ARE WE NEARLY THERE YET?…….
Are we really ready to sacrifice pro-active action with regard to female development and ascendancy?
I see women only networks disappearing at a rate of knots at the moment and being converted into Inclusion & Diversity forums tackling the needs of minority groups to tick a bigger box and focus on the wider elements of diversity. Although I have no issue on the need to do this, I am concerned that as women we need to stop being so nice and complacent about being ‘hoovered up’ into this bigger network as, in effect, we are giving away our power under the illusion that our needs will be met in this forum, when in reality, we will be silenced.
We are not a minority group, we make up over 50% of the population. Moreover, it will do us no favours to be categorised in this way. Until we stand up and shout about the fact that after 100 years of campaigning, we are still pretty invisible beyond middle management in ANY sector and across ALL professions. In fact numbers are as low as 7% in some sectors. It is shameful that we are so ready and so keen and so servile in letting go of the equality baton when we are nowhere near done!
We need investment and focus on gender. We keep being told it makes good busies sense to have more gender balance in the workplace and around the board table so why have we stopped caring? Are we exhausted? Are we surrendering?
I think the majority of us have become blind to institutional and cultural bias and have gone underground telling ourselves ‘Better to just look after number one and leave the bigger fight to the rest’ But we are the rest? If not us, who?
Whist I am aware it is tough out there, this can only be a temporary reprieve, eventually misogyny and sexual harassment will reach your door too and then you will need your sisters to support you. And remember history teaches us that frame-breaking change very rarely happens through the actions of a few. Never has sisterhood been more needed.
As a female champion working with women, organisations and teen girls I am reminded every day of the need to remain vigilant against sexism, unconscious bias, violence against women and sexual harassment, but sometimes I think we turn the other way because we feel powerless. But power does not come from acceptance, it comes from unity and a shared vision that equality matters.
Here are a few examples of women being treated ‘less than men’ that we don’t even question because I think many times we do not even see it or we don’t care enough…
Stacey Dooley is a serious documentary film maker and broadcaster. In 2018 she was a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, in fact she won the show and suddenly the media started to treat her like an airhead. Recently she was allegedly offered a ‘golden handcuff ‘deal with the BBC worth £250k and in the article covering this she was constantly referred to as ‘working class Stacey’ with the insinuation that this was probably the best career deal she was ever going to get. How much is Gary Lineker paid? £1.7M.
Next Serena Williams, the most successful female tennis player ever, scrub that, the most successful female athlete of her generation and beyond. At this year’s Wimbledon the male commentators could not resist discussing her life off court now she is a mother. Comments like ‘Well now Serena is a mother and a wife, be interesting to see if she is conflicted on court’ and discussions around her juggling these roles and showing footage of how she multi-tasks by training with her baby in her arms (on static bike) seriously? Not sure I have ever heard such diatribe directed towards male players, like Roger Federer who is also a father and a husband! And on the same tournament for a lesson in how not to interview the UK’s No 1 female player, Johanna Konta, just have a sneaky peek at Johanna’s public flogging by a male journalist for daring to lose her quarter final. It is toe curling and she handles it with style and gumption
And please, please when is the Labour Party going to elect a female leader. The supposedly party of equality. It is frustrating to see so many contenders just sat back whilst the lovely Mr Corbyn continues to jeopardise any hope they have of being taken seriously at the next election. Why are we not backing Harriet Harman, Jess Phillips, Stella Creasy or Angela Rayner and before you list all their shortcomings, remember women do not need to be perfect to lead and whether you are a fan of Theresa May or not, this is no reason to write off every other female in politics! We do not seem to hold men to the same account in public office or senior management so let’s give women a break eh?
To change the rules of the game ladies we need to be in it, so it’s time to pull up ya big pants, stop pretending it’s all OK and get back on the campaign trail. Permanent change demands tenacity, courage and sisterhood. Remember our daughters may not be listening to what we say, but you better believe they are watching what we do. Let’s make sure we act to make equality is a given.