Why #EachFor Equal has to start with un-blinkering
Updated: Mar 9
The theme for this year’s international women’s day is Each for Equal, which feels aspirational in 2020, a year which keeps reminding us of the lack of equality in a world where men and women are supposedly now equal. It’s true that in some respects things are better than they were – some businesses have a better gender balance than they used to, women make up more of most workplaces, BUT:
- The UK’s Gender pay gap is 17.3%, with the WEF estimating it will take 202 years for the gender pay gap to close.
- According to a TUC report, more than half of women reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, but only 27% of them felt able to report it.
And the picture is even bleaker in the world outside of the workplace:
- According to a recent report, rape charges, prosecutions and convictions have fallen by almost a third in a year, despite reports of rape going up year on year.
- The Femicide Census tell us that the number of women killed each year by abusive partners or former partners is increasing year on year, and 61% of women killed in the UK in 2018 were murdered by current or previous partners.
- Women still take on the vast majority of unpaid caring responsibilities in the UK. The Young Women’s Trust have estimated the value of this to the economy to be over £140 million, and are currently seeking to measure this further through research.
- As documented in Caroline Criado Perez’s book “Invisible Women”, data gathered to make decisions about almost every aspect of life is skewed towards the “default male” – a fact which costs women their lives.
- Women with any kind of a public profile are hounded and harassed relentlessly through the media. Just look at the difference in the treatment between Geoffrey Boycott (convicted of domestic abuse crimes and then knighted) and Caroline Flack (arrested – not convicted - and hounded to her death).
We do not live in a society where women and men are treated equally.
Then throw into the mix the impact of intersectionality for women. Research conducted in the lead up to the 2017 General Election showed that black or Asian female MPs received 35% more abuse than their white female counterparts, and Diane Abbott received around 10 times as much abuse as any other female MP.
Our trans siblings and their allies are also on the end of an increasing and escalating campaign of abuse, with much of it grounded in faux concern for (cis) women. The reality remains the idea that trans women are men who have donned a dress to sneak into “women’s spaces” is an absolute fallacy. For fans of the “bathroom debate” – fun stat – more American politicians have been arrested for public indecency in public bathrooms than trans people - as light-heartedly shared in this video. And honestly, all you have to do to see the bile directed at those in the trans community is tweet something trans inclusive and watch the pile-on from the anti-trans movement. Having experienced this today, and having had to mute twitter because I (a straight, cisgender ally) was finding it too much to cope with, I can't imagine what it must be like to be on the receiving end of this every day for just being yourself.
What has this all got to do with our space - the world of work? I founded A New Normal as a force for social good. The idealist in me wants to change the world, and the pragmatist knows that where business leads, society follows, and that business is key to influencing culture.
The world of work is absolutely crucial in making a societal charge. And in order for any kind of change to take place in the world of work, we have to un-blinker ourselves. The blinkers analogy comes from the amazing Francesca Ramsey who talks about it in a video on ally-ship. She explains that privilege is a bit like the blinkers on a horse – the horse can see ahead just fine but misses so much that goes on around them. That’s how privilege works – we’re almost programmed to make the assumption that our experiences are universal. This is a real problem if the majority of those making business or culture-related decisions in an organisation are un-representative of the world as a whole and the culture within which we live.
Our continued mission at A New Normal is to ensure that we challenge the blinkers in place on an individual and systemic level within organisations. We will continue to work in close partnership with our clients to support them to challenge biases and to ensure psychological safety for their teams so that everyone within their organisations knows that they can ‘call it out' when things aren't going well.
Because we know that the businesses we work with influence wider culture, whether that's directly, through our media clients at Bauer (who reach over 22 million UK adults through their brands) and Audible; or indirectly through our tech clients who partner with and influence some of the biggest brands in the UK. And we do this knowing that the individuals at work within those businesses also have the power to go and create social change themselves. So we’ll continue doing the work about which we're passionate in the hope that we can influence society to be "Each For Equal – for everyone.