I can’t pretend to be surprised any more when surveys come out, like the BBC one the other day, showing minuscule numbers of women in so-called top jobs. True enough, the facts are stark, particularly when you see them in pie chart form – for the armed forces, the sliver of red showing women is like an anorexic’s portion on a very bad day. But maybe – and I’m shocked I even think this – the game is just not worth the candle.
It’s probably being in my 40s, and not working in an office any more, that makes me look back on certain points of my career with horror. When I started to work in newspapers, harassment was not even considered unusual. There were just some men you avoided getting into lifts with. I’m not saying it’s good, that we weren’t all shouting out our outrage. But it was clear that, if you did complain, you’d be regarded by the men as a loathsome snitch who’d never get promoted and by the women as a bit of a wimp. As more and more gold-lame or red-frocked skeletons fall out of cupboards, it’s clear that, way back then, the abuse of power was absolutely the norm. And has anything changed? The Lib Dem sex scandal (and who would have ever have thought those four words would be trotted out together again, after Paddy Pantsdown’s retirement) currently unrolling makes it clear that, only five years ago, abuse was going on just as usual. Powerful man feels he is irresistibly attractive to women, and proves it by having ‘octopus hands’. Yuck. Who would knowingly walk into an environment like that?
Perhaps women are doing the sensible thing, by staying away in droves. You might argue that, if more women were in powerful positions, there’d be less of this sweaty groping going on. But, you see, those few executive women have to sidle past the bottom-pinchers for years and years to reach any degree of success. No wonder they often decide they’d rather push their babies round the park instead. People complain a lot about the current vogue for housewifey crafts and cupcake baking. But isn’t there a point to that? If we can elevate the humble sponge cake to some sort of exalted status, maybe we can avoid all that nasty business in the stationery cupboard which, eventually, leads to a larger piece of the pie chart.