I wanted to write a post about the workplace, a topic I find particularly fascinating. The UK places a real emphasis on work, which is reflected in the figures-the UK work some of the longest hours in Europe (not to mention the fact we don’t even get a siesta in the afternoon…)
It has occurred to me recently that many people, by their own definition are ‘floating’. This is a very technical term for doing jobs which tend to involve temporary contracts, or moving on after a year or two. (And this is men and women, young and old)
I can certainly vouch for this. I recently tallied up every job I have had since I began working at the age of fifteen, and in ten years I have worked in sixteen different jobs. Averaged out over the ten years, this amounts to an average of approximately six months per job.
I have worked everywhere. If you don’t believe me, take a look:
Wanna Haircut, Millets, MKOne, Whsmiths, Barclays Bank, Lloyds TSB, The Litten Tree, The Richmond Group, Au Pair, The Disney Store, Michael Rhodes Estate Agents, Doubletake Studios, London Advice Services Alliance, Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum, Groupon, and my current role at The College of Social Work.
I think I cover a lot of the bases-banking, retail, childcare, catering, admin, IT, charity work, creative industries…
Based on scientific research (aka talking to friends/work colleagues) I’ve noticed a real change in the way we view the employment market. Jumping from one job to another had the potential to feel liberating, that we weren’t committed to one role until we retire, like many generations before us.
But I want to argue that it isn’t liberating, We are clinging to our temporary contracts, and shrugging off the lack of pension or maternity benefits. We are scared to search for a new role, counting ourselves lucky we have a job at all.
Gender also comes into the discussions (because you just knew it had to). Women are losing their jobs at a disproportionately greater rate than men. Of the 2.67 million people who are unemployed, 1.12 million are women – the highest number for 25 years. Women are paid less. FACT. In the UK, women get paid, on average, 15.5% less than men.
And a final interesting point by the Guardian this week. Women pay more for stuff. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2012/mar/21/women-pay-more-than-men)
We pay more for haircuts, for our toiletries. Why do we pay more? Because we spend more I hear you cry! But WHY do we spend more? Because we have been bashed over the head with the message that WOMEN NEED TO LOOK GOOD. Must shave, must fake tan, must smell good, must do my highlights, lowlights, back comb, perm, relax, condition, moisturise, scrub, cleanse, tone, and rub in circular motions?! If my boyfriend rubbed cream on his face in circular frickin motions I’d laugh til I cried. But he wouldn’t, because he doesn’t have to, and he doesn’t use creams. I’m lucky if I can get him in the shower.
Women also experience sexism in the workplace. Recently I’ve been asked to serve tea and lunches in more and more meetings, as has my fellow female colleague. This isn’t part of our job description, but we’ve done it. I have since been referred to as ‘stewardess’ and trolley dolly’ whilst carrying out these duties, which I have to say, leaves me feeling pretty demoralised.
It’s good to be aware of these patterns. The ones affecting all of us, regardless of age or gender, and also of the discrimination that women still face. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one with stories like this…