In almost every aspect of life there is a bias against women.
In a 2017 review of women in professional sport, there was one woman ranked in the 100 highest-paid athletes, Serena Williams. At the time she was paid £50m less than Christiano Ronaldo. In 2015, the US women’s football team won the World Cup and received £1.5m, whilst the winning men’s team won £26.5m in 2014.
It’s not only pay where there is bias against professional women athletes, it’s also in behaviour and how much more women have to prove their worth and how they’re perceived both inside and out of the sporting world.
Fortunately, in 2018, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reviewed the gender bias in their Gender Equality Review Project and have made significant changes to address ‘women’s participation, funding, governance and portrayal across the entire Olympic Movement.’
Let’s face it though, gender bias occurs across almost every industry. At the UK’s HRD (Human Resources Director) Conference in Birmingham (just before Covid was a thing) the vast majority of delegates were men. Why, when as a profession it is more female dominated, are there 80% of HR leaders who are men? We won’t even start with statistics on Tech or Investment for female entrepreneurs.
In almost every aspect of life there are (often negative) stereotypes about women.
How many times do we hear things like ‘only girls cry’ or ‘don’t be such a girl’? What about, ‘she’s just a bit too soft’ or ‘she’s not loud enough’? Or, on the other hand, ‘It’s a man’s job’? There are certainly biological differences between the genders of men and women but it feels like in Western society we have created the heteronormative perceptions of what it means to be a man or woman placing men as the head of the house, the breadwinner, the powerful force in a relationship.
This is translated in the workplace too, where women are perceived as weaker than men because they’re not ‘aggressive enough’ or assertive. It’s also a result of women being perceived as the ‘mothering’ type and only provided opportunities that will enhance these nurturing skills.
Imagine we lived in a world where aggression and power and control weren’t revered as the highest quality, perhaps we would have much happier and more productive teams as a result?!
In almost every aspect of life there is direct and indirect discrimination towards women.
In 2012 I returned to work 6 months after having my first child. The company was being acquired and I knew our whole team would be disbanded within 3-6 months. I spoke to the CEO about opportunities and how much I wanted to keep working. His response was, ‘Why don’t you just focus on being a mummy?’. I know he was well intentioned in his comment however, I had never felt so patronised nor discriminated against as I did in that moment. Why should anyone tell me that I couldn’t work and that I should just stay at home? I honestly doubt any man has been told by their superior to focus on ‘being a daddy’.
Often, it would be assumed that women wouldn’t want to progress in their careers because they are of childbearing age (I had to stop an FD from rejecting someone from an interview process because she was ‘childbearing age and would probably only stay for a year before going off to have babies’ – yes, true story).
I can’t even tell you how many times I have heard managers, leaders, exec members refer to the ‘girls’ in the office & not women. Yet, they don’t call any males boys. It’s just so patronising and demeaning and is absolutely wrong. I have made a habit (annoyingly to some) to correct them every time they say, ‘girls’ in reference to anyone in their company (or in reference to any woman), I will correct them and say ‘women’. It’s up to us to change the dialogue!
As a parent, my husband and I are adamant that our son and daughter will be raised in the same way. We don’t believe in ‘boys or girls’ toys or colours. We don’t even separate out the chores into ‘blue’ or ‘pink’ jobs. We are very mindful of our language and how we talk to the children to ensure they are treated equally. No doubt most modern parents would say exactly the same thing.
So, there is hope, there is hope that the next generation will not stand for bias, negative stereotypes and discrimination. We all have a part to play: break the bias.