Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Glass See-Saw

Nobody would look to this blog to provide balance. Why would you? If you want ‘balance’ you simply queue up at the EU admin counter and get your card stamped to say you’ve achieved it having paid the appropriate fee. As long as the quotas have been filled and the paperwork has been completed that all-important equality objective has been ticked off and whether or not anything has actually been achieved, social justice is seen to be done. Or not. Whatever – as always in politics it’s the perception not the real outcome that matters, which is why those of us who live outside the political vacuum can see things that the apparatchiks cannot.

Take gender balance. Yesterday, although I was dimly aware that such moves were afoot, I became aware of the utterly deluded ambitions of the EU to impose gender quotas on the membership of company boards when it cropped up on the Daily Politics. Now this is not some report that points out the positive effects of diversity – real or imagined – on society. Nor is it merely the promotion of the desirable and sensible British government policy to have equality of gender representation in government departments such as health, education, law enforcement, social services and the like. No, once again and without meaningful consultation it is the direct imposition of EU political will on private companies, whatever their business.

Whether you are in the arms trade, heavy industry, engineering, football or space exploration you will, by mandate have to have 40% of your non-executive board made up of women – like it or lump it. Before you even begin to call me a bigot in this regard, let me state that I believe that who makes up a company’s board is the business of that company alone and it should be comprised of the best people for the job. If that results in a board of ALL women or ALL men so be it, but it is a matter for the shareholders to decide and I don’t know a single sensible person who believes otherwise.

Shortly after I joined the Royal Navy, Britannia Waived the Rules and not only allowed what were formerly called Wrens to serve at sea, but also brought to an end the long and proud history of the WRNS. In order to push through a policy that the navy hadn’t asked for – and neither had a majority of serving Wrens – a lot of young women were advanced beyond their capabilities in order to make up the numbers, with consequent resentment from longer serving and better suited male candidates. Those who did not want to volunteer for sea service (why should they, this wasn’t what they had joined up to do?) suffered a consequent lowering of their prospects. Many of both types, disappointed, opted for PVR (Premature Voluntary Retirement).

Stock market listed engineering firms – I was with one for a while before it disappeared up its own backside (not my fault, honest) – applied the same positive discrimination so that organisations of almost wholly male population were managed by a disproportionate number of young women, often with little understanding of the work. I’ve been there and seen just how difficult it is for a pretty, young female graduate from an entirely different discipline to motivate a hairy-arsed team of forty-year old, deep engineering specialists. It is ugly and demoralising and just plain wrong.

The usual escape route for said young graduate of the politically-correct gender when the project founders is promotion out of trouble.  Each according to their abilities? From an avowedly socialist European Union surely the notion of forever hammering square pegs into round holes must sit uneasily? But no, for the projekt has dictated we must be equal by decree even if we’re not equal to the task and it provokes nothing but an uneasy tension between unwilling participants.

What next? Enforced equal participation of men in aromatherapy, nails, feet and Avon? At least 30% of births by 2020 to be to male mothers? A major newspaper investigation to reveal the horrifying reality that almost all NHS breast enhancement surgery has been carried out on women? Women to be compelled to grow moustaches every November? All schoolgirls to attend compulsory arm-wrestling and farting classes? And operation Yewtree officers to be deployed to investigate just why it is that so few men are inclined to take up careers in childcare?

Let companies choose, for goodness’ sake. And let the life choices of men and women affect their careers, proportionately. The ceiling isn’t glass at all; it is built from the resentment and bitter frustrations of private companies just trying to turn a profit. The equality see-saw will forever be canted one way or the other; why not let it find its own preferred position without the interference of all the cants in Brussels? Mind you, having said all that let’s give total equality in all areas a go – bring on the heavyweight boxing.


  1. "Those who did not want to volunteer for sea service (why should they, this wasn’t what they had joined up to do?) suffered a consequent lowering of their prospects."

    Compare with:

    "First Lord of the Admiralty:
    Now landsmen all, whoever you may be,
    If you want to rise to the top of the tree,
    If your soul isn't fettered to an office stool,
    Be careful to be guided by this golden rule.

    Be careful to be guided by this golden rule.

    First Lord of the Admiralty:
    Stick close to your desks and never go to sea,
    And you all may be rulers of the Queen's Navy!"

  2. You'd think that proponents of gender quotas would cite Local Councils or the NHS - organisations crammed to the rafters with women in senior managerial posts - as examples of the efficiency, productivity and cost-saving mentality that private companies could aspire to.

    Yet they don't. I wonder why that is?