Would women make a better job of the economy?

March 8, 2009 5:06 pm

By Rachel ReevesTreasury Select Committee

Perhaps it is some comfort for women that none of those dragged before the Treasury Committee for a mauling in recent weeks have been women. But with only one female member of the committee, women have had little opportunity to call the bankers to account.

There is no telling whether women would have made a better job of managing the economy. But according to recent research 90% of executives agreed that a culture encouraging excessive risk-taking contributed to the financial crisis. More than 80% believe failure to understand risk was fuelled by a macho culture, while 80% thought gender balance affects culture, and three quarters believe senior executives advocating caution would be regarded as wimpish. If these views are right, then more women at the top might have been useful.

Going forward we need more diverse and balanced boardrooms where cultural norms and expectations are challenged. Whether it’s having community stakeholders, more women or workers on the board – we need to change the way old boys’ networks dominate corporate life. Regulators should look at the ability of the board to challenge the usual ways of doing things. If the ‘talent’ on the board is picked from a small pool of identikit men, it probably isn’t doing its job properly.

In my constituency, Leeds West, I see the recession beginning to bite. And it angers me that the men and women in Leeds West, who have played no role in designing the economic architecture in which they have to navigate their lives, are left paying a high price.

Average earnings in Leeds West, at £15k are around 60% of the national average. That is, the average family is living in poverty. Employment among men is high in the building trade. Women tend to work in admin or services, often in the city centre, a couple of miles away. Those working shifts, temping, or working part-time are seeing their hours cut. And it is primarily women in these jobs. Even if still in work, women are seeing their earnings and ability to support their families fall. Leeds West also has a history of loan sharks targeting vulnerable families – often single mums and pensioners. Although a huge amount has been done to drive out the sharks, as banks turn away more people, more will fall victim to loan sharks offering quick and easy loans with interest rates which bear no resemblance to the cost of money.

The most striking thing about this recession is how unfairly the costs are shared. Golden parachutes for those who caused the problem. Unemployment, repossessions and doorstep lenders for the unwitting victims of their actions. Women, with lower savings, incomes and pensions stand to suffer most. And, this recession will be different for women, with more working than ever before. But with redundancies among women in less high profile, non-unionised industries, the experiences of women get less coverage and policy focus. Support for unemployed women needs to be as good as for men.

Research by MORI suggests women are more worried about the recession than men. It is crucial that politicians understand and are responding to the challenges faced by women. And, as we begin to think about what the future economy might look like, we should ensure that a more diverse economy includes more women in positions of authority for a more balanced and sustainable economy.

Read the government report ‘Women and the Downturn‘.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • Featured Try to imagine for a moment that you are Jeremy Hunt

    Try to imagine for a moment that you are Jeremy Hunt

    It may be an uncomfortable exercise, but brace yourself and try to imagine for a moment that you are Jeremy Hunt. Now, in your new role ensconced behind a desk at the Department for Health, it’s not difficult to imagine the huge pressures that are heaped on your shoulders at the moment. The English NHS is undergoing the worst year in A&E for a decade, with almost a million people waiting over 4 hours, elderly care is in crisis as […]

    Read more →
  • News Wales Mass Exodus? Figures show number of Welsh NHS patients using English NHS is FALLING since 2010

    Mass Exodus? Figures show number of Welsh NHS patients using English NHS is FALLING since 2010

    The Tories have been trying to use the Welsh NHS as a stick with which to beat the Labour Party, so it wasn’t too surprising to see the Daily Mail parroting Tory attack lines today with this front page splash: Now if you look beyond the (largely anecdotal) stories and carefully selected numbers in Daily Mail piece and look at the complete figures (available here) – they reveal that the number of Welsh patients using the NHS in England is actually falling. Here’s how […]

    Read more →
  • Comment No child should live in danger. Now is the time to end violence against children

    No child should live in danger. Now is the time to end violence against children

    Every five minutes somewhere in the world a child dies as a result of violence. These tragic deaths are not just confined to the war zones that dominate the news. Too often they happen when children should be safe –at home, at school or in the communities where they live. Today’s new report by Unicef UK outlines how violence is now a leading cause of serious injury and death among children. In Bangladesh, more than 20 per cent of girls […]

    Read more →
  • Europe News How would an EU referendum pledge affect Labour’s support?

    How would an EU referendum pledge affect Labour’s support?

    A poll conducted for the Daily Mirror by ComRes has found that most Labour-leaning voters aren’t bothered whether or not the party pledges to have an EU referendum. The poll saw 2,000 Labour-leaning people asked how the party’s stance on an EU referendum would affect their voting intention. 13% said it would make them more likely to vote Labour, while 7% said they would be less likely to do so. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most people (67%) said that an EU referendum […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour’s London Primary must be as accessible as possible

    Labour’s London Primary must be as accessible as possible

    The two-party system is on the way out. If there is a political lesson from the last two months, then that is it. The SNP’s popularity in Scotland and the rising stock of UKIP south of the border tell a clear story of people fed up with politics as usual. They are sick of the tribalism, bored of the politicking, tired of trying to work out who stands for what. They want something different: to be treated honestly, listened to, […]

    Read more →
7ads6x98y