Belfast Telegraph

They're smarter, more confident... girls have it made

By Laurence White

The theme of International Women's Day on Sunday is Make It Happen. But what exactly do women want to happen? Even the organisers admit that since the millennium IWD has been a celebration of the positives rather than a reminder of the negatives in the lives of women around the globe.

We now have more women in the boardroom; they enjoy legislative equality in the Western world and there are increasing numbers of influential role models in society for their sisters to emulate.

Increasingly it appears that IWD, which began in the early 1900s, has run its course. If it were an event organised to support male advancement the cries of sexism would be deafening, although no one would dare level that criticism at IWD in these days of political correctness.

For let's be real. Any impartial look at gender characteristics in the developing child will have to conclude that girls actually have it made. They talk earlier and use a more complex vocabulary and by the time they leave primary school they are about a year ahead in reading skills and even more in writing.

They consistently outperform boys in GCSE in most subjects, and as the father of six children, three girls and three boys, I can testify that these findings are correct.

Indeed my daughters had a greater, if quiet, confidence from a much earlier age than my sons. They were more diligent and, after school and university, more career-driven, at least initially.

Yes, these are generalisations but the girls did have a head start when it came to the workplace. The penny only dropped for the boys subsequently, although they have proved fast learners.

It would be wrong to deny that women had a tougher battle in the past to prove themselves in the workplace and gain their rightful place in the higher echelons of management, but it would be a very regressive company now which does not recognise the talent that exists in half the workforce.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest that many women nowadays are more driven in their careers. They recognise that leaving to have a family can adversely affect their promotion prospects, especially since work practices change so rapidly today.

That is the one big advantage that men have. They are more likely to remain at their desks or work benches or whatever in unbroken service.

So is it really unfair if they sometimes advance at the expense of a female colleague who has maybe spent a couple of years away from the firm on maternity leave?

That is not discrimination but actual reward for knowledge gained and put into practice. I am sure that any woman who has reached the top in her job would be grossly offended if it was suggested that she only got there because of positive discrimination and not because of her talent.

And I am equally sure that she would cry foul and head for the nearest industrial tribunal if she believed a male colleague had risen past her through patronage.

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