Bank of England second FOI request

In June I made a request to the BOE for breakdowns of staff within different salary bands by age, gender, ethnicity etc. One of the frustrating aspects of their response was that they grouped together salary bands, giving a single figure for people earning between £17k and £46k. They explained that the reason for this was to allow data from the Prudential Regulation Authority to be combined with BOE. I don’t have salary amounts for PRA, but have done a quick graph of numbers of male and female staff at the end of this post.

For staff employed directly by the Bank of England, I now have numbers of staff in each salary band by gender. The bands are given in a public document on the BOE website, and I have taken the reference point, or the mid-point of each band, to ease comparison.

Salary Band  Median salary or reference point Female Male
Band1+ Head of Division,  £             123,623 10 46
Band2 Senior Manager,
Senior Economist,
Technical Specialist.
 £               94,562 31 98
Band3  £               73,645 78 166
Band4   Analysts,
Section Managers.
 £               57,794 95 197
Band4T  £               37,845 36 69
Band5 Senior Clerical Staff,
Research Assistants,
Support Staff.
 £               37,137 138 159
Band6  £               28,948 273 193
Band7  £               20,885 48 57
Total  709  985

From a quick glance, it is clear that there are many more male staff at the top of the organisation, as we already knew; and that there are proportionally more women in the lower bands.  It is easier to get a sense of this visually:

Bar chart of numbers of male and female staff in each salary band at BOE: men dominate every band except the second-lowest salary group

Bar chart of numbers of male and female staff in each salary band at BOE: men dominate every band except the second-lowest salary group

Suddenly it is very clear that there is only one band with more female staff – Band 6, and there is almost parity between men and women for the two bands either side. These are the bands with examples given such as “Senior Clerical Staff, Research Assistants, Support Staff”.

At the top end, there are vastly more men in bands 1 – 4. Here are those numbers by proportion in each band:

Proportion of men and women in each salary band at BOE: female staff make up just 18% of Band 1+, 24% of Band 2, 33% of Bands 3-5. There is rough parity in the lowest salary bands, with more women only in Band 6 (59%)

Proportion of men and women in each salary band at BOE: female staff make up just 18% of Band 1+, 24% of Band 2, 33% of Bands 3-5. There is rough parity in the lowest salary bands, with more women only in Band 6 (59%)

We already knew that more than 80% of the staff in Band 1 are male, but it is particularly interesting to see the pattern like this – very clearly the proportion of men steadily increases as you move up to the highest salaries.

Given that there are vastly more men earning the highest salaries, I did some very crude calculations to see roughly how much is earned by men and women at the bank. Assuming (a very big assumption, of course) that everyone is earning the median or reference point for their band, the following graph gives an impression of how much income is held by each gender and band. As the columns show, there is significantly more money held by the large proportion of men in the top three or four salary bands. Due to the significantly higher salaries, the small number of staff at the top of the organisation hold vastly more money; in the lower bands, there are many more staff, but overall earnings are much lower (shown visually as the bars being lower than the lines only towards the right hand side).

Bar chart showing total earnings across each gender and salary band (number of staff x median salary in band) overlaid with lines showing number of staff in each band.

Bar chart showing total earnings across each gender and salary band (number of staff x median salary in band) overlaid with lines showing number of staff in each band.

I’ve presented this same data differently, using stacked columns below:

Stacked bar charts showing total earnings for women and men at BOE.

Stacked bar charts showing total earnings for women and men at BOE.

Overall, there is variation but rough parity between genders up to band 4T, or £38k, but then earnings among men shoot up as they have significantly more staff earning at the higher bands. With 276 more people (985 men and 709 women), the men working at the BOE earn £23 million more than the women.

All of this really serves to confirm what we suspected all along – that the BOE is dominated in management and authority roles by men. What we can’t answer of course is why, but research elsewhere tells us time and again that structural inequalities have an effect on women at every level of organisations like this.

We also knew that until recently, the board of BOE was entirely male, although there are now (since July 2013) two whole women listed among the Governers and Executive Directors. I hope that, in future, with at least those two voices having some influence at the top of the Bank, we won’t end up in another situation where we’re faced with having no women represented on our banknotes.

Finally, the Prudential Regulation Authority staff numbers, showing the same pattern of more women in the lowest salary bands and more men in the highest.



Being bisexual and dating a trans person

A while ago, I was on a panel attempting to answer questions from cis people about trans issues. As the partner of a trans activist, and someone who runs a community group for allies, I was trying to be the voice of someone who will never know how it feels to be trans, but has spent a lot of time thinking about trans issues.

