Two common complaints:
- From ‘the public’ – “Women aren’t asked as often as men to sit on panels, speak at events, write expert columns, etc…”
- From commissioning editors – “Women are harder to find”
Question is: why are they harder to find?
A weird answer recently hit me in the face.
One morning, I was increasingly exasperated at being unable to find a Conservative activist teacher to write an expert column. I amassed a hit list of five names. I put the women first, for balance, as that week we already had several male writers.
But I couldn’t find a mobile number or email for any of them. Meanwhile the two men had mobile numbers listed on their web pages.
As this was happening, the latest edition of Schools Week (the newspaper I work for) arrived. I flipped through, then recoiled in horror. On the editorial team page someone had printed our mobile numbers. There was mine, right under a pic of my face.
“Mum will not be best pleased” was my first thought. (And began rehearsing how I’d calm her security worries).
Then I thought: This is stupid. Here I am complaining that women don’t put their mobile numbers in public at the same time as I now panic about mine being out there.
Besides what was I worried about? That a random person might call me up and say mean things? That people might figure out how to contact me?
Well, yes. Exactly.
And here appears to lie a genuine if very subtle difference between men and women. In subsequent weeks of discussing this incident I’ve yet to find a woman happy for her mobile number to be strewn around the world. Plenty of men, however, said they’ve never once thought NOT to share it.
Women all said their fears were predicated on something bad happening, and that because they would have given their number out to strangers they would somehow be part-responsible for the ambiguous Bad Thing.
Some men were also uneasy about numbers being public, but largely it was because they wanted a work-life separation. Safety was rarely mentioned. “I was told not to as a kid” and “Bad Thing would be my fault” were never mentioned.
I’ve written before about how much I hate a big deal being made out of gender differences but this one smacked me in the face.
Seems to me, women simply don’t put their contact details out in the world at the same rate as men. Hence they don’t get contacted with opportunities at the same rate either.
Simple, ridiculous and easy to solve, right?
Only, would you recommend I end this blog with my phone number? I thought about it. But it still felt like I was just asking for trouble.