Yes, they’re all linked. Let me show you how.
This morning I attended the most energising discussion about overcoming the barriers to gender equity I’ve experienced. I’m slightly ashamed to say, I almost didn’t go. What deterred me wasn’t the icy 8-degree temperature, or the pre-dawn darkness outside – it was the subject.
The source of my shame is, as a woman I ‘should’ be interested in the topic. I don’t know about you but … I’ve seen the data and heard it all before. Enough with all the talking.
What did get me out of bed on this cold Perth morning? It was the title of the discussion, Stop Fixing Women – Why Building Fairer Workplaces is Everybody’s Business, which was led by the indomitable Catherine Fox, author of the book of the same name.
Like many women, I’m very interested in learning the elusive secrets to succeeding in a man’s world. Most of the (well meaning) advice I’ve heard has been how to change myself to compensate for the negative effects of being a woman. Sigh. So, I braved the cold and dark in the hope of hearing a different message. I did.
Catherine calls it as it is. There’s been change, the pipeline of educated talented women has grown enormously, but in essence things aren’t very different. If you need to be convinced here’s some of the data.
Australia has long considered itself the country of the ‘fair go’. Judging by the audience questions this morning, many young women aren’t feeling the ‘fair go’ culture applies to them. How can those of us who’ve gone before reassure them?
‘It’s fine, be grateful for the progress we’ve made over the past 50 years. There’s only another 170 years to go until you get paid the same as your equally educated and experienced male colleagues.’
Do you feel reassured? No? Me neither.
Why is this so?
Building the pipeline didn’t automatically fix the unfairness. According to Catherine, we’ve been treating the symptoms and not the root cause. One of those causes – we’re still operating under a model which assumes men are the breadwinner and women are the primary caregiver. The world has changed, in many households the reverse is true.
This isn’t a women’s issue, it’s society’s issue – the way society functions continues to be unfair to 50% of the population. Our society is the loser, there’s clear data demonstrating the economic and social benefits of economic equality for women. This paradigm is also unfair to those men who wish to share the care without sacrificing their career.
This is where Simon Sinek, bagels and Catherine’s message converge. At this point it’ll help if you watch Simon’s 2 minute bagel video.
There’s opportunity, women are queuing up along with the men, but the line seems very long – it’s discouraging. With a combination of some courageous ‘just do it’ leadership from those in positions of power, and respectful queue jumping from women, everyone can have their bagel and eat it. Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, if anyone can do it we can.
Jacqui Alder is a respected HR executive, writer, and mentor to women.
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