Another International Women’s Day has come and gone and along with it another round of clever hashtags, hopeful social media posts and frankly, hollow pledges of support.
We’ve been through it before. Some of us have been through it more times than others and after a while, there’s a certain fuming cynicism that sets in.
Some crucial things need to happen
As a one-time primary wage-earner, former owner of a small business and a leader of teams in organizations over the last 20 years, I am frustrated by what is still going on in the workplace. But I want to focus on what we CAN do, not what has been done to me or others.
In my mind, there are some crucial things that need to happen and we’re not seeing any significant efforts in these areas.
- We need to acknowledge there are downsides for men* to having more gender equality.
While there are undoubtedly numerous benefits, we are so busy promoting the bright side, we fail to recognize the other side. The fear is real and is justifiable. Equality is a disruption to a system that firmly gives men an advantage. Even if they can’t or don’t put it into words, it is hovering there in the background. Like conspiracy theories and whisper campaigns, we’re reluctant to address them openly, which is why they never really go away. To ignore or downplay legitimate reservations about equality does no one any good. Allow that conversation out in the mainstream so truth can be separated from fiction.
- Men (and women) currently in leadership should be held accountable to measurable goals.
Promises of inclusion and balance mean NOTHING without a plan of action. Every leader should have performance expectations related to gender equality in their human resources plan. And if those expectations are not met, particularly after more than one failed attempt, perhaps they should not be in leadership. Similar to financial goals, if people objectives are not being achieved, there must be some correction. It cannot be allowed to continue unchecked. We know the repercussions of a lack of diversity in our workforce, in our politics and in our lives. So, why have we given so much leeway to those who fail to deliver for decades on crucial promises?
- Getting serious about gender equality means getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.
In this process, we are going to face some unavoidable questions about long held stereotypes and prejudices about gender. A lot of what we believe is going to come under scrutiny. Almost no one wants to go there. It will be awkward. But we need to broach the somewhat taboo subject because it is necessary. There are small tremors of hopeful change, for example in the activism for transgender rights, but there needs to be much more. We need a groundbreaking new way of looking at people. This approach of sorting and organizing humanity like we do our kitchen cabinets or closets has to stop. We can’t Marie Kondo ourselves out of this one.
If you had told me 30 years ago when I first started out in my career that I’d be writing something like this, I would have thought you were a pessimist and a bore. And yet, here I am.
There are vested interests in maintaining our system of inequality. There is an embarrassing lack of leadership. There is a lot of discomfort around even discussing gender roles.
I don’t want my daughter writing a piece like this another 30 years from now.
*For simplicity’s sake, I’m referring to “men” and “women.” I fully recognize that gender is non-binary and complex. There are people out there all over the gender spectrum. For the purposes of succinctness, my intention is to include anyone who identifies with male or female, while recognizing there are many who also identify with neither.
Miss Cranky Pants (aka Jody MacPherson) is a professional communicator, mother of two grown kids, divorcee (is it any wonder?) and coffee addict who gets a little testy without regular caffeine.