One of the questions was about whether it undermines a trans man’s identity for a woman to say “I am into butch women and trans men”. I didn’t comment on the panel as that is not the situation I am in, although I couldn’t resist popping into the comments as the discussion was varied and interesting. But what I’ve been thinking about since then is possibly more controversial:

I am bisexual[1], and I think that has made it easier for me to date a trans person.

I fully expect that there will be many trans people who find that statement offensive, and as undermining their gender, but I honestly don’t believe that it does. Allow me to explain.

As someone who identifies as bisexual, I have, when considering sexual and romantic relationships, actively thought about different genders. Before I was aware of the gender binary (and thus people who identify outside of it) I considered relationships with men and women. Through this, I avoided fixating on specific roles, or body parts, or sex acts, which I am certain that my monosexual friends have been attached to. Yes, I fantasised about strong arms wrapped around me, but I also fantasised about my strong arms wrapped around another person. I imagined different bodies and varied sex acts that those bodies would engage in (gawd, I hope my mother isn’t reading this).

Until recent years, when I became more informed about the variety of sex that is available to us, especially to people who are outside of the hetero-cis-sexual mainstream, I used to have a weird dissonance with how I defined sex. With the weight of our cultural fixation on the importance of virginity as the act of a penis penetrating a vagina, I took that – as most of society still does – to be THE sex act of any importance. But as I was also interested in women, without examining this assumption, I instead simply had a different definition of sex depending on whether I was talking about being with a woman or a man. What I considered to be sex with a woman was simply classified as foreplay with a man. This seems absurd to me now, but I had no framework or vocabulary to describe my experience as a bisexual person[2], and so I defaulted to what popular culture told me, which was that PIV[3] sex counts, and nothing else is really worth noting[4].

But despite my inability to describe my experiences and what I imagined, these issues highlight that I was at least thinking and trying to talk about different sex acts and different bodies. As it turned out, the major relationships in my life until my current one – and thus the vast majority of my sexual experience – have been with cis men. When I met my current partner I had never been intimate with a trans person, and I had never discussed sex with anyone who could speak to the experience.

I was nervous the first time I saw my partner naked (as was he!). Twenty seven years of being told there are only two basic ways for bodies to be weighed heavily and I was genuinely worried about what my internal response would be to seeing a body which I knew was going to be unlike any I’d ever seen before. A few years later, having immersed myself in trans and queer culture and writing, I am far less hung up on such trivial things as what configuration of genitals someone has. But at that time, it was a monumental moment for us both. And I genuinely think that it was easier for me (and thus, us as a couple), because I was already familiar with different bodies.

I think the very fact of being attracted to more than one gender makes it easier to be open to the possibility of being attracted to someone who has a differently configured body than the mainstream would tell us is available. That is not to say that monosexual (gay/straight) people don’t have relationships with trans people, who may have had varying amounts of medical intervention (or none). But I can’t help thinking that it must be more difficult to do that if you have spent your entire life being conditioned to wanting someone who is either big, strong, hairy, masculine, and has a penis, or small, dainty, gentle, feminine and has a vulva. However much we may personally reject gender stereotypes, they are everywhere we look, and virtually impossible to escape. The stereotypes of how our bodies should be are so fundamental and insidious as to be invisible unless you have reason to look.

But then, even the staunchest monosexual person (a Kinsey 1 or 7), must have some gender markers that they don’t care about in a partner? You might be attracted to men/masculine people but not care about hairiness, or tallness, or a deep voice. But there’s a line somewhere. At what point does someone’s gender stop falling within the boundaries of what you find attractive? I’d love to have some answers to this because as someone who isn’t monosexual, I can’t really imagine what it must be like to be utterly tied to my partner having a certain look, smell or arrangement of genitalia.

I’d like to end by adding that this is resolutely NOT the same as certain small, vocal groups of people who seek to create new categories for trans people in order to exclude them from their sexuality (e.g. ‘lesbian’ and ‘trans-lesbian’). While I recognise that my life history probably makes it easier for me to adapt to different body types than people who have never considered dating someone who isn’t cis, I do not believe that it is ever acceptable to police somebody’s genitalia and body on the basis of whether they fit into a certain, socially-acceptable mould (which applies to sex with everyone really, not just trans people!)

And finally, I found this poem when I first started dating my partner, and it articulated things which I couldn’t have: How to make love to a trans person

[1]Which I define as: I am attracted to people with the same gender as me, and different gender to me. No binary implied.
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[2] At the same time, I had so internalised the biphobia around me, that I absolutely refused to wear “bisexual” as a label. I would literally identify as straight one week, and gay the next. So thanks, culture, for that. (Hence being so bloody vocal about it now, too!)
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[3] Penis-in-vagina. Does what it says on the tin.
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[4] Indeed, there was no age of consent for same-sex sexual acts between women until 2001 in the UK, by which time I was 17.
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Blood vs semen

Following my post yesterday about sanitary products, I was thinking about whether they really would be freely available if men[1] had periods. Whilst racking my brains for a suitable comparison, I suddenly realised there is a gooey liquid that male-assigned people produce in abundance, that can cause great embarassment during those awkward teenage years, and that many of them probably wish they could stop producing altogether – semen.

