Gender equality progression requires men and women at the table
Money and power are essential elements to any global leader who wants to have significant impact on the world. In many ways money equals power and this could not be more true than in the gender equality mission.
Women have been rising up stronger than ever before to #pressforprogress across a number of important issues including economic equality, equal opportunity in business and at work, women’s health, sexual harassment and domestic violence to name a few. In some ways we’ve made significant progress and yet, truth be told, it seems we have not progressed much, if at all, from 1975.
How can this be so?
We’ve had the first female politicians and prime ministers, first CEO’s, legislative changes to protect women against sexual harassment and the first female politician to breastfeed in parliament without being ejected. Yet, the conversations we’re having now are seemingly the same conversations women were having back then.
Whilst here in Australia we’re proud to say we’ve had our first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, the truth is she was ridiculed, harassed and subjected to extreme sexism, misogyny and treated by many in power as an absolute joke simply because she’s a woman. A woman who held one of the most prestigious positions in our country was mocked on a menu item for a fundraiser of the opposition party, described as, ‘Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – Small Breasts, Hugh Thighs and A Big Red Box.'
You would hope that by 2018 we would’ve put all of that behind us, but alas, leaders like Jacinda Arden continue to field more criticism about their appearance, what they’re wearing and their reproductive system than what they are achieving in office. It’s one thing to put a woman in a position of leadership and another to treat her with the dignity and respect she deserves in that role. It’s one thing to say you support the equality of women and then another to take legitimate steps to close the gender pay gap.
We’ve managed to progress so much, yet not much at all because here we are in a climate where lots of conversations are happening about how we all support the equality of women, yet:
- Women in business are still being asked to work for for-profit organisations for free (or in exchange for ‘exposure’, ‘networking opportunities’, ‘wine’ and ‘prestige’), including while speaking at events about how to close the pay gap
- Women are still dealing with questions about their reproductive status at funding meetings
- Women are reportedly retiring in Australia with half the superannuation of men and are 2.5 times more likely to retire in poverty than men, yet closing the pay gap is a voluntary action for organisations in Australia
- Women are still largely financially dependent on men, not only because they earn less but also because for those with children childcare costs are exorbitant
- Outspoken female leaders are still being harassed just like Julia Gillard was and trolled to the point of exhaustion, fielding rape and death threats on the daily – Clementine Ford and Rosie Batty are both examples of that
- We’re still living in a world where a female can be fired for flipping President Trump the bird and yet, he is still President after bragging about grabbing women’s pussies
The truth of it is we’re still in essence fighting the same fight because when it comes to money and influence, men still hold the power. Women can try to fight against that power, but the power balance remains because the systems, structures and business practices that contribute to this power were designed to progress men into roles that meet outdated definitions of what 'male success' looks like.
It’s not to say the work of women has been in vain or is finished, in fact the opposite is true, but the key to true progression now is sharing the balance of power. That is, women and men working together to implement massive aligned action. Action that requires us as a society to put our money where our mouth is so that women can eventually share the power balance.
This arrangement benefits both women and men. As an example, the current Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer, put the question forward recently about how we support men into more part time work. The answer is creating systems that betters the progression of women. The more women who can successfully participate in work the way they want to, the more men who can do the same.
It's time for action.
Shevonne Joyce is a Mentor, Speaker and Social Commentator who works with female entrepreneurs to position them as the go-to brand.