Tag Archives: equality

Matriarchy – a powerless, meaningless noun.

22 May

By Catherine Brockhurst

Domestic violence, rape, violence against women and girls, sexual assault, sexual abuse, harassment, inequality. When faced with a barrage of reports, articles, testimonials, blogs and actual conversations from women either having their stories told for them, or telling themselves – I am still astounded that there are people who genuinely question that there is a bigger issue at play than these experiences in isolation.

More specifically – take Jack O’Sullivan’s piece in today’s Guardian’s Comment is Free section “The masculinity debate: no wonder men stay out of it” – ignoring the fact that men rarely stay “out of it” and indeed rarely even have to debate given that the odds are already stacked in their favour – I’m struggling to understand what purpose this article fulfils, other than to undermine women and downplay (to the point of ignoring) the stance in society the majority of men enjoy.

The statement that jumped out the most for me was this; “But all this fails to generate male leadership or collective discussion. Each of us is operating in our personal world of change, with little sense of what it’s like for the other guys. The women’s movement produced articulate women to narrate their agenda. Where are the men?” – O’Sullivan was discussing how men are now challenging their perceived gender conformity-lucky them, to have a platform to challenge from at all. I fear he may have missed something.  What world is he inhabiting? Not mine that’s for sure; In the UK where 25% of those residing in Parliament are women, just 20% for the House Of Lords. Where in 2012 the percentage of women on boards of the Fortune 500 companies was just 16.6%. Where according to the IBR (International Business Report);

  • Women hold 24% of senior management roles globally, a three-point increase over the previous year (Yes that’s right, we’re up from 21%)
  • The proportion of businesses employing women as CEOs has risen from 9% to 14% (into double figures here)
  • Just 19% of board roles around the world are held by women although quotas have been put into place

But this is just a set of info to illustrate the inequality that still exists-whether this writer believes that men are failing to generate “male leadership” or not. How about the assertion that;

“…An important factor is that otherwise powerful, educated men – the ones you might expect to speak up – tend to have been raised in, and live in, households where they defer to female decision-making and narrative. The reasons are complicated. Women’s centrality in the private arena is a complex expression of both male power and male impotence, of patriarchy and infantilisation. But a consequence of boys and men living in private matriarchies is that even the most senior male chief executive often lacks confidence in areas that might be defined as personal, private or family”.

OK, let’s talk about that oppression of men in their own home. Let’s look at what that means for the millions of women also residing in those households that they apparently have control and autonomy over;

Domestic Violence is insidious, here are just a few stats to back up the assertion that this is far more prevalent that people appreciate and far from being about men lacking the confidence to challenge the women in their lives, the opposite is far more likely and is not mentioned at all in this article by O’Sullivan;

  • Domestic violence accounts for between 16% and one quarter of all recorded violent crime
  • One incident is reported to the police every minute
  • 45% women and 26% men had experienced at least one incident of inter-personal violence in their lifetimes. However when there were more than 4 incidents (i.e. ongoing domestic or sexual abuse) 89% of victims were women.
  • In any one year, there are 13 million separate incidents of physical violence or threats of violence against women from partners or former partners
  • Women are much more likely than men to be the victim of multiple incidents of abuse and of sexual violence: 32% of women who had ever experienced domestic violence did so four or five (or more) times, compared with 11% of the (smaller number) of men who had ever experienced domestic violence; and women constituted 89% of all those who had experienced 4 or more incidents of domestic violence
  • Women are more likely than men to have experienced all types of intimate violence (partner abuse, family abuse, sexual assault and stalking) since the ages of 16. And nearly half the woman who had experienced intimate violence of any kind, were likely to have been victims of more than one kind of intimate abuse
  • 54% of UK rapes are committed by a woman’s current or former partner
  • On average 2 women a week are killed by a male partner or former partner: this constitutes around one-third of all female homicide victims

Time and time again we are told what a raw deal men are getting, having to fight to be heard, being “emasculated” by women, being pushed out by career women who play the “sex card” or sleep with the boss to get ahead. All the while we are expected to ignore the fact that in virtually every walk of life women are treated as secondary, they don’t even get a platform to debate from let alone get listened to. If only a quarter of the policy makers are women it’s not a big stretch to imagine there will be a weighted view of the law in favour of men. Caroline Criado-Perez has been campaigning for equality in the representation and visibility of women as experts in the media, as co-founder of The Women’s Room, an online database of expert and experienced women in their field. More recently she has been challenging the Bank Of England for their decision to remove the only female representative on our UK Bank Notes, Elizabeth Fry. And you know what the most common challenge to her campaign is? What about the Queen? Her answer, a thousands times by now I would imagine, “What about the monarch?”. Once the queen is gone we are left with an entirely male cast. You can see the petition here.

