“Cannot catch a break!”
You will have seen it, in an American comedy or something.
A (usually male) protagonist is perpetually unlucky, and, after a run of particularly bad luck (say trying and failing to return a lost umbrella to a woman they fancy) they’ll shout, exasperated:
“I cannot catch a break!”
As a British person it feels like an incredibly clunky and strange phrase, but it also kinda sticks with you. Anyway, 2020 is turning out to be one of those years, where there’s just one thing after another to deal with. I know I’m not the only one but I cannot seem to “catch a break”. I’m not going to talk about this particular thing because I haven’t processed it yet, but honestly, it sucks.
What I’ve been reading
Here’s my reading list: https://trello.com/b/BBJ726mr/progress-bookmarks
I’ve been super tired for a number of reasons; a residual migraine from the weekend, humid stormy-ness, being woken by the small one regularly at 5am… *looks around* all this.
So I haven’t read as much this week.
I also don’t feel I’ve made as much progress on my analysis as I would have liked, but I have done a little… if you have no idea what I’m talking about I’m referring to this blog post here:
I have been sharing my reading list in the open since the new year, but recently I decided to use it to keep myself conscious of what I’m reading, by whom and from where. So I have started adding new labels to each card that represents an individual article for the past couple of weeks, and I also went back to the beginning of the year and started tagging articles from January onwards, making it through approximately 10 weeks.
So I have figures for about 12 weeks in total, and in that time recorded 413 articles from approximately 67 sources. That’s an average of about 5.5 different sources per week.
Within those tags there are a couple of broader ones including;
- Company / Organisation website,
- Personal blog, and,
- Twitter thread.
Because those seemed to be appropriate groupings that would prevent me from listing every website ever in what is already becoming a longish list.
A quick look over the numbers also shows that I’ve read 147 articles in that same 12 week period tagged with “Medium”. That makes up approximately 33% of my reading during that time.
That’s either really good (because these are written by many individuals and I wanted to read lots of weeknotes) or very bad (getting too much info from one source). It could also be completely benign though, in that it’s possible to read more on Medium where posts tend to be shorter and quicker to read.
I also started tagging the gender of the author for each.
The charts on the left give the percentage of male (blue) female (red) and not specified or non-binary (yellow).
I know merging not specified and non binary is problematic, but it seems I only read one thing (during that time) that I specifically knew was written by a non-binary person. So, for now, it will remain that way (and suggests that maybe I should expand my reading in that direction too).
In January I mostly read articles by men 60.9% (compared to 37% women) and in February I mostly read articles by women 55.8% (32.6% men) so swings and roundabouts. Overall though, the numbers are pretty even, which is good. I should say that I’ve counted all of these and recorded them manually; it takes time and I’m bound to have miscounted somewhere. Also some articles have more than one author so some articles are tagged with both genders.
Tagging gender in this way isn’t scientific, it’s open to bias as I can only go by name and, (if I can find it) a picture. I’m having to assume gender rather than know how people self-identify, and that feels uncomfortable. But as this is for my own learning and my own habits, it feels ok to acknowledge it but keep going at this point.
As I started this work as a commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement, I feel like I’m going to take the same approach to identify black men and women, and other men and women of colour. But that also feels very uncomfortable, and I need to either get over that discomfort and get on with it, or work out a better way.
I guess it is this discomfort that leads to people using acronyms like BAME or BIPOC. I marginally prefer BIPOC because it has the word “People” in it which is important, but it’s also important to acknowledge the differences in treatment of men and women too (and trans men and women). There isn’t an acronym for that to the best of my knowledge. Hit me up if you have any idea of this. I also always find it unclear if BIPOC includes asian people (who I would count as being within the category of people who are discriminated against, e.g. not white in the Eurocentric and western perspective of “white”).
For the purposes of this work I might have to use BIPOC, not because I’m entirely comfortable with it, but because I think I can’t go further than that without having to make more assumptions about writers that are very likely to be wrong. And if I’m looking for a direction of travel for my own personal self growth and knowledge, I think I need a general term.
