Men at work

Colm Carey considers gender equality, reputation and shopping trends

Gender equality at work and at home is a hot topic at both a macro and micro level. At the macro level, official policy is to have a fair representation of men and women at all levels in the workplace. At the micro level it comes down to who becomes the primary child carer and how day to day tasks are shared.

Children tend to model behaviour rather than philosophies. If you decide to raise your kids in a gender neutral way, it won’t work if you ban dolls for the girl and MMA for the boy while continuing to insist that cooking is mum’s job and that dad always mows the lawn and takes out the bins. One of the key issues for people with children, regardless of their child rearing philosophy, is the cost of childcare.

A survey for Osborne Recruitment shows that 60 per cent pay up to €1,500 a month for childcare. A similar number believe it is more cost effective for one parent to stay at home to raise the children, which is where the real debate starts. The survey asked men aged 20-60 about the issues that affect them at work. Some 43 per cent said their partner is the sole childminder at home and 78 per cent said they are the main breadwinner.

Management mentoring, opportunities for promotion and reaching targets are the top triggers for work satisfaction. Salary levels, work related stress and the ability to maintain a work/life/home balance are key preoccupations. Some 60 per cent believe their workplace is flexible when it comes to taking time off or leaving early to resolve childcare issues.

So it looks like things are improving from the bad old days when a man leaving work to take care of the kids would be seen as getting his priorities wrong. Maybe it is down to more women in senior jobs, or legislation. Or, maybe, we have become a more caring society.

Corporate image

Being more parent friendly is probably a factor in an organisation developing a benign corporate reputation. If your reputation is good at various levels, you attract the brightest and best employees leading to better performance and happier shareholders. With social media always on the prowl, companies have nowhere to hide their mistakes and indiscretions.

A survey by Reputation Inc reveals that most executives find managing corporate reputation more challenging today than it was in the past. Only one third believe that their boards have the appropriate processes in place to respond in the event of a reputational crisis. That leaves a lot of companies out there at risk of serious consequences if a scandal hits them.

As if that is not bad enough, two in five of the executives surveyed believe their organisation does not have a clear understanding of how its image and brand reputation is perceived. It all points to a lot of bunker mentality in corporate land with people walking around in a bubble of their own making with little reference to the outside world.

Hear no evil, see no evil must be the mission statement in the boardrooms of these organisations. A possible explanation is the fact that 90 per cent of respondents claim that reputation measurement is not built into performance evaluation of the leadership team, a finding borne out by senior executives regularly heading off into the sunset with large settlements and intact pension pots despite having brought the company into disrepute.

Shopping for women 

Despite the fact that we like to talk about equality and sharing and conduct surveys that indicate times are a changing, things carry on much as they always did in the real world. A B&A survey for the National Consumer Agency shows that a little less than three quarters of women surveyed say they are mainly responsible for grocery shopping in their household. More than half of the men surveyed say they have no grocery shopping responsibilities. This kind of information makes it hard to join the dots between what people say when surveyed about social values and what they do in reality. How can we talk about sharing responsibility and work life balance if most guys are ducking out of the grocery shopping job?

“Women like shopping” or “he always brings home the wrong stuff” are reasons given. It is like the story of the researcher asking for clarification as to how a couple shared decision making in the home. “Well,” said the husband, “I make all the big decisions, like where we stand on the US Presidential election, the war in Iraq and UN policy in Asia. She makes the smaller decisions like what we eat, where the kids go to school and how we pay the bills”.

It might be as true today as it was when I first heard it. The lesson here for anyone involved in research is that what people say in response to a single issue survey may not represent how they live their lives. Look beyond your own horizon if you want to see the world at large.

Comments on this article are welcome at

Photo on the home page is the gardener from the Diet Coke ‘Break’ TV ad



Share with friends:
No comments yet.

Leave a Reply