- Tech & Gadgets
- BRW. lounge
Published 06 August 2012 06:32, Updated 06 August 2012 11:06
Every now and then, after a presentation, The Australian Financial Review’s Corporate Woman columnist Catherine Fox is approached by a young woman who wants to have her say.
Sometimes, the audience member is angry. She has heard something she doesn’t agree with. Things that don’t sit well with her own experience.
Fox is a frequent speaker on gender politics and has spent the best part of an hour using the best data available to show how women are still – after all these years – discriminated against in the workforce.
But some women and men don’t believe it.
“I can honestly say, I have never been discriminated against on the basis on being a woman,” they will often tell Fox.
And that is the problem with basing your beliefs on only your own experience.
You may be a successful woman, who has a rational explanation for any backward step you have ever had to take. Or you may be a man who would never countenance discrimination of the basis of gender, race, religion or disability.
But the data tells a different story.
“Women are still paid less, are far more likely to be in insecure casual work, have far less superannuation, and are still over represented in lower paid and low skilled ranks and sectors,’ writes Fox in her new book 7 Myths About Women and Work.
“And they still do 80 per cent of the housework.Their efforts are judged differently and, unlike the range of behaviours deemed valid for men in the workplace, women are restricted to a much narrower band of acceptable options, which can be confusing and punitive.”
This is an unwelcome message for young women who have been told to shoot for the stars.
And it is hard to understand why this situation still exists when women now make up 45 per cent of the paid workforce and excel at school and at university.
It is also difficult to argue a case against discrimination when some myths against women and work are so entrenched in our society that they are mistaken as truths.
Which is why Fox has written her latest book (her third). It is a handy ready reckoner for anyone who wants a clear-eyed look at what the situation really is for working women in this country and provides the ammunition for a healthy debate.
The seven myths that Fox busts are:
Fox makes the point that it is not a matter of men conspiring against women, but a problem of the system, particularly in business, that is proving difficult to change.
“Success and leadership are narrowly defined and tied to a classic set of alpha male characteristics and extreme worker norms,” she says.
That is not to say that extreme views do not still exist. If you question that sexism is alive and thriving, you need only to look at the sometimes murky world of online gaming – a world where prejudice runs rampant.
On games such as World of Warcraft, female players are routinely harassed and subjected to hate speech.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, Anita Sarkeesian started a campaign in May to raise $6000 to document how women are portrayed in video games.
“Her YouTube and Facebook pages were flooded with hate-filled comments. People tried to hack her online accounts. Sarkeesian responded by documenting the harassment, posting online the doctored, pornographic images of herself that her detractors had created,” writes the journalist Amy O’Leary.
“Supporters of her efforts, aghast, donated more than $US150,000, further angering the critics. A man from Ontario created an internet game where players could ‘punch’ her, layering bruises and cuts on her image till the screen turns red.”
You may wonder what this World of Warcraft behaviour has to do with the world of work.
Well, these attitudes do not go away when the players log off and go to work or school. A person who thinks it is acceptable to harass or threaten a woman online does not suddenly become all things fair when he puts on a tie.
It is useful to remember that, even in civilised environments, there are some people whose attitudes still belong in the Dark Ages. Just hope that one of them is not your manager.