“The monstrous regiment of women” – take control!

John Knox and Jolyon Maugham clearly share similar views on women.


I’ll remember my day at the Conservative Party Conference for group discussions and interventions by women, not least the WASPI women who wanted to be heard

The senior Tory Ministers who dominated the main stage had their formula jokes and ghost written speeches but the spontaneity came from the panels and the floor.


Sadly the WASPI arguments fell on deaf ears , if they were intended for pensions minister Guy Opperman who was mysteriously absent from the session I attended organised by the Conservative Woman’s Organisation and Age UK. Anne Milton, Minister for Women ably deputised and was thanked by the chair as “one minister who will never let women down”- ouch!


Far from being “monstrous”, Tory women seem to be keeping their party afloat! I look forward to the address by the Prime Minister this morning.

What men can learn

The most important current contribution to our understanding of women’s financial well-being in the workplace is the Gender Equality Survey being carried out by larger employers to better understand how women are being paid.

Each organisation does this for themselves and the introspective aspects are rather more important than the external marketing by those proud of their results.

What men can learn is that it is the data coming from this nationwide research which will inform the debate of which WASPI is a part. Anne Milton , Jane Vass and the other panellists stressed the need for organisations to ask themselves what they are doing to counter gender pay inequality, the Government are surely right to facilitate that discussion rather than prescribe change through quotas.

From the discussion on gender pay equality came a number of personal testimonies from the floor, as well as some frank admission from panellists, over how women have failed to take the pension opportunities available to them. Anne Milton owned up to taking refunds on her civil service pension entitlements in her youth.

The shift from female dependence to independence over the past thirty years was brilliantly set out by a young female speaker from the floor at a debate on self-employment who explained how she had not just set up a pension for herself but had helped a large number of her self-employed colleagues to do the same – all women.

What men can learn from attending these sessions is to keep their mouths shut and listen to what is going on. There is a seismic redress of roles and women are finally asserting their right to equal shares.

What women can do

The continuing empowerment of women in the Conservative Party is of course not unique, but it is particularly pleasing when it is done with the grace and charm of Jane Crowley and others from the WASPI campaign. I am much able to understand and engage with arguments that are made with the precision and evidence with which Jane and her colleagues made them yesterday.

The lasting legacy of WASPI may be the empowerment of women of all ages to take control of their pension affairs and to read the small print. I fear the boat has sailed for many of the WASPI women, they are standing on the pier.

But their loss, and it is a real loss, need not re-occur. Women are much better at reading the small print than men. Indeed women are beginning to write the rules as well.

Women can use the gender pay statistics emerging from the survey to ensure that pay, benefits and deferred pay (pensions) are fairly distributed and properly reward their efforts. I learned a lot yesterday about the financial impact of caring (for children and adults) and how it disproportionately impacts women. We need to find ways to better reward women for caring, independently of divorce settlements.

Women like Anne Milton, Jane Vass, Jane Crowley and the many women who spoke from the floors in both the sessions I attended, can drive necessary change. I am very proud that First Actuarial, though it did not need to, has completed a gender pay survey on itself, this has been driven by three powerful women in our organisation and I look forward to finding out the results!


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to “The monstrous regiment of women” – take control!

  1. Adrian Boulding says:

    And with auto enrolment the effect of “qualifying earnings” , which deducts the first £5876pa from actual earnings before pension contributions are calculated, is to magnify the gender inequalities that already apply in the labour market. Because if you get a lower salary in the first place then that £5876 hits you proportionately harder.

    And for those with two part time jobs, again mostly women, it’s offset twice, once by each employer

    Hopefully the 2017AE Review will get rid of qualifying earnings. They have served their purpose and it’s time to move forward to a land of greater equality


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