Susanna Reid and Piers Morgan’s argument may seem harmless, but it points to a much wider problem.
Ah, Piers Morgan – otherwise known as the eternal thorn in womankind’s side. We here at Stylist prefer not to acknowledge his existence, but too often he seeps into our lives like a noxious gas through the crack under a closed and locked door. He’s got a platform on live TV, he’s all over Twitter and he has his own newspaper column, which means that he’s able to inflict his opinions upon the masses in a very big way – and, annoyingly, he often goes unchecked.
Unless Susanna Reid is in the room, of course.
The presenter – who works alongside Morgan on Good Morning Britain – has something of a superhuman fortitude when it comes to dealing with her co-host’s more questionable views. In fact, the pair have managed to forge a genuine friendship based on “trust” and “respect” (“I love him and I hate him and I’ve never felt like that about anyone,” she said previously). Sometimes, though, she is unable to stop herself from furiously rounding on Morgan and calling him out on his ageist twaddle, body-shaming comments or ridiculously sexist arguments.
This week, though, Morgan left Reid feeling particularly frustrated when he criticised her for not removing the rubbish from a bin under their desk.
Reid – who is the only one who used the bin – told viewers that Morgan had told her: “Why didn’t you do what any normal wife would do, identify the problem and then solve it?”
It was at this point that her co-host jumped in, insisting that Reid’s retelling was “a sexist interpretation”.
He said: “Any normal wife who had a situation where something that she used exclusively was annoying her partner, would do what any nice, decent caring spouse would do and move an offending, irritating item.”
Reid replied: “I’ve got an idea of moving an offending, irritating item… [and] can I just point out, I’m not your wife!”
“You’re my TV wife,” Morgan hit back.
“You didn’t say TV wife!” Reid said.
Reid and Morgan’s spat may seem harmless, but it points to a wider problem – one which was explored in a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review.
After conducting extensive research across field and laboratory studies, economics professors Linda Babcock, Maria P Recalde and Lise Vesterlund found that women are much more likely than men to volunteer for “non-promotable” tasks. You know the ones we mean: “those [tasks] that benefit the organisation but likely don’t contribute to someone’s performance evaluation and career advancement” (think “office housework”, such as making the tea, arranging food for a meeting, organising an office party, or – yep – emptying the bins).
Worse still? Not only are women more likely to volunteer for non-promotable tasks, they are also more frequently asked directly to take them on – and when asked, they’re more likely to say yes.
“This can have serious consequences for women,” writes the study’s authors. “If they are disproportionately saddled with work that has little visibility or impact, it will take them much longer to advance in their careers.”
Frustratingly, though, research has shown that declining a task they’ve been asked to do can have a negative effect on women’s careers and how they’re viewed in the workplace. So how can we go about changing things?
Well, according to the study’s authors, it’s up to managers to start paying attention to who they’re asking to carry out non-promotable tasks – and they should also alert their male employees to the fact that women often end up volunteering simply because men are so reluctant to do so.
This should “lead men to volunteer more themselves and should empower women to demand fairer treatment”.
Hmm. Fingers crossed that the rest of the UK’s male workforce don’t turn out to be little Morgan clones and assume that their “office wife” will do it all for them, eh?