Time's Up

Wimmin. We're in the news a lot recently. Making a fuss. Being angry.

The BBC's China Editor has resigned her post in protest at being paid significantly less than her male counterparts. Not the first to do so, probably not the last. Female celebrities are using the Golden Globes as a platform to launch the 'Time's Up' initiative - talking about pay equality, sexual harassment and the right to an equal seat at the table across all industries. I've seen my MP proudly tell us what will happen to MP's if they sexually harass colleagues, while one of her colleagues gives a job to a man who has tweeted more times about tits than Chris Packham. A conversation about the gender pay gap is taking place. Again.

I'm listening to people (often men, mostly men) chiming in to the conversation about that gender pay gap... "We need more women in STEM, that will raise their rates of pay" (Yes, why is it these male-dominated industries are higher paid, exactly?), "Women aren't being paid less than men, it's just that there are fewer women in senior jobs" (I can wait...), "We should boycott all these companies" (Bahahahahahaha).

What is it we are getting at here? We've been dancing round the topic of equality for women in work for donkey's years now. What are we really saying is the issue? What are we calling Time's Up on, exactly? After all, don't us wimmin have it pretty good now? What with our special pink-branded wimmin-in-leadership forums, and our employment rights and hardly anyone getting raped in your average 9-5. From my perspective, reducing this down to equal pay, the right not to get felt up in the staff kitchen, or any other one of the hot topics right now is missing the point. This is about none of that and all of that. It's about the way we talk to and about girls and boys from the day they are born. The signs we put on their bedroom doors with princesses or astronauts on and the butterfly effect that has on the world of work years down the line. What am I calling Time's Up on? Well, I can only talk from personal experience, so here goes...

It's times up on handsy customers in the Saturday job you have while doing A levels and at university.

It's time's up on being sent the secretarial jobs supplement the day you graduate from a glass plate university with a 2:1.

It's time's up on finding out your male colleague in your first graduate job (doing the exact same role) is paid 50% more than you are.

It's time's up on being asked to take notes in a meeting because you appear to be avec pen and sans penis.

It's times up on being asked where the gents are at the company conference because you must be events' staff, and not another manager at the company.

It's time's up on being told you're bossy, and never hearing a male colleague get that criticism.

It's time's up on listening to your (male) boss talk about his new (female) boss in terms of how fit she is... and then having to listen to him relate how disappointed he was to meet her and see she has a 'fat arse'.

It's time's up on hearing any senior male colleague describe a female colleague in terms of attractiveness or whether or not she should wax her arms/top lip/insert inappropriate gag here.

It's time's up on having to stand up for a junior female worker at one of your suppliers when her male boss makes a sexist joke about her.

It's time's up on listening in bewilderment to a perfectly nice man talk earnestly about how he's running a Women in Leadership programme and is starting by telling women not to do typically female things (like be caring or considerate to co-workers).

It's time's up on sitting in a meeting room full of men and timing exactly how long the conversation takes before the topic of football expires. And wondering seriously whether you need to learn more about football to be able to talk more in meetings.

It's time's up on going to a supplier conference and having the sales guy address his entire pitch to your junior, yet Y-chromasomed colleague.

It's time's up on counselling female employees (yes, plural) who confide in you about being groped at work, trying to convince them to take it further, and wondering if you've pushed too hard when they decline, saying they 'don't want to make a fuss'.

And time's up on seeing gropers carry on being given projects, keep their job and stay in the 'boys' club' regardless.

It's times up on wondering out loud to your boss what the equivalent word for 'bitch' is should he need to critique a malecolleague to you in future instead.

It's time's up on female graduates being asked to take on the 'glamorous assistant' role at the company awards ceremony.

It's time's up on listening to your CEO tell you he loves employing women in part-time jobs because they're 'a bargain'.

And, it's time's up on hanging back for years on writing a blog post like this one for fear of it affecting your work, or being labelled 'difficult', 'angry', 'having a chip on her shoulder', 'paranoid', 'anti-men'... or worse.

I'm not special. I'm not unusual. I suspect I have a lower tolerance for some of this BS than some other women, and a higher propensity to talk about it. But I guarantee my experiences (and all of these are my direct experiences) are not unique.

So can we stop being surprised or outraged by the gender pay gap reporting, stop feeling all virtuous that we have professional standards in our industry, stop pretending this isn't happening every day in every workplace in one way or another. And start recognising that all of it is part of the same damn problem.

And it is a problem.