Dear Women: Want equal pay? Stop cosseting the men in your life

equal pay

Every time an article like Kevin Myers’ distasteful attack on women’s right to equal pay in the workplace appears, comments sections are rife with men claiming they earn more simply because they deserve to – because they are more capable, work harder, do longer hours and take fewer sick days.

Let’s take a second to smash the idea that women are less capable or less willing to pieces:

When it comes to academics, we’re killing it – and the same can be said for our early careers; employment rates in Ireland for female graduates are higher than those of their male classmates; most young doctors in Ireland are female, and the unemployment rate in March 2017 was 6.9% for men compared with 5.8% for women.

So let’s just dispense with the idea that women are incapable or unwilling to work.

And let’s take a second to really grasp how endemic this problem is; Brian Dobson gets paid tens of thousands more than Sharon Ni Bheolain at RTE for doing exactly the same job, Micheline Sheehy Skeffington was awarded €70,000 after being discriminated against in her role as a senior lecturer at NUIG, with four further cases pending, and women continue to be wildly underrepresented in the Oireachtas and Seanad.

There are a myriad of historical, cultural and socio-economic factors at play. possibly the most significant of which is the arrival of little ones on to the scene. Let’s examine a few of the reasons why women who compete so strongly with men in their teens and early 20s drop off the radar as they get older.

INTRODUCING YOUR INVISIBLE, UNPAID PERSONAL ASSISTANT

Almost from the moment they enter a relationship, men outsource the management of their social lives, travel plans, and familial obligations to the women in their lives (“Did you pick up a birthday present for my Mam? Is there a card to go with it? No, you write it”). Unfortunately I can’t offer any hard evidence in this regard – there’s no data available – but the mountain of anecdotal evidence is undeniable.

As the relationship gets more serious, the list of things women hold primary responsibility for expands; cooking, childcare, groceries, making sure the bills get paid, booking dentist appointments, laundry and housekeeping, to name but a few.

Men can afford to spend those extra few hours in the office because women are picking up the slack in every single other aspect of their lives – as well as working full-time in many cases.

This status quo suits men down to the ground, and they’re not going to change it unless we as women decide to stop doing these things for them.

“I can’t remember the last time I booked a flight” a successful male friend told me recently. “At work the PA does it, and at home my personal PA does it”, he said, with a cheeky wink at his wife, who has a successful career herself.

Another male friend recently asked if I wanted to go to a football match, and when I said yes he replied: “Are there tickets available for it?” He and I have access to the same information online, but the implication was clear; I should take over the organisation and planning. “Google it” I replied to his text, resisting the urge to add “I’m not your secretary.” Even in platonic situations – a meal with friends, a weekend away, the responsibility for organising, planning and booking most often falls to the ladies – and like eejits, we do it.

The much vaunted Irish Mammy must take a certain share of the blame for this, for that’s where the cycle of indulging young men and burdening young women with this type of invisible, unpaid life admin starts.

BUT WOMEN TAKE MORE SICK DAYS THAN MEN…

It is a fact that women take more sick days than men, but the evidence suggests that’s because men take too few rather than because women take too many.

Women are more in touch with their own health than men are, so they take time off when they need to – unlike men who are more likely to ignore health problems, choosing not to take care of their physical and mental health, which can have terrible repercussions, including an epidemic of suicide among young men. Seen in this context, fewer sick days is not necessarily something to be lauded.

In most cases, when a parent has to care for a sick child, they need to take time off work themselves – and in most cases, it’s Mam is left holding the baby while Dad goes into the office as normal. In order for mothers to succeed at work, fathers need to take on more of that burden.

TIME TO MAN UP?

The bottom line is that for women to thrive, men need to take more responsibility – for themselves and for their children.

All that life admin that your wife/ girlfriend/ mother/ female friends are taking care of for you right now adds up and it takes a toll. It adds hours to a woman’s day and impacts her stress levels.

And women, let’s stop underestimating men’s ability to look after themselves and to fully play their part in friendships, relationships and family life.

