A press release from Exeter University, quietly sent out into the dead zone of Boxing Day, offers a glimpse of the mental contortions academics can get into when the facts contradict their ideological beliefs.
The release outlines a new study by University of Exeter Business School that found men who are disabled or from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to do low-status, low-paid work than women.
Key findings of the study, which analysed more than 125,000 cases of workers in the lowest grade over several years, included the following:
- Disabled men are more likely to be found in the lowest income bracket than women
- Men in the lowest grade are three times more like to have a disability than in the rest of the workforce
- Men in the lowest grade are 66% more likely to be from an ethnic minority, while women in the same grade bracket are 32% less likely to be from an ethnic minority
- Ethnic minority men are 50% more likely to work part-time and in the lowest grade than white males
As bad as these figures are, it may not come as much of a surprise that a black or disabled man may face greater workplace disadvantage than an able-bodied, educated, white woman (or man). But the findings did come as a surprise to the author of the report.
Prof Carol Woodhams said: “This research is the first time that the impact of labour market disadvantages on men has been quantified. We were surprised by the results that disabled men, and those from an ethnic minority, are more likely to be found in feminised, low status work but more shocked that this effect is worse amongst men than it is in women. This same pattern can also be seen in relation to promotion out of low level work.”
What seems more surprising than the news that black and disabled men are disadvantaged in the workplace is her assertion – if true -- that no-one has bothered to look into the barriers they face.
Black and disabled men seen as 'less masculine'?
A clue to why this might be can be found in Professor Woodhams' attempts to explain the report’s findings, which seem more about propping up the ideological position that women are inherently disadvantaged, than searching for objective answers.
Prof Woodhams says: “Our data shows that men from disadvantaged groups are much more likely than women to end up in low-level work. We don’t know why this is, but one suggestion is that men with labour market ‘disadvantages’ are perceived to be less ‘masculine’ in some way.
“Another explanation could be that women already bear a huge, overriding disadvantage because of their gender alone, which means men may suffer disproportionately when they are disadvantaged in other respects.”
If we don’t know the root causes of the findings, why assume that being “less masculine” – and therefore closer to the status of women -- is at the root of these men’s workplace disadvantage rather than, say, racism?
'Huge, overriding disadvantage'
And the claim that women “bear a huge, overriding disadvantage because of their gender alone” – is flatly contradicted by the fact that women aged 22 to 39 actually earn slightly more than men of the same age.
But it’s the following statement that is most-telling.
“It is an unpalatable yet accepted fact that the lowest paid, lowest status work in the UK is predominantly undertaken by women. However, this is the first time that academics have studied the types of men who undertake this work.”
Glass ceiling, or cellar floor?
When referring to this “accepted fact”, she’s presumably forgotten about dustmen, street sweepers, sewer cleaners, building site labourers, asbestos removers, supermarket security guards and night watchmen, to name just a few of the jobs at the very bottom of the pile that are done almost solely by men.
Both men and women do low-paid, low-status jobs, but the ones done by men are more likely to kill or seriously injure you.
The fact Prof Woodhams appears unaware of this and her claim that no academic has studied this aspect of the gendered nature of work, could share the same root cause – while everyone has heard of the glass ceiling, no-one appears to have noticed the men trapped under the cellar floor.
Photo credit: Flickr/Antony Pranata
Also on insideMAN:
- Zero percent of Brits think mums should work more than dads
- Why are we paying men who work part-time, less than we pay part-time women?
- Top-10 ways men are getting a raw deal in work