Everywhere you go, every direction you turn you will be faced with an example of women being treated unfairly, unequally and in many instances in truly awful ways. Please stop telling us that men have the raw deal here, we have our eyes and ears open, we believe her, we hear her, we’re listening and we will not be silenced.

Top bosses’ pension pots nearly 25 times the average

6 Sep

Directors of the UK’s top companies have built up pension pots worth an average of £4.3 million, according to the TUC’s tenth annual PensionsWatch survey published today (Thursday).

PensionsWatch, which analyses the pension arrangements of 351 directors from FTSE 100 companies, shows that the average transfer value (pension pot) for a director’s defined benefit (DB) pension has increased by £400,000 over the last year to reach £4.33 million – providing an annual pension of £240,191. The biggest pension pot in this year’s survey is worth £19.4 million.

The total value of the 144 directors’ DB pension pots analysed in PensionsWatch is a whopping £600 million.

PensionsWatch shows that the value of the average director’s pension has increased faster than most ordinary pension schemes and is now 24.4 times the size of the average occupational pension (£9,828).

The survey finds that the average company contribution to directors’ defined contribution (DC) pensions is £144,508. The average employer contribution rate to a director’s pension (as a percentage of salary) is 22 per cent. This is nearly four times the size of the average employer contribution rate (six per cent) in DC pensions. The figure is also more than seven times the size of the maximum employer contribution required under the new automatic enrolment regime that will start being phased in for all workers from next month.

An increasing number of top directors now receive cash payments instead of participating in company pension schemes. The average cash payment was £164,925, an increase of £26,489 on last year. The biggest cash payment was £818,594.

The most common Normal Retirement Age (NRA) for senior executives is 60, with three times as many directors able to retire at 60 than 65. In contrast, the most common NRA for ordinary scheme members is 65, a figure which is expected to rise further.

The ever-increasing value of directors’ pensions is in sharp contrast to the fortunes of the pensions of most ordinary workers, with the number of employees saving in employer-backed schemes falling every year.

As pensions are generally not performance-related, the TUC believes there is no case for the stark differences between the pension terms enjoyed by directors and those offered to the rest of the workforce.

Private sector companies should follow the example of the public sector, where there are no platinum-style boardroom pensions and all staff are members of the same pension scheme and enjoy the same benefits, says the TUC. Indeed in public sector schemes better paid employees pay higher percentage contributions from their pay than lower paid workers.

Executive pay and bonuses have been under close scrutiny recently, forcing the government to look into possible reforms. But the TUC report says that because of the confusing and sometimes misleading reporting of directors’ pensions, the scale of executive excess has largely escaped the attention of shareholders and the media. The TUC is calling for greater clarity in the reporting of pensions, including the mandatory disclosure of accrual and contribution rates.

The TUC wants to see a legal requirement for more comprehensive reporting on company pension provision for directors and employees in company annual reports. The government is currently consulting on revisions to remuneration reporting regulations, and changes to pensions reporting should be included as part of these reforms.

Pensions will be a hot topic at the 144th annual Congress next week, when unions will debate the acceleration of the increase in the State Pension Age (SPA), condemn attacks on the pensions of workers across the public and private sectors, and call for a restoration of trust in the pensions system by tackling hidden and excessive charges.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Companies continue to chip away at the pensions of ordinary workers while awarding their directors solid platinum pensions worth hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

“Top executives already enjoy huge pay packages that go up every year irrespective of the success of their company or the state of the economy. These salaries alone guarantee lucrative pensions so the generous packages uncovered are an insult to the vast majority of workers who are denied such favourable terms.

“The gap between the pensions of top directors and everyone else does not just reflect the excess of the super-rich, but shows just how poor pensions are for ordinary workers in the private sector, where more than two out of three get no employer pension help.

“Automatic enrolment is a great advance as it will make employers contribute to pensions for the first time, but we need to see employers offering more than the bare minimum if we are to avoid a growing pensioner poverty crisis.”

PensionsWatch 2012 is available to download at http://bit.ly/TA8zLR

The Spirit Level – a documentary film

22 May

This is your chance: the film which will change the political debate and make the world a better place. Its message: equality works. Tax the bankers, cut the pay of the people at the top and pay more to the nurses, the cleaners, the MacDonald’s worker, the supermarket check-out staff, (well, let’s be frank – 90% of us) and the world will be a happier place, the economy will be more successful and we will live longer.