Agree or disagree? Leave me a comment.

 

Fake news: You are responsible for your media consumption

fake-news-journalism

It’s been a pretty incredible couple of weeks (scratch that – months) for the world of journalism. In an increasingly polarised world where emotion trumps truth (pun intended), it’s just too easy to silo yourself away in a social media bubble surrounded only by people who share your views, reading only the articles they share, and reading opinion pieces as though they were matters of fact.

Who’s to blame? The “dishonest media”? Trolls? Petty liberals and conservatives more concerned with advancing their own world views than creating a more inclusive and fair society?

Or is it you?

Are you taking responsibility for how you read, share and shape the news? Let’s take a look at how consumers could do a better job of fighting fake news.

Understand the value of journalism

If you are truly concerned about fake news and the decline of the independent media, but you are unwilling to pay a few dollars a month for quality journalism, you’re part of the problem. Since the election of Donald Trump in the US, highly respected news sites like the New York Times have seen a phenomenal increase of more than 100,000 paid subscriptions. Meanwhile, the Washington Post plans to add 60 journalists after seeing a 75% increase in paying subscribers in 2016.

This may represent a turning point in digital journalism. In the last decade, the widespread availability of wifi and the mobile revolution have led to an abundance of websites worldwide claiming to offer free news. In fact, very few of these hire trained and qualified journalists to carry out investigative journalism. Instead, they wait for real journalists to break the news and then use their platforms to disseminate in at a fraction of the cost. The result is a market swamped with websites offering news for free, and very little public desire to pay for true journalism.

But now – finally – people are coming to realise that just like most things in life, you pay for what you get. You want well researched, vetted and edited news articles based on facts? Shell out a few dollars a month. For less than the cost of your Netflix subscription, you could get access to not one but two quality news outlets (one local and one international, maybe?)

READ: Trump, Farage, and post-truth Public Relations

Use common sense to scrutinise the news you read

Social media has democratised communication; once I post this article on Facebook, it will appear in newsfeeds alongside viral videos of animals being hilarious, updates from family and friends, articles from highly respected media institutions and, of course, fake news. The implications of this are both exciting and dangerous.

Most people don’t read the whole article, which can make it difficult to apply the level of scrutiny required, but here are some basic things to think about when making a judgement:

  • Is this a registered media outlet with trained journalists and an established editorial process?
  • Who is the writer, and what are his are her known biases? Does the channel have a liberal or conservative bias?
  • Is this a news article, which has gone through a rigorous fact-checking process, or is it mainly an opinion or comment piece?
  • Who is quoted in the article? Has comment been sought from a variety of different stakeholders?
  • What are the article’s sources? Does it reference government statistics, academic research or independently verified data?
  • Are straw man arguments or ad hominem attacks being presented instead of facts?
  • Do the ‘facts’ being presented contradict video, photographic and witness evidence?

Fake news isn’t going away any time soon, and try as journalists may to get the facts out there, it’s our responsibility as consumers to make sure we’re not blindly consuming ‘alternative facts’.

READ: 11 free PR resources every campaign needs

If you hate click bait, stop clicking on it

Media organisations have difficult choices to make as they walk the line between holding institutions accountable for their actions and giving media consumers what they want.

Much as people outwardly complain about clickbait articles on what one of the Kardashians did next or Brangelina’s divorce, these are the articles that immediately fly to the top of ‘Most read’ lists.

Articles on complicated new government policies may seem boring and difficult to read; reports on the latest drone attacks in Iraq and Syria may prompt empathy-fatigue, but ultimately we must understand that the media choices we make every day will ultimately provoke a change in what is offered to us.

It’s too easy to make lazy attacks on the media without looking at ourselves, and how we’re providing the catalyst for the decline of the first estate.

So let’s make a deal: Let’s pay for news organisations for good journalism because we know good journalism isn’t free to produce; let’s go beyond our Facebook feeds to find out what the real stories are and let’s scrutinise the facts closely. And let’s stop claiming we hate clickbait and behaving in a way that suggest the opposite.

