At long last, I thought, the City of London, Ontario is finally getting caught up with the times. They finally promoted a woman to the rank of police inspector. And then I read the article a little more closely.
Yes, she is now an inspector. They created a new position for her. And guess what. She is now responsible for media, paperwork and diversity programs. “Historically the pervue of the chief and his deputies”. I translated that as the institutional housekeeping that the boys didn’t want to be bothered with. This new inspector didn’t get any of the work that “really counts”, i.e. the stuff that gets noticed, which would position her for senior leadership in the police force. She gets to clean up after the boys.
So yet again, it appears like women are making strides, but we still get stuck doing the institutional housework. The unglamorous stuff that keeps the organization going, but doesn’t get recognized as valuable. In universities, women get promoted on average two years after men do. Why? Women do more service on committees and spend more time running the organization than men do. Research is what determines whether someone gets promoted at a university. Since the women are busy running the place, they don’t get published as much, and therefore tend to get promoted later.
According to my friend the Accountant, women run local Roman Catholic parishes, while the priests take the “leadership roles”.
Even in corporate life there are examples of this behaviour. My favourite fact is that female CEOs are over-represented in companies that are in dire financial situations. This is called the Glass Cliff. It’s almost as if the board says, “It can’t get any worse, so let’s see if she can pull this one out of the flames”.
In family owned businesses more than 50% of the women who work in the business that their husband owns are unpaid. Even when they are paid, they tend to do clerical and accounting tasks, and have little input into the decision-making process.
It’s clear that women have made progress in the past 45 years. But let’s not kid ourselves. We’re often promoted into positions that are dead ends, that are the organizational version of housekeeping.