The gap between rich and poor is at its highest level for 30 years. Over the last year there have been protests from Cairo to New York to London – now it’s time for action, and a documentary is the most powerful way we can raise awareness and mobilise people.


“The Spirit Level” is an award-winning book which uses rigorous analysis of 25 years of research to show how a more equal society is better for all of us, including the rich.  It shows how nearly all social ills – stress, poor educational performance, high crime rates, unwanted teenage pregnancies – are more common in those societies with a big gap between rich and poor.

Lynsey Hanley in the Guardian said, It’s impossible to overstate the implications of (this) thesis”,  The Economist stated “It is a sweeping claim, yet the evidence, here painstakingly marshalled, is hard to dispute”. The New Statesman listed it as one of their top ten books of the decade. It’s impact has been so great that it has provoked numerous attacks from  organisations that support low taxes for the rich such as the Taxpayers’ Alliance (“we oppose all tax rises”) and Policy Exchange (“the most influential think tank on the right”)


Inequality has suddenly become an issue politicians and commentators are talking and writing about, even the International Monetary Fund. Min Zhu, a deputy managing director of the IMF said in November 2011: “We see concerns about the link between tax and social justice almost everywhere we look. In the Occupy movement; in the Arab spring; in the debates on George Bush’s tax cuts in the U.S., on how to distribute the pain of austerity in Europe.” Min was saying this at a time when the IMF published a report saying that taxes should be used to reduce inequality, which their report showed was bad for economic growth.

The argument is being heard right now, with battles over austerity in Greece, and Obama saying “no challenge is more urgent” than inequality in the US.


Documentary films have the power to have a huge impact: An Inconvenient Truth created global awareness of climate change. The End of the Line, about the threat of over fishing, helped force companies and governments to change their policies through screenings at the United Nations, the European Commission, and US House of Representatives. Our executive producer was the driving force behind this film, and everything that we learnt from this, and other films since, about creating a social network to disseminate and distribute a film will be used on The Spirit Level.

We will make a film that is talked and written about, that gets into cinemas and televisions, so millions can see it. And, most importantly, this will help us achieve real, tangible change in policies and attitudes.

We strongly believe we are at a tipping point and a big international documentary about the need for greater equality can make a big difference.


The film will mix observational documentary, animation and commentary from leading world figures in politics, economics and health, to tell the story of how chasing the capitalist dream of materialism has led us to the point of social, economic and environment collapse. It confronts the critics, exposes the inconvenient truths, and puts forward a manifesto for a better world.

Filmed across the globe, we see at first hand how people in different countries – including Sweden, Portugal, the USA and UK,  are tackling the same basic issues but with different results and why the differences are due to inequality. We will tell the human stories of fear and empathy, of gated communities, the huge rise in anxiety, fatter populations, street gangs, and the lives and futures of our children. It is through the stories and voices of the people in the film that we get a window into how the tide of inequality is affecting us in the developed world.

Over the course of the film, we will hear from expert voices in academia, politics and journalism as they weave together these human stories with hard evidence to explain why we’ve bought into chasing economic growth, and how this has led to rising inequality in our societies.

The film’s clear purpose is to achieve social change. It is linked to a campaign and has clear “asks” at the end of the film: what you can do as a consumer, what you can do as a citizen and what you can do as a campaigner.


There has been an enormous amount of support from organisations and individuals for the film and its message – ensuring we have a solid foundation for wide distribution. Because we have the film rights to the book and the full co-operation of its authors, we’ve also done an enormous amount of research. Now we need to raise the money to hire a professional film crew to start filming here and overseas – and we hope to raise £30,000 in this campaign (that’s 50,000 dollars)

It’s a lot of money by crowd funding standards but then over 100,000 people have bought the book. You can make this film happen by pre-buying the down load of the film. Just 2,500 people worldwide need to pay £12 (20 dollars) for this now, and we will achieve our target. This may seem to be a lot of people, but we are appealing for supporters in all the countries of the world where the book has been sold. And you can give more if you want – see the different ways to support the film opposite.


It really isn’t. Yes, we do need it (for obvious reasons), but whether you can support us financially or not you can help us by spreading the word via facebook, twitter and blogs.

This film is about a movement and a campaign, and by participating, you can help make it happen. Together, we can do for public understanding of inequality what An Inconvenient Truth did for the public understanding of climate change. A better life is possible for all of us.

TELL your friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, students about this campaign and share this page: Indiegogo.com/spiritlevelfilm

SHARE it through Facebook

SHARE through Twitter with our handle @SpiritLevelDoc

SIGN UP to our mailing list for updates on the campaign as it progresses


If you believe in a better future for everyone, please help us get the message out.

 Katharine Round, Director

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