Katie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Dublin. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Trump, Farage and post-truth Public Relations

Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art is a practical guide to creating integrated communications campaigns. It’s all about achieving optimum PR outcomes using the PESO model. Check it out.

Today, a man who has never held public office became President of the United States of America. He has been declared bankrupt on a number of occasions. He is the first President of the United States in recent history who refused to release his tax returns. Recordings of him have showed him up unequivocally as a misogynist, and more than a dozen women accused him of sexual assault or inappropriate sexual conduct.

And now we call him President Trump.

Experts say the policies he’s been elected on are all but impossible to put in place. Mexico will not pay for a wall to be built. There will be no ban on Muslims entering the US. Hillary Clinton will not be prosecuted over her email server.

But for now, none of that matters. Welcome to the post-truth, post-trust crisis, heralded by Brexit and reinforced by the US election. The average person with a smart phone has access to more technological power and information than NASA did when they put a man on the moon, but instead of creating a more knowledgeable society, this abundance of information has led us to create silos; each man and women finding the media outlets and social groupings that reinforce their beliefs and surrounding themselves with them.

It’s a worrying time for those who believe important decisions should be made based on evidence; that facts still matter.

Public Relations has had a part to play in creating this mess. While admirable steps have been taken in the recent past to distance the industry from our spin-doctor forefathers and embody the spirit of transparency, it’s undeniable that communications plays a part in the problem.

In a recent essay titled Post Truth, Post Trust, Post PR: The crisis of trust is a crisis of leadership, Robert Phillips, former EMEA CEO of Edelman argues that in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, institutions didn’t change. Rather than adapt to a climate that demanded fairness for the 99%, an ethical approach to business and true leadership, orgranisations relied on clever messaging to continue masking problems that lay at their core.

He said: “Clever communications was being used to prop-up bad leadership in business and politics – thereby fuelling the crisis of leadership and, in turn, the crisis of trust. We thought we could spin our way out of everything, even if that spin was only lightly or innocently applied.”

In other words, successive governments and business leaders have ignored the needs of the people who prop them up for too long. They have reneged on the social contract we were raised to believe in that says “If you work hard, you can have a better life than your parents did.” There is an unprecedented level of mistrust in institutional power, and a palpable sense of anger among working class and lower middle class people. This is as true in the old industrial towns in England as it is in America’s rust belt, where once any man willing to work a long day in a mine or on a factory floor could be sure to feed his family.

Politicians, rather than taking responsibility for their role in declining economies, from poor governance of financial institutions to failures in adapting to globalisation have instead chosen classic misdirection. Those who hold power in the world’s largest public and private sector organisations continue to evade accountability by distracting us with an endless series of straw men: Syrian terrorists, Mexican rapists, Sharia Law.

Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have taught us that in an era of shortening attention spans, emotion trumps facts, logic and rationality. Who has the time to fact-check? If it feels true, believe it with all your heart. After too many years of spin, authenticity is intoxicating to resist; Hillary Clinton was undeniably the more qualified candidate, but Donald “tells it like it is”. His Twitter wars may be inane, but they’re real, and we would rather hear ugly, true-held opinions than pretty lies.

Canny Public Relations professionals will have learned a lot from this election. We now know with greater certainty than ever before just how powerful the tools of emotion and nostalgia are, and that simplicity combined with repetition garners results. Repeat “Hillary Clinton is evil” often enough and over time it becomes ingrained in people’s psyche, even if they can’t answer the question “Why do you think that?”

This leaves the industry with a choice to make.

We can lean in to spin. In the post-truth era, it is unquestionable that there will be money to be made by doing so. Unless governments and business leaders change their ways, we will have greater freedom than ever to stretch or simply ignore the truth.

On the other end of the spectrum, Robert Phillips proposes a radical post-Public Relations model of leadership.

He says: “The corporation of the future should look less like a traditional hierarchy and more like a social movement, within which the CEO needs to think and behave like a social activist… This means being citizen-centric and society-first, re-setting the consumption fetish of the late 20th and early 21st century. The activist Public Leader negotiates and enables – and does not impose. Aristotelian values of Truth, Wisdom, Justice and, above all, Courage prevail.

