We are delighted to welcome Professor Alison Wolf CBE to discuss the issue of gender in British political and economic life.
“Cameron’s July reshuffle was partly a response to his ‘women problem’: the Tories poll much worse among women than men. And it shows how little he and our whole political class understand modern inequality.
Political parties set targets for women in government in the belief that female voters care about the gender of their ministers. This view is shared by pretty well all politicians and media commentators. Most also think female quotas for company boards play well with women and further ‘female’ economic success.
This is nonsense. What we have is a new and widening gap between the lives and interests of successful professional women and other women. The former group are increasingly like men in their pay and work history; they have very and increasingly different family patterns from other women; they hold 50% of professional and senior managerial jobs in the OECD and have been big winners economically in past decades. A few benefit from political and company board targets. They all, as a group, are the main beneficiary of government support for formal childcare and, of course, higher education.
Female voting patterns reflect these deep changes in our societies. The gains made by modern female elites do not trickle down to the women working shifts, in traditional female jobs, with low incomes and major family burdens. This, and the growing dependence of many on the state, explains why, overall, women’s votes are now more left-leaning than men’s, when once it was the opposite. Good policy-making, on the economy and on families, requires us to understand new social realities, and new forms of elite self-interest too.”
Alison Wolf is author of The XX Factor: how working women are creating a new society (Profile) and Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management, King’s College London.