Equal Opportunities Commission

Equality for women at work would be bad for society because it would increase the gap between between rich and poor, a study shows. In our present environment, where effort is rewarded more than talent by most employers, placing men on the “fast track” and relegating women to the “mummy track” is more beneficial for society, it says. The controversial claims were dismissed by the Equal Opportunities Commission, (EOC) which said perpetuating discrimination was fundamentally wrong, denying men and women the right to fulfil their potential in contributing to work and family life.

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In Britain, women are still paid 20 per cent less than men and have poorer promotion prospects, and women still fulfil the main childcaring role, although in 70 per cent of couples both partners work. The research, published today by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, London, an independent charity, acknowledges the traditional family pattern of a breadwinner father and a housewife has faded, but says a more subtle form of difference has emerged, with women choosing working arrangements compatible with having the main responsibility for children.

Professor Kjell Lommerud, an economist from the University of Bergen who is co-author of the study, said: “This is leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy, where employers still think they will get more out of a man because he will not be committed to childcare while women are placed on the ‘mummy track’. ” The researchers worked out an economic model for family and working life, looking at individual and public good. Professor Lommerud said: “If you removed all gender discrimination at work, this would be good for women’s’ rights but not for efficiency.

Full gender equality means men and women would go on to the same career track in the labour market. “But employers do reward effort rather than talent and it is impossible for both partners to work 15 hours a day and have children – so much of the investment in women will be wasted because they take time off to care for children. ” The professor added: “This is a far greater efficiency loss than having less-talented men promoted before their female peers. ” But Julie Mellor, who chairs the EOC said the principle of ordaining who should do what in society by their gender was inherently wrong.

“It denies couples the choice about who looks after children, denies the fact that 90 per cent of lone families are headed by a woman as well as ignores the fact that many women are now choosing to remain childless. ” “It is economically inefficient for British business not to make best use of the whole pool of talent. The long-hours culture in Britain needs to change and people should be valued for their contribution rather the hours they spend in the office. “Equality for women in the workplace will be never be achieved until men are able to be equally active parents. ”

Professor Lommerud admitted the findings were difficult to accept. “I am not happy about these findingsbut the result forced itself upon us, and you have to be honest,” he said. http://www. independent. co. uk/story. jsp? story=22905 Appendix 2. 15 Overhaul in research grant policies needed to improve prospects for women Lee Elliot Major Guardian Unlimited Tuesday December 19, 2000 A fundamental overhaul of the funding practices of the main bodies funding academic research projects as well as employment policies in universities is needed to improve the career prospects for women academics, a report concludes today.

The long awaited conclusions of a survey of grant applications among male and female researchers by the Wellcome Trust and research councils concludes that there is no evidence of direct gender discrimination in the allocation of research funding. However, the ‘deep-rooted nature’ of some of the factors making women apply for fewer grants, such as the increased likelihood of being on short term junior positions, means that reforms are needed “to ensure a more equitable distribution of research funding”.

Wellcome and the research councils commissioned the National Centre for Social Research to carry out a survey of academic staff. A total of 3090 academic staff drawn from 44 institutions took part in the survey, with a 40% response rate. The survey was commissioned after some suggestions that the mainly male academic referees deciding on research awards were biased against women academics. The survey explored whether there were gender differences in research funding applications activities and identified possible reasons behind these differences.

It found that 50% of women and 59% of men in the sample had applied for project research grants in the past five years. And when women applied for funding, they were as successful as their male colleagues: 51% of female and 50% of male applicants had obtained half or more of the grants they had applied for. Virtually no gender differences were found in applications for competitively awarded fellowships: 18% of women and 16% of men in the sample had applied for this type of funding.

The survey results also show that women were less likely than men to be eligible to apply for grants provided by all research councils and the Wellcome Trust, except for the Economic and Social Research Council. Women are less likely to be eligible for grants because of their over-representation among lower grade academic staff and those with fixed-term contracts, as many of the grant schemes are not open to academic staff in these groups.

The main influences on grant application activities included: job seniority, employment status, tenure, type of institution, and professional profile of academics. There was also a wide variation in the institutional support provided to researchers for funding applications. A break from employment for family reasons in the previous ten years also seems to have a considerable negative influence on grant applications. Grant applications were lower than average among women with dependent children – 50% had applied for grants compared with 62% of men with children.