Yesterday we hosted an event on gender parity. We managed to secure 50 clients to attend the launch of a film that explored the case for gender parity in the workplace. We managed to convince our clients to take part in the film and we received positive feedback from all concerned. We looked at the bottom-line business case for gender parity; we looked at what organisations can do to change; and we looked at it through the eyes of the public sector, the private sector, business and sport. It was an unmitigated disaster.
Where are the blokes? Over 70% of our audience were women. Almost the reverse of where the 30% club find themselves when it comes to women in the boardroom.
Perhaps it’s all in the word. Does it put men to sleep or something? “Oh, gender, that’s something to do with women isn’t it?’ or “That’s some sort of women’s equality issue and there’s not much I can do about that is there?” Well, wrong. As Mahnaz Javid, one of the contributors to our film puts it, without male leadership in this space we might never see gender parity.
For me, gender parity isn’t just about governance, wage structures and making sure that there’s a talent pool in place for promotion, it’s a way of thinking. I was pulled up on this only yesterday when asked by a colleague what I thought was a pertinent lesson in the film. I quoted a line from a contributor relating to education and fixed ways of thinking starting at school. “It start’s on our Mother’s knee,” I said. Why ‘Mother’ I was asked? And that’s the point. Why didn’t I pick father?
There’s a great line in one of our films from a taxi driver – himself I’m sure a fair-minded man fully supportive of gender parity – but when asked whether there is gender parity in the taxi trade he replies “oh yes, absolutely, if any of us saw a female taxi driver we’d absolutely stop to help her.” Why is there an assumption she needs help? It just reinforces the stereotype that there is a ‘weaker’ sex.
Of course, all this can be explained away with ‘that’s not what I meant’, but it doesn’t matter about whether that was what was meant or not. What matters is what is said and what is done.
So, I’m fed up with International Women’s Day. We need an International We Men Day. A day when we look at what We Men can do to make a realistic change to gender parity. A day that doesn’t just look at structures, but looks at diversity and the way we all need to think to bring parity to life. After time, the ‘men’ bit can get dropped and we’ll just have International ‘We’ Day.
My thanks go to Sarah Tebbutt at NS&I, Kate Bosomworth at Sport England & Speed PR, Paul Barber and Charley Boswell at Brighton & Hove Albion, Adam Warby and Stephen Kelly at Avanade, Pamela Coles at Rolls Royce, John Lochrie at British Gas and Mahnaz Javid at the Mona Foundation, all of who participated.
PS: I’m fully support of IWD2016