I had no plans to add my thoughts to the multitude that will be published for International Women’s Day today, the annual global campaign to help forge a more gender-balanced world for us all. But I saw an article yesterday that wound me up.
I was dismayed to see the headline, ‘Weekly’s Chief Reporter to become its first female editor‘ in my daily Hold the Front Page bulletin. My heart sank for two reasons.
Firstly, why has it taken any organisation until 2019 to have a woman at its helm, and of course that question is one of the reasons International Women’s Day exists. But secondly, why should this be news?!
A weekly newspaper appointing a new editor should definitely be reported, but of what relevance is her gender? I appreciate that the publication was trying to make a positive of this history-making promotion. But surely positioning her appointment as remarkable in this way just perpetuates the problem?
Is it just me?
For me, this type of reporting holds women back. I’d like to see us get to the point where it isn’t remotely noteworthy for women to be leaders, and unfortunately stories like this in my view simply ensure it stays the exception to the rule.
I have the misfortune of working in an industry in which women receive an average pay of £9,991 a year less than men, for no other reason than they are female. This alarming statistic from the CIPR’s forthcoming State of the Profession survey results, strips out all factors influencing salary, including seniority, career breaks, and prevalence of part-time work, leaving gender alone the only differentiator. What’s even more worrying is that this gap has grown from £6,725 this time last year, and from £5,784 the year before.
We’re in it together
Unfortunately, I feel initiatives to help bring about gender parity more often than not alienate men, which means every step forward is frequently followed by more than one step back. Look at the recent controversy around the Gillette ‘The Best Men Can Be‘ campaign. Some men dismissed this as either the brand cutting its nose off despite its face by jumping on a political bandwagon without acknowledging its core audience. Some felt it was an attack on all men suggesting they should feel guilty simply for being male.
I can see merit in the ad, although the products Gillette markets as for women were when the ad was launched still more expensive than those aimed at men, so I don’t wholly disagree the company has jumped on a bandwagon of sorts without first getting its own house in order. And the debate itself should have been useful in helping us #BalanceforBetter, but how many men were lost to the cause, potentially permanently, because they felt unjustly criticised?
We must collaborate to achieve gender parity and leave sexism in the past. The fact is these issues will only be resolved once all genders accept they hold some power in affecting change, and act upon it.