“I have long argued for the ascendancy of profit optimisation over profit maximisation and for a longer-term focus on purpose and not just profit – challenging Milton Friedman and his Thatcher/ Reagan disciples, where the only responsibility of business is to maximise profit for a small group of shareholders. We need to mutualise more. Achieving this also demands activist business leadership.”

On a morning like this, Phillips proposal looks hopelessly optimistic. Governments, organisations and Public Relations companies, whose very survival seem to depend on resisting this call, will be slow to pick up the gauntlet he has thrown down.

But that is not the end of the story.

The people of middle America and Little England turned to Donald Trump and Nigel Farage as a desperate protest against years of empty promises. When our new anti-heroes are found wanting, perhaps we will have truly hit rock bottom, the post-truth philosophy will become less attractive and Phillips’ model will look less radical.

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Fianna Fail topping polls – has Ireland got Stockholm syndrome?

I’ve been reading lately that Fianna Fail are topping polls. It makes me so angry. Angry and confused. Because much as I keep up with the news at home, I just don’t understand. Things are still terrible at home, I get that. People are suffering and looking for someone to blame. And Fine Gael/Labour have broken promises.

 

But looking at the facts, I cannot fathom why anyone would want to put Fianna Fail and whatever runt of a party they can drag with them back in government. Ireland has consistently been commended EU/IMF for meeting our bailout targets since the Fine Gael/Labour government came to power, the international media has nothing but praise for Enda Kenny and his ministers.

 

Do people think that any other combination of parties or independents in Ireland can do a better job? Do you really think any government can keep Ireland afloat without cuts?

 

Back when Tommy Tiernan was funny, he had this sketch where a young schoolboy was explaining sex to his friends. Too young to understand, his friends were horrified at the thought. The punch-line goes: “Some of the lads skipped back to Father Murphy, singing ‘better the divil you know, better the divil you know’”.

 

Fianna Fail is certainly the devil we know, but surely that’s a reason to run screaming in the opposite direction – not to skip back to them.

 

As well as effectively defecating on the economy, Fianna Fail spent the best part of two decades ignoring or shirking issues like abortion, the Magdalene laundries  and the undue influence of the Catholic Church – particularly where the abuse of vulnerable children was concerned. Enda Kenny’s government has bravely faced these issues, while Fianna Fail heckled them from the safety and comfort of the opposition benches. Have they offered alternative solutions? Of course not. Constructive debate instead of cheap point-scoring? That would be asking too much.

 

Reverting to Fianna Fail when times get tough is lazy.

 

“This shower is no good, let’s get the last shower back in – things were never as bad then.”

 

Remember – We’re paying for every year of the boom ten times over now. The closed A and E’s, the cuts in education, increases in taxes – these are the legacy Bertie Ahern and the Fianna Fail tent at the Galway Races left behind. Very shrewdly (and if I’ll give Fianna Fail anything – they are shrewd) – Fianna Fail have made their bed and left Fine Gael and Labour to lie on it. They do have a keen sense of timing.

 

Here’s what they don’t want you to know: Fianna Fail are absolutely delighted to be in Opposition at the moment. Delighted.

 

They don’t want to be the bad guys, raising taxes and making cuts. They’ll wait until Fine Gael and Labour are just about to get the economy back on track and that’s when they’ll mount their attack.

 

And because we tend to have memories shorter than that of a goldfish, we’ll most likely vote them in again. Like I said, it’s lazy.

 

Go out and speak to your local representatives, question them. Find out what the international media is saying about the government. Ask yourself who did more to get us into this mess, and who has been helping us claw our way out of it. Do a bit of research. Look at the big picture. Be an active citizen – you get the government you deserve, we vote these people into power.

 

Just don’t vote Fianna Fail back in because it’s too much effort to find out what the alternatives are.

