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No, Cherie, women are not too nice to ask for a pay rise. We are too preoccupied with our homelife

The Telegraph, 5 June 2012

It's not that women are too nice to ask their boss for more money; it's that most women have other (and I would argue better) priorities.

Cherie Blair, not for the first time, has got it wrong. The QC told a group of young women that "girls are socially conditioned to be nice" and therefore won't ask for a payrise. As a result their male colleagues streak ahead in the earnings stake, accounting for the 20 per cent pay gap between the sexes.

Mrs Blair's theory is widely endorsed by some feminists on both sides of the Atlantic. I was once on a TV programme with Naomi Wolf, the American author of "The Beauty Myth", where she declared that her mission was to coach women employees in the dark arts of climbing the career ladder. These would include how to interview, how to understand money, and how to ask for a payrise: why should a woman accept gratefully the earnings a man would spit at? Ms Wolf would teach the little women of America and Britain how to handle stingy bosses and competitive colleagues. Thanks to her, they would be better off, driving a Peugeot rather than a Ford, eating out at the local Italian rather than KFC.

Like Cherie, Ms Wolf blamed social conditioning for women's low earnings: for too long too many parents had taught their darling girls to smile and please rather than bare their teeth and grunt give me more! Like Cherie, Ms Wolf sees women as victims of a culture where sexism is rampant - and rewarded.

But wait, I remember butting in as Ms Wolf explained how she would lead her female disciples down the corridors of power: these lessons in assertiveness would only be welcome to a small group of career women. The rest will just ignore you. My contribution had Ms Wolf bare her teeth and almost bite me.

But I haven't changed my mind. Has it occurred to Ms Blair and Ms Wolf that for the majority of women, their campaign is missing the point altogether? Most women want to secure a job, and do well in it; but they have a job, not a career, and their main preoccupation lies with what happens outside the weekday nine-to-five. These women do not dream of the corner office or the CEO title; they want to earn enough money to put bread on the table. Career strategy and office politics cannot compete with making sure the child minder is over her flu and the veg have been bought for supper.

Yes maybe there are a few potential high flyers who only need a pep talk to confront their bosses and demand their dues. I have my doubts however: ambitious women longing to break through the glass ceiling have shed the social conditioning Naomi Wolf (and now Cherie Blair) warn against. By the time this elite squad land a job, usually they have the skills to manoeuvre within the workplace.

It's not that women are too nice to ask their boss for more money; it's that most women have other (and I would argue better) priorities.

The Telegraph article