Moving slowly but at least moving forward

When I saw Karen’s note about the November theme , my first response was ‘brilliant – I’ll do that.’ But when I sat in front of my computer screen, I wondered where on earth to start? As Karen says, we seem to have been talking about aspects of gender equality and diversity for so many years and from every conceivable angle. If there are only really 7 original plots in the world, how can I think of anything fresh to say for 3rd i in November?

So, maybe it’s not rocket science, but I think we do have to keep bashing away at certain subjects to make them crack. With each iteration, something new generally gets added and this helps to ratchet things forward, however little, rather than just going round in a maddening loop. It’s easy to forget how far we have come since the Suffragettes, or even since Germaine Greer started out and set the context for Naomi Wolf to get arrested in New York and everyone to notice.

We have moved things on for the better. So much.

For me, I think part of the issue is to be absolutely clear about what we want to achieve and to where we are trying to move; one of the things which follows the progress we have made to date is inevitably a burgeoning of issues and priorities. It’s all a bit Maslow; once you’ve got the vote and the contraceptive pill, you can start thinking a bit more about the subtleties. And because self actualisation is different for so many individuals, by definition, those priorities and issues will vary dramatically. So there are still those in abusive relationships, or economic stress but there are also now so many more women in positions of global impact, economic, commercial, political and social power and influence and much more personal freedom. We can even get our own mortgages these days.

We must all agree that we need more (good) women in Boardrooms, public office and positions of community influence but we also need more good men in all those places too. It’s diversity of thought, attitude and experience that we need, regardless of biological gender. I very much subscribe to the concept of changing the WAY we do things and the THINGS we value as a society, rather than looking at how we can wedge more women into the way things are. Ten years ago I was a big supporter and implementer of training women to get on in a man’s world and, whilst there is still a big place for that, I hope we are also going to focus more and more on how to change that world so women fit much more naturally into it in the future. Admittedly, the Catch-22 is that you need more women in influential positions in order to do that, but at the very least, we shouldn’t lose sight of that additional fundamental objective.

There was an interesting article in Forbes this week about the ’10 Worst Stereotypes’ faced by women. And I recognised and agreed with every single one of them, depressingly. It’s subtle, it’s difficult, it’s challenging to change them. Having more “minority” groups (ie not white, middle class male Christians) represented is surely, genuinely a way to help do that, as it takes a bit of suffering and frustration sometimes to recognise what other people have to put up with and this have the desire to be more inclusive?

Ten years ago, I began to use the commercial argument with HBOS, to enable us to develop a supportive banking and networking proposition for female clients. As Joanna Thomas Yaccato’s tongue-in-cheek-titled book “The 80% Minority” pointed out, women make or influence over 80% of all consumer purchases and decisions. Yet up to 91% of women are still saying that advertising doesn’t appeal to them. What appealed to me about working for Independent Women was, I imagine, pretty obvious – a company that was set up and tailored already to delivering advice and financial support to WOMEN in a style that they enjoyed, a manner that was appealing and language that actually spoke to them.

It’s a great, fun brand to work with as it means so much, but fundamentally, it means helping every single one of our clients to act and be an independent woman, regardless of their relationship status or financial position.

I am conscious this is probably my most waffly column so far and am begging for indulgence…. in trying to sum up, I think I would say that for me we need to be talking about some of these things:-

  1. What makes a woman independent?
  2. Are we in danger of replacing one set of (Victorian / 1950s) stereotypes with another (Sex & The City / I Don’t Know How She Does It/ The Devil Wears Prada)
  3. Is it time to bring in quotas to have women in positions of influence? (I have changed my mind on this lately and having seen so many mediocre men in senior positions, I am really quite bored with the argument that we won’t get good enough women. Why not give it a shot?)
  4. How we do useful battle with the media / marketing world which objectifies women sexually (still – my husband is a biker and I can’t help but been enraged at the half-naked bimbo types {whether they genuinely are bimbos or have PhDs – they’re still virtually naked!} that are used as decoration) and over-sexualises young girls?
  5. What does ambition really look like for women in 2011 – especially for the next generation (as we see alarming new reports in the UK that teenage girls aspire to be WAGS, win X Factor or marry a rich man because they’ve watched their mothers struggle a la Kate Reddy to ‘have it all’ which looks to them like a mug’s game. Is it?)

 

I could go on for days with my list, but I might start to look a little mad and I really will be stretching that indulgence. But I do care about this and want to work with the fabulous women and men I know who want to change things for the better too. Count me in.

Clare Logie
www.independentwomen.co.uk

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You can read about the Independent Women Ambition Debate,  here

4 Comments on Moving slowly but at least moving forward

  1. I agree that diversity should assess all “minority” groups but I find it ridiculous that “women” are still included in the definition. We are doing all that we can here to promote these issues and to provide events and services to support the cause. I encourage all women to band together, in whatever ways that suit them individually, to permanently change this ridiculous imbalance. Movement has been made but there is so far to go. Incidentally, many men do not actually behave as the stereotypes would suggest. I know, I am one.

  2. Clare – great piece, thank you! You have articulated beautifully what I have been thinking/experiencing over the past few months as I carried out research in the attraction, retention & development of senior women in the Professional Services sector in the North West. That is, we need to move on from ‘fixing the women’ initiatives to a business environment which accepts that whatever colour, gender, orientation etc, what UK plc needs is GOOD PEOPLE! This is the strategy that will improve business performance, and help the UK compete strongly in the global economy, and surely what we should be aiming for.

    • Thanks very much, Nina. I support women, but only good ones! And I support and revere good men. As Phil points out, stereotypes work against men too and militate against positive cultural change. It’s important that we women aren’t guilty of over-stereotyping men and then complaining when they do it to us…

  3. Hollie-Marie // November 10, 2011 at 7:22 pm // Reply

    Great article! Also, as a keen skiier and snowboarder it made me frustrated to hear last week that despite advertising aimed at females being more effective i.e. pulling in more revenue the pro-skiers/boarders used to model in them get paid on average half as much as their male counterparts. How is this still allowed??

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