 

Occupy Bristol quotes

Yesterday I visited the Occupy Bristol campsite to interview some protesters for work. Some of them had insightful, interesting things to say about the movement which will duly be recorded in tomorrow’s article for The Fresh Outlook. These are some of the other things that were said.

Asked if the Occupy movement has an educational aspect “People do get learnt a lot of stuff down here”

Asked about the low ratio of women to men “We’re not queer!”

Intermittently “Are you recording this? Are you wearing a wire? I think she’s wearing a wire lads” [I open my jacket to show that I am not, in fact, wearing a wire] “Yeah but she keeps asking questions in this way like it’s an interview or something”

Shortly after “You’ve got nice boobs. She has though, she’s got nice boobs”

Asked if it’s true that only two tents are occupied at night “That’s bullshit man”

Asked for surnames to print in the article “Could you not use my surname. I just don’t like people being able to “google” me.”

Asked about the camps dry policy [several protesters are holding beers] “Yeah… that’s a tough one to implement all the time” And drugs? “Drugs is zero tolerance. Absolute zero tolerance. Well, weed kind of makes everyone fight less and just chill out, so we kind of turn a blind eye to that”

When talking about twitter “I’d tweet you, alright”

On leaving “Give us a hug… yeah, I knew she had nice boobs”

#2 of the support Michael D for President posts

So yesterday I gave ya’ll some of the reasons why I think you should vote for Michael D in the upcoming Presidential election. I was going to do some more of that today, but it’s way more fun to make fun of the other candidates, so instead here are reasons to vote against the others.

What a handsome bunch they are.

Dana Rosemarie Scallon: Do I even need to write this paragraph? Oh, alright then,

  • Her campaign has involved All Kinds of Everything. I apologise for that – it had to be done – that’s the end of the bad puns for this post
  • She doesn’t understand the role of the Presidency or the content of the Constitution she’s so fond of waving around
  • She’s had so much of her families dirty laundry aired in public during this campaign and I would bet there is more to come. We don’t need that kind of publicity internationally.
  • She pretty much invented a murder plot to try and gain the sympathy vote, who does that? A crazy person, that’s who.

Martin McGuinness: I believe electing this man would be a huge mistake for the Irish Republic. What follows is my own opinion alone.

  • I don’t believe that he left the IRA in 1974, which would make him a liar
  • I believe that he has blood on his hands of innocent victims of the Troubles, which would make him a murderer
  • He calls people from Dublin who disagree with him West Brits and insists on having a Sinn Fein driver. I don’t think he is open-minded or inclusive enough to be our next President

David Norris: My biggest disappointment of this election. Norris and Michael D have a lot in common, but they differ in a number of important ways.

  • Norris has shown poor judgement on numerous occasions in the recent past and proven himself to be indecisive, unreliable and potentially embarrassing to us
  • He is simply too outspoken and spontaneous for a role that requires dignity and gravitas

Mary Davis: There are worse folks out there than Mary Davis, but here’s why she doesn’t deserve your number one.

  • She keeps playing down her links with Fianna Fail – I don’t even care about the face that she was so in with them, just stop being so darned misleading about it!
  • She’ll never recover, in my mind, from being the ‘Special K’ candidate

Just two bowls, two meals for two weeks!

Sean Gallager: The dark horse.

  • He is the Fianna Fail candidate. Again, that is not really what bothers me. He has been misleading in disassociating himself from a “toxic brand” and I don’t like that.
  • He contributed to the housing bubble and crash he now claims he can somehow get us out of
  • I think George Lee taught us well to be wary of ‘celebrity’ candidates
  • As mentioned yesterday, Gallagher is playing up to his working class roots big-time, but unlike MDH he has no record whatsoever for helping such communities

What a wily man, hoping to benefit as much from the recession as he did from the Celtic Tiger

 

Again, I apologise for not giving Mitchell the time of day. But if neither the mainstream media nor his own party are bothered about him, why on earth should you or I be?

A President is for life, not just for Christmas.

Okay, it’s only seven years, that’s not as catchy.

