Are we nearly there yet?

The title of this blog is a shameless crib from a recent blog of Athene Donald’s, in which she discusses the Equality Challenge Unit‘s annual survey of statistical information about staff and students in UK universities.

[…] overall 76% of professors are white and male. Such a lack of diversity cannot be healthy. The numbers of BME (black and minority ethnic) staff across the board, male or female, is truly dismal. A mere 5.3% of academic staff are non-white UK nationals and there are a further 6.6% of non-UK BME staff members.

More girls than boys go to university, although this gap is slowly decreasing (from 14.6 to 13.2% over the period from 2003/4). In some subjects the disparity is huge:  80.6% are girls in subjects allied to medicine, 76.6% in veterinary sciences, and even in biological sciences the percentage is 62.9%.

She concludes with the interesting question:

So, we should be asking ourselves, not only ‘are we nearly there?’, but where is the ‘there’ we are trying to reach. Is the ideal a 50:50 split between the genders at all levels and for all subjects, or do we believe that this is a) impossible or b) undesirable – or even c) irrelevant as a metric.

Meanwhile, it’s fairly obvious from other sources that we’re not nearly there, for any reasonable definition of “there”, even leaving aside the obvious matters of the gender pay gap and the dearth of women in top jobs.

Personally, I’m not a huge sports fan. Well, not really a sports fan at all, to be honest. I do participate at grass roots level (let’s hear it for parkrun), but I don’t really follow or even watch sport. But I’d like to be able to not watch women’s sport on an equal footing to men’s. From Zoe Williams:

A young female rower told me two years ago that the big scandal of the way women were treated in UK sport was best illustrated by netball: it was never covered by the media, even though we were among the best in the world.

As host nations of the Olympics, we could have nominated it as one of our four new events. Instead, we chose women’s boxing: no spectator base, no foothold in schools, no realistic chance of it catching on, but you wanted equality, ladies? Here, take a punch in the face.

There are huge numbers of sports fans, but they don’t see many women. But then, people listening to the Today Show don’t hear many women, those watching Question Time don’t see many, and people reading newspapers don’t read women’s words, according to recent research. Women are seriously under-represented in the media.

And it gets worse. As I wrote last month, there’s a lot of misogyny around, and a number of women wrote about what they encountered. A week or so ago, Nick Cohen wrote a piece on the subject, and as described by Ellie Mae O’Hagan

Almost as soon as the piece was published, “Nick Cohen” started trending on Twitter. Clicking on the topic revealed scores of men and women sharing and praising his article; congratulating him for “nailing” the subject.

Why, she asks, did Nick Cohen trend on Twitter?

After all, it didn’t trend on Twitter when women pointed it out; and if I remember rightly, a great deal of respondents told us to stop being so weak. […] How strange, then, that Cohen’s piece should be the subject of such adulation. How unfathomable it is that his opinion should be lauded more than those for whom misogyny is a lived experience. It seems, as one Twitter user put it to me, that when “feminist women call sexism they are portrayed as killjoys; when feminist men do it, they are portrayed as white knights riding to the aid of defenceless women.”

There’s some progress, though. Well, maybe. Hamley’s has stopped colour coding its floors pink and blue for girls and boys. That’s bound to make a difference. Isn’t it?