4.Going down an Economist rabbithole
Finally, I’ve noticed that some of the things I read don’t have by-lines (hello, The Economist). Am I the only one who finds that weird? Well a quick google has found this article, which explains why, but I am still a bit cynical:
I looked for The Economist Demographics but that’s an editorial category they use so it didn’t help me. Another search on this: “What is it like to work at The Economist” finds this Quora page:
And I’m just saying, but 4 white men and 2 white women answered that question. So then, I’m in a rabbit hole now, what does their Gender pay gap look like?
In this organisation, women earn 71p for every £1 that men earn when comparing median hourly wages. Their median hourly wage is 29.2% lower than men’s.
When comparing mean hourly wages, women’s mean hourly wage is 29.3% lower than men’s.
I definitely didn’t mean to start laying in to The Economist because I enjoy the editorial and I pay for the content because I appreciate it. I get that this is probably a reflection of the wider issues of writing, journalism and publishing, but it’s interesting what you can find with just a few clicks, eh?
On that note, I signed up to support Gal Dem because they are another publication that I love, and I realised I wasn’t supporting them financially, so if you want to know more you can find out how here:
Guess who’s back
This week Billy returned to work after his shared parental leave, it has come around quick and it was a bit of a shock! I haven’t had much time to think about handover documentation or anything but I’m hoping I’ve been good enough at saving things and documenting along the way.
It was an interesting set of emotions over the week. Pleased that he will be back, sad and guilty that the service is turned off now, pleased the some of my thoughts and feelings were confirmed back to me, pleased that my ideas were understood and well received, slightly sad that everyone was *so* pleased to see him (yeah, I’m admitting something deep here about my self-worth and value), sad that my time at the NLC is ending.
I’ve been feeling quite reflective about what my time at the NLC has brought me, because it hasn’t been the easiest of times. It’s been an interesting exercise in joining a team and wanting to get going, to achieve something good, but then having a lot of obstacles placed in your path, not unlike Millhouse in the gif at the top of this post.
There’s a story in it somewhere, that I’m working out how to package up into something that others might find useful.
I also chatted with Hannah and May-N from the LDCU this week to see how everything is getting on ahead of my return, there’s interesting work happening with a new fund being launched to support councils in their COVID-19 response, so I’ll be likely working on that, which should be interesting.
I mentioned last week about feeling a little strange about moving back a grade as I head back into my old role. Even though I enjoy my work in the LDCU (and I am looking forward to going back) I’ve been interested to see what else is out there and have tried to apply for a few things.
I have not been successful. I’ve applied for 1 x Service Design role (a long shot depending on how much graphic design skill they want or need — I have none) but just sayin’…
I’ve also applied for 3 x product owner roles — all of which I haven’t even been called for interview. In one case they didn’t even bother telling me, and in another the email they sent to confirm receipt told me that if I didn’t hear in 14 days to assume that I hadn’t been successful.
I am writing this here because this all adds up to a very real sense of whatthefuckery. And because, well, it would be easy to think that people who write online are all perfect and have everything sorted, and it’s simply not true.
I’ve been here before with job applications. I find them so difficult, despite years of practice. I find them even more difficult within the public sector, and (I know this is an impostor syndrome thing) I always feel as though there is some special language that I’m not able to speak. I don’t know how to get through the door even in places where I’ve already been through the door already and then moved on.
I feel as though people who met me would understand what I’m good at and think I’m good at my job, but proving it on paper? It is a huge confidence blocker even now, having progressed my career to this level. It reminds me of the things I’ve read relating to black people and people of colour or from lower socioeconomic backgrounds being disproportionately affected by workplace “cultural fit” expectations.
I spoke to a friend in another department this week who has jobs available immediately, that could be filled under what the civil service calls a “managed move” (because of immediate need for COVID-19) and some roles that they will advertise soon. They very gently prompted me to consider whether I would be comfortable taking a managed move based on the fact that it would be a move without formal application or interview. They gently mentioned diversity, and it had me thinking about the whole managed move process.
I took my current role as a managed move, and I know a lot of people within the Civil Service who have also done it. I also know that there is a benefit to lots of people for doing it, moving the workforce around easily and supporting people to expand their skills and experience.
But it’s only because I know about this rule or process that I’m able to take advantage of it, how fair is that? If I were to take a managed move again, would I be contributing the the problem that I’ve written about before, and would I be making it harder for others to progress on merit?
But then given my lack of success applying above… ugh.
Anyway, it’s late now. I’m sure I was going to write more than this, but hey. Sorry.