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Wanting equality is not about 'hating' men
Mar 21, 2014

Wanting equality is not about 'hating' men

All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual

Albert Einstein


Natalie Barr from Channel 7's Sunrise program has caused a stir with an opinion piece describing how she has never experienced discrimination.  The first two paragraphs of her article state:

'Am I the only woman who's not angry at men?  I'm a woman and I have never felt discriminated against.  There.  I've said it.  I'm not angry at men.  I can't remember being passed over for a promotion because of a man and I have never felt undervalued because I'm a woman'

I'm pleased for Natalie Barr.  Seriously pleased she has never experienced discrimination.  That's assuming she knows she actually has not been discriminated against — that decisions about pay and promotion in relation to her career have resulted in equal treatment for her.  And as she works in the media I sincerely hope that as she ages, she is not moved aside for someone younger, or that her salary stagnates to the point that she is earning much less than her male counterparts.  Of which, as she states, she knows nothing.

What troubles me most is her question 'Am I the only woman who's not angry at men?'    Wanting equality in the workplace is not about being angry at men, or hating men. It's not high school.  It is quite possible  however that there are a lot of women out there who ARE angry — not at men, but at a system, unconsciously or otherwise, that holds women back in ways both big and small because of their gender, not their actual abilities.  One need only look at the statistics to see there is something going on other than a 'them vs us' thing — a 17% pay differential, graduate salaries less for women than men, fewer women in leadership, at a time when more and more women are graduating from universities across the nation.

I have worked for many years in a profession that is often in the news, lamented for the lack of women at the top of the career ladder.  It is a source of constant conversationa and tomes have been written - and yet nothing changes.  I continue to work now across a variety of industries and also coach and mentor many women who have or who are currently experiencing discrimination.  And it is not about their abilities.

Here are but a few examples:

When a group of men go to a strip club after a conference dinner and take their male client with them, leaving the only female behind — that's discrimination.

When entertaining a client involves going to a game a rugby and only the male practitioners are invited — that's discrimination.

When a woman is told, to her face, that at 40, she is 'too old' to be considered for promotion to partnership, regardless of her contribution or performance — that's discrimination

When a senior practitioner announces that a particular person would be a good candidate for partnership because at 'her age' she is unlikely to have children — that's discrimination.

When a group of people all at the same level include one woman, who is paid a minimum of  $30K less in salary than the lowest paid of the males in that group — that's discrimination.

When the possibility of a transfer and consequent promotion is discussed with a number of males and not one female — that's discrimination.

When a woman is told at a performance review that there is a perception she is 'not committed' to career advancement because she chooses to go home at 5pm on a Friday (note this is ONE day a week) to be with her family while her male colleagues go out for drinks — that's discrimination.

I could go on.  I could write a book if I had the time as it is a long list. I see it or hear of it every day, and stand up to it, and help women stand up to it as it is not acceptable.

What is missing from your piece, Natalie, is a discussion of opportunity.  Opportunity begets experience which begets more opportunity then promotion and pay rises.  You are fortunate that you had opportunity presented to you, or that you were able to take it. Many women are consciously, but mostly unconsciously, excluded from opportunity because of their gender and because of assumptions made about them  This is a result of years of ingrained thought patterns by decision makers and is not easily challenged because it is often hard to identify.  

It is not about being angry at men, but rather the systems created within organisations by decision makers who are for the most part, male.  So yes, I'm angry.  And I became angrier after reading your opinion piece because frankly, it makes it easy for those who don't believe unconscious bias is an issue to point to this and say 'There.  See.  It IS just about ability'.

No one says it better than Ita Buttrose and Sarah Harris on Studio 10 via the Hoopla website.

I really enjoyed that!