Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-144)


2 MARCH 2005

  Q140 Mr Evans: Are women saying that as well as men?

  Ms Wall: On the whole it is men who say that because it is men we are training because we are training and working with areas where women are under-represented. But, yes—

  Q141 Mr Evans: You must find women saying it—you know, "I do not think women should be in planning or construction."

  Ms Wall: We previously heard our colleagues talking about the image, so that is a feature, absolutely, yes.

  Q142 Mr Evans: You think it is being effective in any event in changing the cultural behaviour attitude which the Chairman has spoken about.

  Ms Wall: Yes, I think it is very much. The evaluation that we have had—we have a lot of evaluation from JIVE—would indicate that people are actually changing their attitudes and their views. But, within that, I think a lot of the legislation behind it and the policy behind it is quite a driving factor as well. Since the Adult Learning Inspection is focusing more on equality and diversity measures—and the learning structures, the Learning and Skills Councils, etcetera—people are responding more to having to do things. I actually think the role of legislation is going to be very valuable: the more legislation that can be brought in, it will make our hand much stronger on the ground.

  Ms Williams: Just to add to that, I think it needs to follow through into all the processes and practices. For instance, initial teacher training for lecturers, particularly for the post-16 sector, needs to include equality and diversity a lot more. Similarly, Connexions training of personal advisers needs a lot stronger emphasis on occupational desegregation and how to put that into practice, so that the practitioners actually coming newly into post are equipped to deal with the cultural changes and can overcome some of those barriers to women rather than perpetuate them.

  Ms Butcher: We are very keen to try to ensure mainstreaming. As you will appreciate, much of the work that our own efforts have been in over the past 20 years has been through the voluntary sector and through small and piecemeal and short-term public funding. At this stage, with the strategic direction of government funding for the support for UKRC, we do enjoy a much more central position and much greater levers. Nevertheless, a lot of the work on the ground is still going on in these very patchy ways. We would really welcome from those mainstream institutions—be it the Connexions service or the Adult Learning Inspectorate's leverage or the providers that would help through learning provision, and then, equally, through the employment sector—the requirement to work with gender and equality and diversity experts where they can be found. That brings with it a sort of pincer movement, so that what is happening on the ground can be connected up from the policy level, particularly at a regional level, where I think there are gaps between national policy and that for which regional bodies take responsibility.

  Ms Wall: It absolutely needs to find ways of being able to measure it as well. Although a lot of organisations will have policies around these areas, I think we need to have the provision to be able to measure and find evidence. Jane mentioned the Adult Learning Inspectorate: they need to be able to see evidence of what is happening within organisations. For all public documentation, be it around developing a city centre or a university, or a business plan or a college's business plan for one department, we need to have a gender perspective, so that it can be measured and looked at by people who are scrutinising these activities. Otherwise, we do not know what is happening.

  Q143 Judy Mallaber: You have talked about coordination and you mentioned that science and technology has a distinct strategy almost from the DTI Woman and Equality Unit's strategy. Obviously some other departments are also involved within, for example, the JIVE Project. Do you see any signs at all of any coordination with the government sector on the issue of occupational segregation?

  Ms Williams: There is some. The UK Resource Centre came out of the recommendations from the Government Strategy for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology. Unfortunately, that is seen as a very separate strategy from the Occupational Segregation Strategy which I think is currently being developed. Whilst I think there is some tie up, we would certainly like to see a lot closer connection, because obviously the under-representation of women in SET is fundamentally about occupational segregation. I think there has been this distinction somehow made between craft level work somehow fulfilling an occupational segregation definition, and the under-representation of women in SET somehow being seen as something different. I think the whole agenda needs to be brought together. We would certainly like to see closer working, so that occupational segregation is something interpreted across the whole of the areas where women are under-represented, which is SET and construction, and applies to all of the levels, from craft right through to higher senior professional levels. The knock-on effect of that is also that funding is created into silos as well. For instance, the Department for Work and Pensions currently manages the European funding, and there are various opportunities within that to tackle occupational segregation. The Equal Funding which is currently funding JIVE and is also offering us continued funding until 2007, is specifically an opportunity—and it is often quite a large amount of money—for innovative projects that tackle occupational segregation, but that is not currently joined up with the Government Strategy for Women in SET or the Occupational Segregation Strategy which is emerging. Because we are now in more of a central position, as the UK Resource Centre, we have an opportunity to point those things out, I think, to government, but a more serious alignment of funding and strategies would certainly create a far stronger coalition of initiatives and would really support the strategy which we are trying to deliver.

  Judy Mallaber: Do you have any specific recommendations on tackling occupational segregation that you would like us to make as a Committee?

  Q144 Chairman: If I might intrude here, it would be helpful to us if you could write us a note on this. I am conscious that we are up against the barrier of time, even though I do not want you to stop talking. Perhaps you could do a note for us on this area, because it is one of the things on which we can move Government. We cannot necessarily win the hearts and minds of British industry but we can make life uncomfortable for Government and any bullets you can serve up for us we are happy to fire.

  Ms Butcher: There is a need to get SET-specific information from generally looked at equality and diversity surveys, in particular, because often we can get perverse results. I will illustrate that: the WEU's recent report, for example, gives quite a different picture from that which applies in SET occupations.

  Judy Mallaber: If you could give us some action points, it would be great. We want to move from description to prescription, so we are looking for key action points.

  Chairman: I am sorry if we appear rude, but we have had fairly lengthy sessions this morning. The problem really is that we have come up against the buffers of time. We should really have finished at half-past 11, the rules of the House say that, but we wanted to get you in this morning. Perhaps you could send us that note. You have been very generous with your materials, and we appreciate that, but perhaps you could send us a note of anything else if, when you walk out, you say, "Damn, I should have said that." Alternatively, we will probably have the same reaction, so we will be in touch with you. We are very grateful to you for coming. As I say, I am sorry that we seem rather brusque, and I hope you do appreciate that it is not rudeness on our part. Thank you very much.

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