By David Steenson
One of the biggest issues those of us (men and women) who are concerned with Gender Equality face is the idea that our fears are “all in our heads”. From that starting point it’s difficult to engage in any meaningful discussion or debate on the issue. Many of those who dismiss the problem, particularly where it exists in the workplace, simply claim that it doesn’t exist at all. I want to address some of these Gender Equality Myths.
Myth Number 1 – The Gender Pay Gap doesn’t exist
This is a common claim. The problem is that the objections to its existence are based on emotions and beliefs (which is another blog in itself). As Ricky Gervais once said “Beliefs don’t change facts. Facts, If you are rational should change your beliefs.” The current data being received is based on the average median hourly earnings per person and the facts DO NOT LIE. Each sector varies, and the figures can also vary when you consider different factors. But the average median pay gap is 9.8% according to latest figures. 8 out of 10 UK Companies pay women less than men! Just because you believe that it doesn’t exist or that it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t make it so.
Myth Number 2- “I’m not sexist, so it’s not my concern”
That doesn’t mean that it’s not your problem. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE has inherent bias. It can be tough to be perfect- but being aware that it exists is part of the battle. In addition, being acutely aware of potential gender inequality means you can be in a position to challenge inappropriate behaviour and actions. It says a lot about the issue overall that when a man is challenged by another man he’s more likely to take stock of his behaviour. I’ve seen the realisation dawn on the perpetrator that he was out of order and in danger of becoming a pariah in the workplace.
Myth Number 3 – Women lack the confidence to progress to the next level
This can be true depending on the individual. But I’m sorry to say that this is often a result of male domination of the top positions in companies over many decades, and specifically an expectation of how employees should be expected to behave. Women tend to be harder on themselves over failures, more self-critical therefore can lack confidence. For example, they are less aggressive during a heated meeting and they can find themselves unwilling to speak up. All women have a responsibility to increase their confidence levels, but would it not be easier if men were aware of how they can impact a woman’s confidence by their conduct? We lead differently than men in many instances – and should not have to conform and behave in a “masculine” way.
Myth Number 4 – Women are less social than “the lads”
Our sisterhood of Generation Career winners, many of whom work for the same companies, laugh at this one. The amount women engaging in networking events and helping each other SPECIFICALLY due to the issues they face in the workplace due to gender inequality is staggering. I’m sorry lads but give women some prosecco and some good company and they show themselves to be team players in a way that helps us all. For every group of men spending time on the golf course is a group of women who are socialising together and consider themselves to be emotionally invested in each other’s success. I’ve worked with many ‘backstabbing bitches” in my time, and the vast majority of them have been men.
Myth Number 5 – Women choose Family over Career
Guess what? Most working women including my wife CHOOSE BOTH. As should most men. It doesn’t matter who the primary carer for children is, employers should accommodate them as much as possible because a functioning societies future depends on it. Decisions to take time out of your career to focus on young children should not affect your standing in the workplace when you return. But it does; which is why so many women are entering returnship programmes to address the issues they may face when they come back to work. The UK has the highest rates of childcare in the world. This forces women to leave work or go part-time which is another issue that needs to be urgently addressed. Families are struggling because of this burden so it defies belief that some men would see this as anything other than a problem that needs fixed.
Myth Number 6 – Women don’t ask for more money
Oh yes they do. No matter what tone they take it can have a negative impact on their chances of getting hired or getting the promotion. If a man asks he is seen as a go-getter, a confident ambitious dude with the drive to succeed. Sadly, when a woman asks, she is often seen as pushy and demanding.
Myth Number 7 – Women don’t want equality, they want to put men down
The battle cry of the fragile male ego and one of the most frustrating Gender Equality Myths. It’s almost as if they haven’t abandoned the “Ewww girls” mentality from primary school. Equality is not a threat to men it is of benefit to them. Unfortunately a narrative of “they are all feminazis” has permeated social media, with zero facts to back it up.
If true equality is achieved (an almost impossible task admittedly) what negative impact will it have on a man’s life? You will still get the job/promotion if you are right for it and if you think you are in a job because of your gender then you are part of the problem. You won’t get paid less but your partner/wife/sister/daughter/mother could get paid more. Plus increased flexibility will be good for everyone, as will shared parental leave. Also, diversity in the workplace means diversity in decisions and this is of benefit to everybody. Stop feeling so threatened, Stop being a ‘broflake’ and grow up.
Myth Number 8 – Men who support equality are just “White Knights”
Talk about missing the point entirely. Women are more than capable of fighting for gender equality alone they don’t need our “help”. But they do need our “Buy in” which is what I would actively encourage. Interestingly my belief in equality comes from quite a selfish standpoint and I make no apology for it. I want my 2 daughters to have the same opportunities as they would have if I had sons. Any man who has a daughter should want this too. If you don’t then I’m afraid to say you have failed her as a dad. Controversial, but I stand by that opinion 100%. The same goes for any women in your life; if you see them as direct competitors rather than friends and family who you would defend then you aren’t much of a man are you?
Myth Number 9 – It’s political correctness gone mad
There is a narrative being spread that the fight for equality is a recent development. Its almost as if the suffragettes didn’t exist (despite recent anniversaries). This phrase is trotted out by those wishing to excuse sexism (and numerous other ‘isms’ that we can do with less of). Challenging gender inequality and supporting #metoo can go hand in hand with finding Frankie Boyle or Jim Jeffries hilarious. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive
Myth Number 10 – Gender equality isn’t real – look at all the successful women!
You seriously think that the fact there is a few female CEOs and politicians means everything is fine? Really? There are more CEOs of FTSE 100 companies called John than women. 32% of female MPs and female actors have been shown to be paid substantially less than their male counterparts. These are just three examples. Do not let exceptions to the rule cloud your opinion of the issues that women face. It’s naïve and ignorant.