‘A $300 million funding boost aimed at improving the wages of 30,000 childcare workers looks increasingly likely to be axed by the federal government’ [Read more]
We are a nation of people who have learned to devalue women’s labour and contribution. We’ve learned this from our families and peers, the churches we belong to, the schools we’ve attended, our leaders in Government and industry, the media and the list goes on. It has become a cultural and social norm.
Increasing numbers of people are rejecting this norm, thankfully, but many don’t give it a second thought.
This latest announcement of the Government’s intention to renege on its pay deal with child care centres is another clear example of bias and discrimination that if acted upon, will reinforce the message that women’s work is not as important, or as valuable, as men’s work.
Unconscious bias is exactly that, unconscious, because as we grow up we internalise messages that are reinforced through cultural and social practices and policies, (such as the role and value of women); organisational systems and structures (that reward certain types of [male] behaviour and people) and gendered thinking (about appropriate choices and behaviour). These messages inform our decision making and choices and if acted upon without scrutiny, can result in sub-optimal outcomes and inequity.
I suspect most members of our Government would rationally and consciously defend the value of women, their contribution and right to have equal pay. Yet in parallel, most would think that a decision to axe a pay rise for child care workers is reasonable and economically responsible.
By bringing attention to this paradox and inequity, many would be surprised and confused: ‘what are we doing that’s wrong?’
This is clear evidence of their unconscious bias. It’s not peculiar to this Government.
Boys and girls grow up learning what is to be a man or woman and both sexes collude in the perpetuation of decisions and actions that are not useful to either gender.
Every day we make decisions that perpetuate inequity because we have been programmed to think that ‘it’s what you do around here.’
Every day we collude in the perpetuation of bias because what is objectively unfair has become unremarkable, familiar and the norm.
Despite the obvious examples of many women succeeding and contributing fully, our bureaucracies and organisations are made up of people who reinforce consciously and unconsciously the message that women are somehow inferior to men and their contribution is worth less.
Unfortunately, most of the men or women in positions of power are blind to the inequity. The dynamics of diversity are that those within the dominant group, enjoy the privileges of being in that group without being aware that they are in any way ‘different’ to those outside the group. Their failure to recognise any power imbalance is not malicious, intentional or conscious and that is the problem.
Only when we begin to reflect back what we notice, speak up about it and denounce it will those willing to listen pay attention. And that’s hard.
It’s hard because those in the minority or with the least power have more to lose, or are least able to advocate on behalf of themselves.
And it’s hard because those in the majority with most of the power don’t want to lose anything so it’s easy to not pay attention.