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Pursed lips and the wallet test

After allowing a rude word to slip out in Northern Ireland the other day, I was put in my place rather quickly by a female visitor from the Department for Education and Skills.

Not for using the word, you understand, but because, due to my upbringing, or innate sexism - I'll leave it to you to decide - I had apologised for using bad language in her presence.

I inferred that what she was driving at was the fact that women's vocabulary is just as filthy as men's, and that apologising to the ladies for swearing is a patronising gesture.

Just as right-thinking men are apparently expected to not hold doors open for the opposite sex, the logic goes that we would help the cause of women still further by uttering the most appalling profanities in their presence at every opportunity without batting an eyelid.

Then it struck me that women might not be quite so sensitive (or even over-sensitive) to this kind of thing if it weren't for the blindingly obvious fact that they remain extremely thin on the ground among the movers and shakers of this world.

It's about time we measure just how bad this problem is.

But in order to save yet more taxpayers' money being wasted on pointing out the bleeding obvious with another piece of expensive research, I have decided to put the issue to the wallet test.

Yes, that's right. The wallet test. Or the purse test, as you wish.

It's a new form of research, not yet recognised in the corridors of academia but no less illuminating.

After digging around in my walletpurse for some receipts the other day, I emptied it onto my desk.

Among the other contents, which I shall not mention, I found 11 business cards from the great and the good of lifelong learning.

Of these cards, seven related to men and four to women. Of the four women-related ones, one was from a speaker at a conference who had given me her card twice in the same day.

So there you have it. More men than women at the top. The case proved by the contents of a ferret's pocket.

May I appeal to you to carry out the same experiment, and maybe even send the results to the email address below. I promise to publish the results.

Then we will have proved there is a surplus of mentoo few women"glass ceiling" patriarchial societysexist workplacegender gapjobs-for-the-boys culture... whichever term of expression is to your taste.

Will this information move us any further forward? Maybe, but I expect we'll need more research.

Email us FErret@tes.co.uk

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