The War on Women at Work

Paul is a civil servant, a Blues DJ for Mod Radio and an aspiring author.

If you had asked me a few years ago about the ‘war on women’ I would most probably have answered, “What?” and asked you to stop blocking the TV. As a chap who since age 16 has worked predominantly with female bosses and studied predominantly under female teachers, it genuinely never occurred to me that women still suffered workplace inequalities or were discriminated against in other ways. The War on Women was an anachronism and vociferous protests against it were akin to shouting about the slave trade or condemning Germany’s march into the Sudetenland. It’s over peeps; let’s move on. Alas, reality was to slap me somewhat forcefully on the backside.

I first met my wife in Prague and she soon moved to the UK with me to continue the relationship. A waitress by trade (and a damn good one if you ask me), she secured herself a job with one of the leading restaurants in our area. Everyone who was everyone came there. Actors, politicians, footballers, Uncle Tom Cobley and all; seriously wealthy people to whom spending a couple of grand on lunch meant less than nothing. My wife has always been good at her job and she proved no different here. Aside from her excellence in managing sittings, she has a truly wonderful personal manner with customers and it is no exaggeration to say she brought a lot of repeat business through the doors. Whenever I went to pick her up from work, someone would always come up to shake my hand, wish our family the best and tell me how much they loved her. And on the occasions of her two pregnancies, the number of gifts from people I had never heard of (and from some whom I had but never expected to be receiving baby clothes from) was truly overwhelming. Despite all this though, my wife’s career can only be described as being in a rut.

At first the irritations were minor; a deferred pay rise here, passed over for a Head Waiter role there etc. By and large she let it go. But things began to get worse. Men whom my wife had trained upon joining the restaurant began to get promoted above her, pocketing hefty wage increases in the process. None of these guys possessed her qualities, and some struggled to even speak the language. Annoyed, my wife met with her bosses and re-affirmed her commitment to the company, stating she wanted to make her career there. She was invited to take responsibility for the breakfast shift (a tough job that involved very early mornings and often being the sole member of floor staff visible for several hours in very busy establishment. They promised to make her a supervisor and assured her that her extra work would not go un-rewarded.

After months of hard graft, she was told that they were “unable” to promote her after all and that no money was available for her pay rise, although they were very impressed with her work and wanted her to continue in this new role as it would be ‘good for her development’. When she discovered that new members of staff (male) were joining the team on higher salaries, her patience finally snapped. The Manager tried to placate her with assurances that a new manager role would shortly be available for which she would be considered. Imagine her surprise then when he opted instead to bring in someone else from outside to fill it. We wanted to believe that this wasn’t due to sexism, after all, this new manager was a woman, but nonetheless my wife wanted answers. Eventually, in private and off the record, the General Manager admitted that he hadn’t promoted my wife as she already had one baby and she would, “probably want another one sometime,” whereas his new recruit didn’t like children, so he, “didn’t have to worry about that”. In a show of gut churning ignorance, he told her she should concentrate on having another baby as, “that is what would really make her happy”.

Speechless is an understatement. I urged her to take action but, sadly, any attempt to do so would be futile. The truth is we need the money her job brings in and we have both seen the aftermath of disgruntled former staff trying to take action against this company. One frankly cannot play with the big boys. Currently my wife is on maternity leave as we enjoy our new addition to the family (at our planning, not the suggestion of her manager), and we are looking to find her something new before long. Infuriating though her situation may be, my wife’s employers have woken me up to something; the War on Women is alive to this day. Oh it’s more of a covert war, and like the ‘liberal interventionists’ who think they can achieve peace by strafing innocents in the middle east, its protagonists may even believe they are acting from pure motives. But that only makes it all the more insidious. And now I have not only my wife to consider, but a beautiful baby daughter, I know that for as long as the war continues, I shan’t fall asleep again.


Paul’s kids 

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