The election is just around the corner. If you had to sum up what the President is in two words, he or she is Ireland’s image. Voting Michael D Higgins for President is the right thing to do and the logical thing to do. Here’s why:

  • Michael D Higgins is the real man of the people. Some have talked about Sean Gallaghers increasing popularity as being down to his common touch, being ‘working class’. Michael D’s intellect and sharp wit may lead some to believe he is lacking in this area, but in fact MDH has a strong record on social justice [areas such as disability, same-sex marriage, gender equality and contraception to name but a few]

    He travelled to towns all over the country when he began life as an academic, trying to help young people who came from poorer backgrounds like his get into university. He is unmatched by any of the other candidates in his quest for social equality. Sean Gallagher just has the right accent.

  • MDH is a respected and experienced politician. Many candidates, notably Dana and Sean Gallagher, seem to have a limited understanding of the role of the President. Dana claims she’s somehow going to protect our sovereignty while Gallagher is going to support job creation? This all sounds very nice but if that is what they want to do they would do better to run for seats in Dail Eireann where they might have the power to implement their grand ideas.

    Michael D understands at an intellectual and a practical level the role and limitations of the Presidency.

  • All the dirt that can be thrown at the seven candidates has been thrown at this point; McGuiness’s muder/freedom fighting history, Davis and Gallagher’s Fianna Fail connections, Norris and Scallon’s [that’s Dana. Yes, apparently she does have a last name.] unfortunate pasts. All of these have the potential to embarrass us over the next seven years. Yet what have you heard about Michael D? Nothing. Know why? Because there is no dirt. He is a man of principle with the dignity the office requires.
  • During a Dail debate a few years ago, a frustrated member of another party commented after one of MDH’s eloquent speeches “We can’t all be intellectuals like you, Deputy” to which he responded “No, but you can aspire to be.” That is a fine example of Michael D’s wit. Don’t let his age bother you – this man is on the ball.

That’s just four of many reasons why Michael D Higgins should be our future President.

Assuming I escape exile in the desert I’m still going to run at some point, but ’til then I don’t even have a vote. So I’m asking you all to give your number one to Galway’s own  Michael D.

Comments on this one are particularly welcome!

*Apologies for not mentioning Gay Mitchell in this post, that just seems to be the way the election is going.

Harrington for President

Ladies and Gentlemen, just a few moments of your time. I’m making a last ditch attempt to go for the Presidency. Let the Councils reconvene, let the Oireachtas members gather to hear my vision.

Naturally, I’m going to have to enter the Eurovision. The role of President involves a lot of travelling and representing Ireland’s image on the international stage. Crooning with six semi-naked backing dancers in a made-up country in Eastern Europe is the obvious way to show Ireland I can handle that level of responsibility and win the trust of Eurocentrics. I’m pretty sure we’ll even get the Euro crisis solved while we’re there.

Much like Sean Gallagher, I have never been a developer. Nonetheless, like him, I’m more than willing to lecture young Irish people on how to handle their finances. Though I have no direct experience with NAMA, my personal finances are a bit of a mess and that’s just the same problem on a micro-level.

I am neither Gay nor gay, and my name is not Mary but I hope you will not hold this against me in my Presidential aspirations. Nor have I ever done time for possession of massive quantities of explosives, but I’m willing to develop a more republican side, if not a militantly-republican one. Perhaps I could smuggle water-guns up North for dubious purposes, or orchestrate a small to medium sized riot during the next marching season – I have a Blackberry.

Despite my utter lack of interest in GAA, I am also totally willing to come along to Croke Park on the odd Sunday to be introduced to 40 odd attractive men.

Let it be known, ladies and gentlemen, I am willing to make these kinds of sacrifices for you. I will cut ribbons like they have never been cut before!

Stop the brain drain people – bring one of your own home. Save me from life out here in the desert and I promise to bring everyone who votes for me over to the Aras for a savage houseparty!

Check out my website at www.harrythehat4prez2011.com

Harrington  – “less annoying than Dana since 1988”

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