Opinion: Why 'wearing the trousers' isn't all it's cracked up to be

Archant journalist Liz Coates

The work place has become much less gendered and not so long ago news reporters were generally considered to be male, writes Liz Coates. - Credit: Archant

This week we celebrated International Women's Day which made me step back and think about what has been quietly achieved, especially in the world of work.

My first proper job was at Norwich Union in the solicitors' office. 

It was a boring and I was doing something to do with “postponement of second mortgages” which involved looking at deeds. 

Not quite the legal eagle career I had envisaged. But what I remember most is that in 1988 we women were not allowed to wear trousers. 

22 women for 2022 - Rebecca Osborne

22 women for 2022 - Rebecca Osborne - Credit: Rebecca Osborne

Only those who had achieved some degree of seniority and had their own glass box offices had the option - presumably they puffed on pipes and supped whiskey from a tumbler too.

To me at 18 the day I too could stride about in strides seemed a way off, and certainly not worth slogging my guts out against the slew of other similarly qualified newbies looking to progress so I slung my hook and went off to uni where I almost always wore a tube skirt and DMs. 

It's hard to find trousers that fit and look good, to be fair.

When I graduated and was busy applying for trainee jobs in journalism I joined Eastern Counties Newspapers, originally in the advertising department. 

Most Read

I was in the “special publications” team – all women headed by a man – and one of my first assignments was to road test a capsule wardrobe for a women’s supplement called La Vista, it was all cutting edge stuff. 

Now after 20 years in local journalism I can see that things have changed. 

At one time a woman choosing to be a painter and decorator would have been seen as unusual enough to make a story. 

Nowadays job roles are much less gendered and women can be mechanics and men can be florists without fear of appearing on p3. 

However in the past those being interviewed had not expected to see me, imagining a male reporter. 

I have been told by police officers working a murder I was not “what they expected a reporter to be” and on one occasion a female reporter was sent back to the office by a man who demanded a "proper journalist" be sent out to hear his story. 

Gone are the days when an editor would hand out a bonus to woman for a job well done telling her “to treat herself to a new frock.” 

And if that has happened in the last 20 years, imagine what could be achieved in these  digital decades where everyone now has a voice?