The article in Sunday’s Herald by Alyssa McDonald cited the same barriers to women’s advancement that have been highlighted for at least the last 15 years.
The author quoted the thoughts of credible, if predictable authorities: Liz Broderick, Katie Lahey and others who have advanced into the C-Suites but at least can identify the barriers as:
Structural barriers which continue to be: lack of flexibility, inability to gain a promotion if working part time, the expectation to work more than a standard week the further up the hierarchy you go, exorbitant child care costs, and so on.
Unconscious bias towards a male leadership and communication styles, the stereotypes and assumptions made about women, especially mothers and their inability to continue to use their brains after giving birth and their unsuitability to take on senior roles if they’re working flexible hours.
These barriers have remained constant over the last decade, except, perhaps, the expectations around hours (the average Aussie working week is longer), and quite possibly the collusion that occurs from women who continue to accept some of the conditions, the stereotypes and the bias. Indeed, even perpetuate it.
How many women accept that their role should be to take responsibility for the domestic administration of the house as well as their jobs? How many women believe that if a woman is working part time, she cannot be committed to her career? How many women still feel that to support other women somehow diminishes their own efforts? How many continue to uphold the farcical notion that appointments are made based on ‘merit’?
I wonder whether the fact that the barriers have remained solid for all of our working lives (regardless of age, sadly), has resulted in women becoming resigned to their fate?
Most women believe that it’s too hard to advance into senior roles. They don’t believe there is any way to overcome the toll in terms of family sacrifice and hours required. They don’t see role models demonstrating how it can be done differently. Women appear to have internalised the barriers and unconsciously taken responsibility for them – rationalising them as part of the natural order of things.
Perhaps it’s not possible to do things differently – but let’s be certain that as a society, we are actually prepared to suffer the consequences:
The lack of optimisation of the talent pool, decreased innovation and creativity, diminished accountability and governance, reduced competitiveness in global markets, increased stress and burn out as women who aspire to leadership and executive roles suffer from ill health and their male counterparts, likewise.
Australia forgets, I think, that it’s a creative country. We’ve had to be resourceful. We often come up with innovative ideas and extraordinary breakthroughs. Unfortunately most of these are capitalised overseas where new ideas, innovation are embraced, applauded and commercialised!
We could do more if enough of us decided we needed to. We all have a role to play in reducing the mind numbing acceptance of the status quo. We could be leaders and innovators. We don’t have to remain hidden in the shadow of the tall poppies we fear.
The question is how we generate the momentum, how we harness the talent and how we might direct our energy. A few hopeful male champions have stepped up to the plate. It’s time more women joined them.