A little while ago I started feeling flat about work. Not about my job or the office or my colleagues but about gender equality and, in particular, the glacial pace of change. It’s a matter I am ordinarily unashamedly passionate about but my enthusiasm waned noticeably.
What is the point in preaching to the converted, I started asking myself. Is change ever going to happen? Is it inevitable that my young daughters will grow up in a world that offers men and women different opportunities? After a little while I noticed my feeling deflated coincided roughly with my 12-month anniversary writing for Women’s Agenda.
I am not under any illusion that simply writing about gender equality can create change, but, having thought and written about it for a year, the realisation that nothing has changed is jarring nonetheless.
Every day it seems there is new evidence to illustrate why more equal representation of women is advantageous – socially and economically. Companies make more money with more diverse leadership teams. Nations are more productive with greater female workforce participation rates.
Yet almost every day it seems there is new evidence to illustrate how far from that objective we are. Whether it’s the pay gap increasing to its widest in 20 years or a comment by the Federal Education Minister that women won’t earn high salaries as dentist and lawyers, it’s clear men and women aren’t equal.
Whether it’s a study that shows one in two Australian women experience pregnancy discrimination or yet another abysmal and fatal episode of family violence, it’s clear men and women aren’t equal. Whether it’s an offensive headline revealing pervasive double standards or an important speech about sexism being dismissed, it’s clear men and women aren’t equal.
And it’s sobering. But it’s certainly not cause for complacency which was the realisation that ultimately snapped me out of my malaise. Continuing to write and talk about gender inequality might not bring about change but what is the alternative?
For those of us who are invested in the cause, for better or worse, it’s beholden on us to write or talk or do as much as we possibly can to shine a light on sexism and gender inequality. Even if change seems glacial and our efforts futile, the standard we walk past is the standard we accept. If we want change, which we do, doing something is far better than doing nothing.
On Monday night I was on Helen Dalley’s television program on Sky News with the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick to discuss feminism and Emma Watson’s UN speech. Before we went on air I asked Elizabeth how she maintains her passion and drive. She commented that on a day-to-day basis it can seem like very little is changing but when she steps back it’s possible to see change is underway.
She also said how important it is to engage with the individuals – men and women – in our everyday lives to create change in this realm. We each have the ability to challenge stereotypes and the unconscious biases we see, if we take them.
In short, you won’t be hearing from me on these issues any less. In fact, because of some changes here at Women’s Agenda, you’ll be hearing from me more.
Do you ever use conversations with your family or friends to discuss gender equality?