LibLink: Layla Moran: If Philip Hammond thinks driving a train is so easy “even a woman can do it” maybe a career change is in order

In an article for the Independent at the weekend, Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran took Philip Hammond to task for his alleged remark that driving a train is so easy “even a woman can do it.”

She pointed out that they can, but how many women do this highly paid job?

The key fact from the latest Hammond row was glossed over, but it is the real scandal: that just 5.5 per cent of train drivers are women. And the average annual salary of a train driver is just shy of £50,000, way higher than most women earn a year. What, I want to know, are ministers doing to enable more women to drive trains?

Hammond, she said, had form for sexist remarks:

Earlier this year he accused Labour MP Mary Creagh of being “hysterical”. Her crime? Daring to ask the Chancellor about the effect of Brexit on British businesses with bases in Ireland.

The question was all too pertinent. I was talking to one of the country’s most eminent constitutional lawyers last week (sorry Philip, but she did happen to be female) who flagged up the issue of the Irish border as one of the very most intractable in Brexit negotiations. Her conclusion was that ministers have no solution, because there is no solution.

And, of course, he is not the only Tory known for such casual sexism:

David Cameron told a female MP to “calm down, dear”, while Tory MPs have been accused of cupping their hands and mouthing the word “melons” when female MPs rise to speak. Nicholas Soames even described the “woof woof” noises he felt moved to make at a female MP as a “friendly canine salute”.

In part this is offensive because no one in 2017 should have to work in an environment where sexism is apparently tolerated. But more importantly, politicians making these remarks are also making the rules for how the entire female population is treated.

She concludes that politicians should be doing more to reduce the inequalities women face which will increase if Brexit goes ahead:

Last year the Fawcett Society calculated the gender pay gap for full time jobs as 24 per cent – four decades after the Equal Pay Act. Which also impacts on pensions. Worse, women are far more likely to live in poverty.

All of which will grow worse with Britain impoverished and marginalised by Brexit, with rights no longer protected in European courts. Yet we should all want to improve the lives of women – even Tory men, eh Philip?

You can read the whole article here.

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  • In case anyone is interested and is prepared to ignore Hammond’s ignorance, here are a few publications that train drivers typically have to be conversant with – there is a technical knowledge, as well as being able to physically drive a train (and handling a 400 ton Intercity 125 over gradients in poor weather, or a fully laden freight train which can take a considerable length of time for brakes to apply is certainly not easy until you build up the experience). Add to the fact the current industrial action on Southern, Merseyrail and Northern, because the Department for Transport are obsessed with making drivers responsible (and liable in court) for doing the work the guard does…

    Traction manuals

    Examples of the railway rulebook modules which we have to know – of which there are plenty more!

    As for women on the job, it is increasing slowly and many come through from being guards and station staff – it is not particularly uncommon these days, particularly in inner city suburban depots.

    Hope this is of some interest.

  • Get over the entire “subconscious phallocentrical oppression by the patriarchy” spiel.

  • Using the 24% was a bad choice.
    The Fawcett Society on their website use the 13.9% figure.
    The National office of statistics has the figure for 2016 for full time work as 9.4% and part time as -6%.
    It would be better to use a figure that looks like it was lifted from advocacy research. Politicians often get away with picking dubious numbers to use in their communications (few people noticed that Chuka Umona had confused the difference between the Balance Sheet and the Income Statement when attacking Barclays) but using bad sources makes your own analysis worse and you need to know what the best information is to address it. Click-bait claims are sometimes used to get the message in to the media but should be kept to the bare minimum.

  • “It would be better to use a figure”
    *“It would be better NOT to use a figure”

    “Chuka Umona”
    *”Chuka Umunna”

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Jul '17 - 6:02pm

    I like , rate and agree with the bulk of what Layla has to say here and elsewhere. I have been vocal to that effect.

    I believe in equal opportunity.

    Equal outcome to a greater extent than is the scenario now .

    We surely have equal opportunity to become a train or tube driver regardless of gender , or there would be court cases with the field being so union strong, to put it very mildly.

    Thus, it is not for us to tell young girls as they become young women, you can or cannot , should or should not do that job, and equally it is for women as they advance into and in careers, to make their own choices.

    I do not think it any more of a scandal, that there are low percentages of train drivers who are women , any more than that we have low percentages of hairdressers that are men, or whatever , decent, non desperate choices , people decide on.

    The scandal is they are paid so well as other jobs more difficult and stressful are paid so poorly.

  • I thought it was a good article. I don’t believe for a minute that only 5.5% of train drivers are male purely due to personal choice.

  • Andrew T

    If I was concerned about that I would go a land dig out some figures rather than assume the cause. Do we know application rates? As a comparitor have you ever visited volunteer run railways? The ratio of men to women often looks like it is more extreme than 20:1. Railways seem to be quite the obsession of certain males which may explain a drive to enter the more difficult to enter parts of any industry.

    Now that may or may not be the cause but to assume a certain ratio must have a non choice related cause would seem odd as presumably there is data available to consider before jumping to conclusions.

  • Psi it isn’t about discrimination at the point of entry, it’s the way our society teaches gender stereotypes to people from a young age so that women don’t choose career paths due to these stereotypes.

    Most volunteer railways seem to be run by retired railwaymen or people from technical backgrounds, male dominated careers.

    If young women saw themselves as equally desirable and capable of doing such roles we would see much closer gender ratios.

  • David wilkinson 21st Jul '17 - 7:54am

    Don’t confuse heritage railways with the day to day railways

    There are large numbers of females in the day job as station staff, guards, revenue and back offices and do a great job

    The driver positions are open to anyone to apply for and it is possible that more could be done to encourage females to apply from within the rail industry and outside.

    It is not an easy job sat at the front of a train on your own and the responsibility that goes with it

  • Andrew T
    So you don’t think the discrimination you believe exists is caused in a way that can be quantifiably assessed so perhaps we need to walk through the logic of your model instead.
    “the way our society teaches gender stereotypes to people from a young age so that women don’t choose career paths due to these stereotypes.”
    How, what is the mechanism for this teaching? Given the railways are not a big employer and is skewed in terms of geography do we actually spend any time teaching children about railway careers? I suspect not this not the age of Victorian railway building or the pre-beaching era of very manual processes across a sprawling network of capillary railways.
    “Most volunteer railways seem to be run by retired railwaymen”
    As David Wilkinson points out the Rail network employs lots of women, in ticket offices, manning platforms, station managers (all of the station managers I have had reason to speak to in recent years have been women).
    So why the disparity in those who on retirement choose to spend their free time surrounded by the job they have done for up to 50 years? Why aren’t more of the women? Perhaps there is something about a small subset of males that make them unusually motivated by trains.
    Given this tendency of a subset of males to be really really motivated by trains, perhaps that would indicate a greater number who would actively seek out roles that would lead them in to the field and would seek the opportunities to get more involved. Who knows? I doubt anyone has checked.
    “If young women saw themselves as equally desirable and capable of doing such roles we would see much closer gender ratios”
    The most visible faces to the public appear to me to be women. How many children climb up and peer in to the drivers cab when a train pulls in (none I hope). So how would the little girls get the impression that it is a gendered industry? Why would they not see themselves as not capable or desirable?
    Or perhaps there is something about a job of sitting on your own in a cab for hours a day and when something goes wrong you can be stranded miles from home and have a pain getting back. In the same way long distance lorry drivers have a gender imbalance.
    I wouldn’t have a clue but there are many possible explanations for an imbalance, you need more than your assumptions to say what is the cause.

  • All my spacing disappeared in that post, sorry for the solid block of text.

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