This month my head reels as men in power demonstrate how firmly they’re rooted in the past and how blind they are to women’s progress and opportunities.
It started with an invitation to attend the B20 summit – a two-day conference for Australian business leaders which included only six women in the 34 speaker line-up – three of whom were moderating male only panels. Three speakers were male champions of change who’ve committed to a panel pledge – an agreement that they would question any conference that did not include 50% women on the panel.
When I observed the male dominated line-up I discarded my invitation in disgust. When MCC, David Thoday, CEO of Telstra was asked about his participation in the conference, and his commitment to the panel pledge, he admitted he ‘had not noticed’ the absence of women.
Then just last week I heard Christopher Pyne assert that women are unlikely to be affected by increased costs of tertiary education because they don’t typically undertake the more expensive degrees of law and dentistry. This is despite the fact that 58% of dentistry graduates and 62% of law graduates are women.
Are we invisible? Or are they blind?
This was followed by Eric Abetz’s idiotic reference to 1950s research that links abortions to breast cancer.
How should we respond to this pernicious gender bias that continues to amplify outdated views rarely grounded in evidence?
Firstly we have to recognise that we are all bounded by the limits of our own experience and the rigidity of our thinking. We see what we expect to see. We hold on strongly to our own views and opinions despite the evidence.Our unconscious response to anything that contradicts what we think we know and what we expect to see is to render it mute or invisible.
And that’s a huge problem!
It means we continue to entrench outdated norms and roles even when they don’t work or aren’t useful.
For instance, even when the financial burden is shared between men and women, even when it doesn’t actually make sense, we tend to revert to traditional gendered roles.
I can’t believe that all men actually prefer to
- Be the breadwinners;
- Be experts and always right;
- Be in charge!
As a woman with primary responsibility for the financial well being of my family, I know how exhausting it can be to carry that load and I’ve often envied other women who have a lesser financial burden.
Surely it’s time we all stepped back and question whether the way we’ve always done things will enable us to achieve our aspirations, meet our obligations, fulfill our desires?
To do this, though, we need to accept our fallibility, our failings, and inability to always understand. We need to notice when we
- Allow ego to take charge and avoid being seen to not know;
- Attempt to solve a problem without first fully understanding it;
- Revert to the thinking of the past rather than admit we don’t know the answer.
We have the capacity to learn, adapt and evolve, but to do so requires us to firstly accept that not knowing is not a failure and then draw on the courage to step outside our comfort zones to do something new.
It’s time women and men, couples, families, organisations, communities and this country removed the shackles of the past, rewrote our scripts and created a new future.