March 11, 2014 by Colin Kelly
Another day, another petition flying round Facebook.
This one aims to convince people to make a pledge to ‘ban bossy’, claiming that parents value ‘leadership’ traits in boys but chastise girls for displaying the same behaviours, dismissing them as ‘bossy’. You can read all about it here.
Petitions are great for raising awareness, but how many really bring about change? My concern is the ‘online petition’ culture we now live in makes it too easy for people to jump on a bandwagon, share a link, then go back to what they always did.
Like sheep. It’s ‘share today’ and ‘where?’ tomorrow.
How many women, who’ve shared or signed ‘Ban Bossy’ are the same women who spend a fortune on makeup? Who watch – and let their children watch – Made In Chelsea, The Only Way Is Essex and all things Big Brother? Who think mass market icons Beyonce and Victoria Beckham represent ’empowerment’? And who spend a small fortune on diet and fashion fads? Yes, they’ll ‘ban bossy’ but then continue to pollute their own and their children’s minds with the shallow trash that means ‘fake tan skinny mop girl’ or ‘footballer’s wife’ become aspirations for teenage girls.
The gender pay gap and relative lack of women in leadership positions is entirely unacceptable and it damages everyone. It keeps too many good people out of business, stifles innovation and above all, simply isn’t fair.
Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a complex problem to solve, or it’ll take a generation to sort out. It’s nothing to do with time off to have kids or women not pushing themselves forward and all that ‘Lean In’ stuff. Women are being deliberately discriminated against, shut up and kept down, and half of them don’t even care.
Those of us who do care don’t need to read children particular books, ban pink toys or share Facebook posts to challenge it.
You and I grew up in an era where Germany was divided by a wall and there was seemingly never ending trouble in Northern Ireland. Where homosexuals and ethnic minorities were the butt of jokes. All those seemingly insurmountable problems seem a long time ago now in this country. And thank God.
The same can happen with gender inequality and it can happen in the next 5 years. But it’ll only happen if we get organised and do something about it. It means turning our backs on consumerism and the narrow fashion, advertising and music industry led images of what ‘woman’ means. And what ‘man’ means.
It means more men taking more to do with child care and more bosses giving them flexibility to allow this.
It means getting serious instead of hand wringing, whining and clicking ‘Like’ on a few posts now and again. It means telling your friends to stop being slaves to the shite they’re bombarded with day after day on television and through the internet. And it means calling out the so called ‘leaders’ who’re deliberately keeping you down.
My sister in law has run her own business for 12 years and successfully raised a beautiful family. She’s brilliant. I’ve had 9 bosses so far in my career, 6 have been women and all were fantastic. I spent today in the company of a woman who’s had the most incredible career in travel, retail and finance, who now runs one of Scotland’s fastest growing businesses and has gone from 2 to 16 staff in the space of 5 years. These are the people I want to hear more from. These are the women I admire, not some celeb with a marketing team behind her and perfume to punt.
If I discovered a colleague was being paid more than me to do the exact same job simply because they were the opposite sex I would make sure my boss knew my precise feelings on the matter immediately. And then I’d take things further.
‘Lean In’? Shout out.
The problem is, most people won’t do this. Because they think it starts and stops with Beyonce and it’s easier to share a post and go back to what they always did.
Gender inequality can – and should – be bridged within 5 years.
But it won’t be Beyonce that does it.
It needs to be you.