Why women are failing to fulfill their potential – according to ‘experts’

Photo: Depositphotos.com
Photo: Depositphotos.com

Economist Sophie van Gool says consultants who tell women to work ‘a few extra hours’ are not getting the whole picture.

What does McKinsey tell a client with a staffing shortage problem? Put together an employee value proposition in which at least four factors must merit the label ‘great’. Great managers who inspire. A great business culture. A great job with prospects. And, last but not least, a great salary (€50,000, tripled within three years), secondary benefits (a lease car, phone, health insurance) and couple of other extras (free lunches, a sports club subscription, training and generous leave conditions). Sorted!

But care givers and teachers apparently have no need for great jobs or great rewards. For them a McKinsey spreadsheet from 2018 came up with a simple solution for every single vacancy in care and education: just get the women to work a few more hours. Almost half have a contract for less than 25 hours. A few more wouldn’t hurt.

But what McKInsey failed to mention in its spreadsheet is that women spend an average of 26.5 hours a week doing unpaid work. Include child care, ailing parents and household chores and women work over 40 hours a week, the SCP survey Tijdsbestedingsonderzoek has shown. (Men and women work a similar number of hours, adding up paid and unpaid work, by the way.)

Despite this, the theoretical solution of ‘a few extra hours’ is being tirelessly repeated by a former McKinsey partner, whose foundation is being propped up by a €7.1 million subsidy from the social affairs ministry.

And it’s being gratefully parroted by another McKinsey colleague who now happens to be the social affairs minister. The main reason these women ‘are failing to fulfill their potential’, the foundation chief said in the Financieele Dagblad, is that they want time to play sports or do something for themselves.

Really and truly, working those extra hours would be much better for the women themselves, it only they could see that, the ex-McKinsey missionary choir chants. Three hours extra a week will give them ‘just that little bit extra income’, perhaps as much as a net increase of €180 a month. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

Personally I can see some potential going to waste among consultants, directors and ministers. Why not leave those tennis rackets and golf clubs in the basement and work three extra hours at a bedside or in the classroom? Every week, that is. And don’t worry you won’t be able to fit it all in. ‘There will be plenty of time left to be a carer,’ as one former Mckinsey partner said.

This article appeared earlier in the Financieele Dagblad

Sophie van Gool is the founder of salary consultancy Salaristijger.

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