My friend just sent me an angry message about a male film director completing ignoring her during a meeting she was chairing, and addressing all his responses to a junior male colleague. Gender inequality at its finest.
This isn’t the first time she brought this up, neither is she the first female working in the tech industry in the region to share a story like this.
So this raises the age-old question that has been explored almost to death but has never resolved any issues nor brought to light universal next steps. Maybe there’s a reason why though, which is what I want to explore.
What is the issue?
Have you heard of James Damore? If you haven’t then maybe this article is something you should pay attention to for just a little bit.
He’s a former Google Engineer that sent out a memo basically stating that there was a culture of close-mindedness caused by fear of offending people. Such people included women and men, who felt women should be equal.
Gizmodo has a very good breakdown of it, so I encourage you to give it a read. After you’ve read this of course.
The major point I took from this was that by forcing inclusion and creating specialised paths for minorities or the disenfranchised, we’re basically rewarding weakness or punishing those who deserve it more.
I can’t deny certain aspects of his argument and to dismiss this outright, as an angry man trying to mansplain the issue, is not bringing a healthy debate to the topic, but creates a closed-off mentality similar to the mindset of misogynistic or racist groups of people.
We need to pay attention to what he’s saying on the off chance he has a point and also to understand what his point really is, so we know where the issues lie. This is also a very common point across the aisle and often isn’t refuted well, so it continues to exist when it should be shut down.
Keep in mind, this isn’t a technology problem. This is a global problem across almost every industry and country, race, religion and ethnic group in the world.
The current Hollywood scandal, the gender pay gap in every market and the lack of female representation at senior and C-suite levels in companies are just a few examples.
Here’s the shocker, there isn’t an actual solution to gender inequality issues and the sooner we realise that the sooner we can end the debate and get about making a change.
Here’s why I say that though and you don’t necessarily have to agree with, I do urge you to have civilised debates about this as we all have the same goal in mind.
What needs to change is deep-rooted cultural norms that permeate every aspect of society. If we want to normalise and engineer cultural change, it needs to start from the education system upwards. Improve nursery and primary education, re-train teachers to make classes and education completely gender-neutral.
This isn’t going to happen for a number of reasons. The main one, being the cost of creating major cultural change is too much for any single country to do so.
Then what can we do?
There are powerful, smaller steps we can take that should even out the playing field in the workplace at least a little bit. Simple, but I believe, useful things we can all do.
- Remove gender & profile pictures from CVs (unless the job requires it)
- This allows for gender-neutral review and a fair assessment of skill and experience
- There are jobs where appearance is essential, so this should work for most industries, but not all
- Make reporting harassment quick, simple and without retribution
- Make the process completely anonymous except to a third-party
- Institute clear and transparent steps to address issues that is fair to both the accused and accusee
- Create a gender-balanced (and racially balanced) committee to handle issues quickly
- Look for long-term solutions and not short-term radical changes
- Having a seminar about sexual harassment is great, but without a long-term plan and next steps, it often isn’t that effective
- Don’t immediately institute radical change to an established process that will disrupt the whole department or company – this creates resentment
- Effort and resources are required to gradually phase out older practises that promoted unfairness, this reduces resistance to change and reduces any lingering resentment
While some of these suggestions may seem like apologies for men (I am a man, regardless of what my friends say), I see these as practical next steps while we plan and look for any opportunity to force mass social change.
I do believe we’re moving in the right direction with more conversation around this topic, exposing the misogyny that exists across the world and global movements like #MeToo.
We are looking to keep this conversation open, so let us know if you have thoughts around this and let us know what you think in the comments below.