberger’s threats should not be taken lightly as she was the commissioner who forced mobile phone companies to lower their prices for international calls.

Lord Davies in the UK is still finalising his report on this topic and is expected to come up with something similar but unlikely to make such immediate demands. The Sunday Times thinks he will call for a doubling of female board members to 25% by 2015 otherwise companies would be subject to a quota.

Updated 23 February 2011: More speculation about Lord Davies’s report due out this week. It seems likely that he will expect headhunters and shareholders to sign up to a new code of practice in an attempt to install more women in the boardroom. He is also expected to recommend that 20% of directors should be women by 2013 rising to 25% by 2015. The current figure in FTSE 100 companies is 12.5% and only 7.5% in the FTSE 250 list.

Only 11% of people responding to Davies’s report thought quotas were a good ideas and companies vary: Centrica already has 25% females whereas there are 18 FTSE 100 companies, including Associated British Foods which owns Primark, which have none. Some companies are unrepentant saying things like: “we have a duty to get the best candidates – which to date had been male” and “we need people with time to devote to the job”

The worry is that pushing women onto boards before they are ready will dilute the quality although there is some research which suggests companies can be more profitable with women on the board.

Do women want to be judged on a quota basis as token females or get there on their own merit?

Most people prefer male bosses

The majority of employees prefer male bosses.

And that despite years of  anti-discrimination legislation and diversity training, and women generally doing better than men at university.

But in a widely reported survey of 3,000 people by  UKjobs.net, three-quarters of the men interviewed said they preferred a male boss –  and so did two-thirds of the women!

Male bosses were seen as more straight forward, better at “steering the ship”, more focussed on the long-term vision and less likely to have hidden agendas.

Female bosses were criticised for having mood swings and bringing personal problems to work, being overly competitive, and spending too much time on their appearance. (Appearance is important and a subject I have posted on before: “Impression Management“)

Women on the other hand were considered better at delegating, at giving praise, and at listening, so it wasn’t all bad news. Nevertheless the majority of people seem to prefer male bosses.

This is not the kind of thing that goes down well in politically correct circles of course and you can imagine what Harriet “Harperson” would make of it. Several columnists also got their knickers in a twist with Barbara Ellen in the Guardian saying women who said these thing should be ashamed of themselves; “We’re doomed if most women want a male boss”.

She does however make a valid point; “the boss thing is not a gender issue – it is a personality issue”. I posted on this a while ago asking; “Do you have what it takes to be a leader?” and I have also had a go at so-called Alpha Males in the past.

I also wonder just how much influence Emotional Intelligence (EI) is having on the current crop of managers. Women are more at risk of stress in high pressure jobs it seems and also can’t afford to be too nice as more aggressive women will compete with them – a point made in the survey about women managers over-compensating. So they are not seen as managing their emotions – one of the core competencies of  EI.

On the other hand the positives that women were recognised for in the survey related to other EI competencies eg empathy and relating to others, yet these strengths were disregarded in favour of what might be seen as the less flexible (in management style), straight-ahead approach that male managers are perceived to have.

So what is going on? Do women really prefer to work for men? Some said that they thought they could be a better manager than their present female bosses so why would they rather work for man?  Is it “imposter syndrome“, believing they are not deserving, because I don’t see assertiveness being a problem amongst women these days?

More recently a survey in America confirmed this tendency. A survey of legal secretaries found that, although almost half had no preference either way, not one of the 142 questioned actually had a preference for working for a female partner.

Another informal survey found that almost 7 out of 10 men said they preferred to work for a man. Even more women (3 out of 4) said they preferred to work for a man.

Only a third of men and a quarter of women said they preferred to work for a woman.

See the full article on these surveys

Erotic Capital – boobs, botox, and making the best of yourself

What do Obama, Jordan, Beyonce, and Tina Turner have in common but Gordon and Sarah Brown don’t?

Well according to Catherine Hakim a sociologist at the LSE it’s Erotic Capital. Something she believes is 50% innate and 50% learned. She thinks EC is; “sex appeal, charm and social skills, physical fitness and liveliness, sexual competence and skills in self-presentation”.

If you have it you can earn 10-15% more than your colleagues (but that applies to taller people too).  She thinks women usually have more than men but men are catching up with their use of botox (see my previous posting Body Language and the B problem”) and male moisturisers, whilst both sexes are found spending time at the gym, or under the knife, improving their appearance.

Using EC apparently means anything from flirting subtly with the boss to commercially exploiting a large pair of breasts. She sees Katie Price and Posh Spice as people not endowed with high IQs who make the most of what they have but are looked down on for it – perhaps because of  our Anglo-Saxon puritanism.

I can’t decide whether this is good news or not! Annoying radical feminists can’t be all bad but do we want to see more sexualisation in the work place?

Is this the new “emotional intelligence”? Is there a role for HR and training experts?

Kate Spicer who interviewed her for The Sunday Times was clearly a little confused too. She referred to Hakim’s foxy red hair, expertly applied makeup  with a dash of botox and also her use of some of the EC skills she seems to be endorsing, whilst claiming to be a feminist.

Personnel Today’s Guru has also picked up on this story in his blog this week (27 April), amusingly referring to erotic capitals such as Paris, Amsterdam  or Prague! However like me and my reader TG he suggests a niche market for seminars and consultants as EC becomes a new, sexier, version of Human Capital Management.

Updated 19 January 2011: Life really is cruel. Researchers have now found that you can have both brains and beauty!

Studies in America and the UK show that handsome men and beautiful women tend to be cleverer than the norm by about 14 IQ points. The findings suggest that as both beauty and intelligence are inherited the offspring of people with these attributes will inherit both qualities and this will be reinforced in subsequent generations. Satoshi Kanazawa, the LSE researcher, found that the association between physical attractiveness and general intelligence was stronger for men than for women: 14 points higher than average for men and 12 points for women – so hard to maintain a view about dumb blondes.

This research, published in Intelligence, was based on the Child Development Study of 17,000 British children born in March 1958 which has monitored them ever since, and the American National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health –  a similar study of 35,000 young Americans. Kanazawa’ argument is that; “if more intelligent men are more likely to attain higher status, and if men of higher status are more likely to marry beautiful women, then, given that both intelligence and physical attractiveness are highly heritable, there should be a positive correlation between intelligence and physical attractiveness in the children’s generation”.

Beauty happens to be Kanazawa’s special research interest and he has also found that middle class girls not only have higher IQs than working class girls but are also more attractive.

The report in the Sunday Times (16/1/11) doesn’t explain how physical attractiveness was measured or rated and the example given, model Lily Cole who is studying at Cambridge, is not, in my opinion, beautiful (but to me neither is Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell, so it shows how subjective beauty can be). To his credit Kanazawa does say that these are purely statistical findings and shouldn’t be applied to individuals or prescribe how to judge people.

Updated 19 August 2011: You’ve read my blog on this topic and now you can buy Carol Hakim’s new book; “Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital”.

The Daily Mail has just published a piece by the author which is bound to upset the feminists and PC brigade (so that’s a plus).

I can’t say I necessarily I agree with some of the celebrities used as examples. I don’t find Posh Spice the least bit attractive nor Renee Zellwegger or Madonna but it just goes to show that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.