Enough with the data – it’s time to double down and end gender inequality By Amanda Webb, CEO Xplore for Success
Originally published on Women’s Agenda 5 March 2019
Almost every day when I open my browser to read the latest news, I see more statistics articulating the extent of gender inequality in this country. The pay gap, the lack of female business leaders, domestic violence rates – all articulated in scientific and irrefutable terms.
While I am thankful for the data, and value the vital number crunching, I have to say I’m starting to feel a tad fed-up with it. I’m tired of seeing the same numbers, and reading the same analysis, week after week, year after year.
When we raised our champagne flutes last month on yet another International Women’s Day, I have to confess, I wasn’t entirely sure what we were celebrating. Was it the measly single digit improvements of just some of those metrics? Or was it the ‘privilege’ of being granted one day out of 365 to freely discuss the issues we think are preventing this data from changing?
Quite frankly, International Women’s Day left me feeling flat because I believe we are stuck in a cycle of gender inequality hand-wringing and consternation that is simply getting us nowhere. In fact, there is a big part of me contemplating opting out of future International Women’s Day until there is something more substantial to celebrate, other than a vacuous toast to ‘the ladies’.
So, what’s it going to take? What do we have to do to make a genuine impact? Clearly, our efforts today are not enough and it is time to double down and push much harder than ever before. For me, there are three fundamental things that must happen if we are to be in any way effective:
- Accept that ‘feminism’ is for everyone
The definition of feminism is based on the concept of equality of the sexes; that both genders should have equal access to rights and opportunities. So, I’m genuinely baffled why there are still so many people – men and women – who refuse to identify with this term. How could you possibly believe in the concept of equality and yet refuse to call yourself a feminist? Stop overanalysing the ‘feminine’ nature of the word, sign-up to the cause and start playing your role.
- It’s time for men to ‘hand in’ their advantage
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s declaration that he was for gender equality but not “on the basis of others doing worse”, has shone a spotlight on the male elephant sitting nervously in the room. If we are to make things equal between the sexes, men must see and acknowledge that they have long benefited from a privileged position based on a concept of merit that has gifted them the upper hand. Relinquishing this advantage is bound to make anyone feel uncomfortable – just ask a woman! But if we are serious about achieving parity, this must happen.
- It’s time for women to speak differently
During my time coaching female leaders, I’ve learned that one of the hardest behaviours to change is the language that so many of us are programmed to speak. There are three words in particular that women must stop using, because these words are minimising and give away power. Women must stop saying they are “just” doing their job: eg. “I just work part-time” or “I’m just a mum”. They must stop saying “sorry” for being present: eg. “I’m sorry, but could you move your seat over so I can sit at the table too…sorry”. And they must stop being so “grateful” when they successfully negotiate outcomes: eg. “I’m so grateful my employer is allowing me to go back to my job part-time” (for which she will now be paid a part-time salary). You can hear more about my thoughts on language here.
So enough with the data – it really is time to double down our efforts. The business case for change cannot be any clearer. We no longer need ‘evidence’ or ‘proof’ to justify the argument that there is inequality between the sexes that must change now. Nor do we need evidence or proof that women have the skills to step up and lead. You know why? Two words = Jacinda Ardern.
Enough said. Let’s get on with it.