Defining Public Life

Kira Cochrane’s well-researched article about gender imbalance has caused much soul-searching. Suzanne Moore has a nice follow-up saying it’s basically because women cannot bulls**t as much as men which I suspect is true although here in Bush House everyone has their own internal list of rent-a-gobs with more than a few women on it.

Recognising fully that Kira almost certainly didn’t choose the headline ‘Why is British Public Life Dominated by Men’ I was prepared to see the column as a pretty good expose of an incestuous, south-east-based media elite which, as a relative newcomer to the  industry, I’m starting to recognise more and more and which I suspect was at some point fed into the decision-making of  those who decided large chunks of the BBC should be relocated in Manchester.

But Kira gives the game away when she says “The fewer women there are in the public eye, the more anomalous they look when they do appear.” I’m not surprised at Kira’s definition because — like me — she’s in the thick of it but if you think public life is the Today programme, Mock the Week and newspaper columnists then there are deeper pathologies at play. The article says more about the circles Kira moves in than anything else.

There are a great many more public institutions here in the UK than print and TV media. I’d like to see Kira’s analysis applied to say the NHS or local governments. My anecdotal experience of senior hospital staff (Kings in Camberwell) or working with councils (South Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire back in the early noughties) suggests that the imbalance isn’t so stark and might even go the other way.

 

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