Why is true gender equality slower than watching grass grow? Those who largely have the power to change it are men.

 This image is courtesy of Catherine Deveny's IWD Facebook post. You can see the post  here .

This image is courtesy of Catherine Deveny's IWD Facebook post. You can see the post here.

Money and influence: essential elements to any global leader who wants to have significant impact on the world.

When it comes to gender equality, 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 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. When it comes to money and influence, men still hold the power. It’s not to say the work of women has been in vain or is finished, in fact the opposite is true, but it’s clear to see that in order for us to progress forward with massive aligned action, we need men to be on board. The longer they don’t take measurable steps towards solving these problems, the bigger the awkward silence will become on where they stand.

The most perplexing part of it all is that gender equality for women benefits men. 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 economic equality of women. The more women who can participate the way they want to, the more men who can do the same.

We’ve long said that gender equality is not just a woman’s issue and in 2018 the spotlight is very brightly on the men in power across business and government. Women want to work with men to solve this. We’re waiting for you at the table. 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.

Shevonne Joyce