If roles were reversed, would blood be the thing that it was ok to leave in your sheets and your underwear for your parents to wash? Sure, few people would want it on their trousers, but if it happened, it wouldn’t be that big a deal? And it might leave a bit of a stain, but everyone would know it only takes a bit of soaking in cold water, or a gentle scrub, to get it out. No big deal.

And if girls produced semen[2], would there be special disposable receptacles for them to squirt it into, to discreetly fold up and throw away, lest anyone know that they’ve allowed their body to do this thing that it naturally does?

Someone on twitter questioned the validity of this comparison, on the basis that girls don’t choose to bleed, but boys could stop producing semen if they wanted (whether teenage boys would agree with that is another matter!). But to me, that supports my case even further. If period blood were the result of girls having a wank, it would be even less acceptable for anyone know that you’ve produced any. Even though this is something our bodies just do, that many women (and especially female-assigned others) actively hate and want to stop; we are still expected to hide it away, as though we’ve done something wrong.

Whether the details of this comparison stand up to greater scrutiny, it certainly reflects the patriarchal standard that what boys’ bodies do is normal, and what girls’ bodies do is wrong and should be carefully controlled.

[1] All usual ciscentric disclaimers apply!
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[2] I feel the need to say something about female ejaculation here, but can we just agree that it’s a rare enough case to not warrant throwing out this whole argument?
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Sanitary products on the NHS

Inspired by a current twitter chat being held by The Women’s Room, and with huge credit to Jessica Burton who blew my mind at BiCon2013 and has turned me into a periods fanatic, here are some thoughts:

It’s often said that “if men had periods, all sanitary products would be free on the NHS and we’d get time off from work for PMT”. I do think this is a handy, populist (if rather ciscentric [1]) catchphrase to highlight the impact of patriarchy on society. But.

But is it actually true? Would tampons and towels be handed out freely on the NHS? Or would we have a different attitude towards periods entirely? Perhaps such that sanitary products weren’t even considered necessary?

One of the things I learnt about in Jessica’s session at BiCon was the history of the “feminine hygiene” industry. It seems that pre-WWI, workers in factories would bleed onto straw on the floor (and many other things too, presumably partly to deny them labour breaks), which would be swept away at the end of the day. Periods weren’t hidden, bleeding was just another thing that some people’s bodies did. After the Great War, some enterprising folks realised that they could market bandages as sanitary pads, and keep some bandage factories open. Part of that marketing was about making pads seem medically beneficial and essential for hygiene, and appealling to middle-class sensibilities by being all discreet. Even modern advertising for sanitary products has a weird prudishness and revolves around secrecy and hiding the fact that you’re bleeding.

So, when the question came up, as it inevitably would, about whether sanitary products should be available on the NHS, most people said yes. It’s true that this is an economic issue that disproportionately affects women – a perfect example of patriarchy in action – but what I’d never really considered before is whether sanitary products are actually necessary. It is perfectly sanitary to reuse cloth pads (whether bought or home-made), or simply bleed into clothing. Blood doesn’t always stain, and when it does, it is the simplest of stains to remove, by soaking in cold water, or giving a light scrub. I have recently found that, apart from sometimes on the first night of my period, I can easily go a whole night sans sanitary products without blood getting on clothes or sheets, and then ‘release’ it into the toilet the next morning. Yay for gravity!

In practice, I use a mooncup, for economic, comfort and environmental reasons. If sanitary products were to be provided on the NHS (or simply made VAT-free), then I would certainly prefer for re-useable products to be the default, with a special case made for needing disposable ones.

But what I would really like to see, is a society where we are encouraged to talk about bleeding (how many people cringed at the mention of releasing blood into the toilet?), where young people – not just girls – are able to discuss what periods actually mean, how they work and why anyone should be expected to hide their menstrual cycle. Perhaps then more people would question whether they, or the NHS[2], need to spend millions of pounds on these products.

[1] It’s ciscentric because it implies that only women, and all women (between adolescence and menopause) experience menstruation. Trans men and gender queer people may menstruate. If you look beyond simply the process of bleeding, and think about menstrual cycles and thus the underlying hormones involved, then it makes sense to consider menstruation of trans women too. There are fascinating things here around gender, sex, fertility etc., which I think are completely lost due to the way that we segregate female-assigned pre-adolesents to teach them the bare minimum about periods, and ignore everyone else along with wider issues.
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[2] NHS money doesn’t come from nowhere, it is still our money after all!
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