Over the last few weeks I’ve seen posts like this one on HuffPost and J Law’s rant on Lenny talking about women in our society, whether we’re represented at the top and what we’re being paid compared to our male colleagues.
Everyone’s clamouring that we’re not doing enough and there should be more women in high/authoritive positions, and I don’t disagree, I really don’t, there should be more women in top roles. However, I feel like half the reason that it “hasn’t happened yet”, as so many people bemoan, is because this only started being a real REAL focus in the last 5 -10 years. Probably closer to 5. It hasn’t happened yet because it takes TIME TO WORK to those positions. Merkel is 60 or so right? Most leading politicians are in their 40s or 50s, that means they were born in the 1960s or 1970s when the roles and views of women were starting to change but only in certain circles. These people were born into a world with a very different mindset about the role of women compared to the mindset of the world today on this same issue.
We live in an age where people expect to get things instantly, and we don’t see why we can’t have gender equality instantly. But changing mindsets isn’t an instantaneous thing. Changing mindsets is a long process. It takes decades. Centuries even. How many years did women fight for the right to vote in the way we so often take for granted now? It wasn’t an overnight movement. It took years of protesting and petitioning. It took people, mostly women, making huge, bold moves in the hope something might change this time. Votes for women wasn’t something that was a success within a few years.
To take the UK as an example, modern campaigning for women’s right to vote started in the 19th century. The movement that would become the Suffragettes was born in 1903 but it took 15 years and a World War before Britain let women have the vote. And that was on the condition they owned property and were over 30. It was another 10 years after that before British women could enjoy the same voting rights as British men. Some countries, like Finland, were decades ahead. Others took much longer to adopt gender equal voting rights.
Will It Ever Happen?
As a generation who expects to get things straight away, if something doesn’t happen in the next five minutes we wonder if it could ever happen. We forget that sometimes things don’t happen in the blink of an eye but more in the gestation of an embryo. If something doesn’t happen now, our generation questions whether it’s going to happen at all. This morning’s newspaper is the lunchtime chip paper before it makes it out of the newsstand. Only, no one eats chips in paper anymore. A better analogy would be this morning’s newspaper is lining the cat litter tray by noon.
So yes, we need more high profile powerful women. Women like Hiliary Clinton and Angela Merkel. Women like Tina Fey and Jennifer Lawrence who call companies out on the gender pay gap. But remember 20something and 30something feminist supporters (women AND men) – we have grown up listening to people telling girls we can be whoever we want. We can be a president, we can be a CEO, we can earn the same wage as our male counterparts. But yet, as Always so wonderfully pointed out last year in their ad campaign, “like a girl” is a phrase we’ve all grown up with being used as an insult too.
I don’t want to gain a “top position” in a company tomorrow because I am a woman. I want to gain that top position because I worked my way there. Sure, maybe I still have to work harder and longer to get there than my male counterparts. Sure, maybe I still have to face more prejudices on the way there. But I don’t have to work as long or as hard or face as many of the challenges as a woman in my position would have done 40 years ago. That’s progress.
The Gender Imbalance
Stop saying we need to start addressing the gender imbalance. We don’t need to start addressing the gender imbalance because we already ARE addressing the gender imbalance. Things like this take time for it to show out at the very top. It’s not ideal, but that how things go. When my generation are sat there, drawing our pensions, and the gender imbalance/gender pay gap is still like today’s, THEN we have a problem. But I hope and believe, 30 years from now, the girls born today will be confident in their roles and goals and be on the kind of equal standing with their male colleagues that is our dream ideal.
Sure, make a point. Photoshop the men out of photos of political leaders, business leaders and other male dominated professions but stop whining that we’re not doing enough, fast enough. What we’re not doing enough, fast enough right now is making sure people have basic provisions to live. That people in war torn countries can seek refuge in other nations.
And to get back to Feminism or whatever we call this, we’re not doing enough to change attitudes in places where women are still second class citizens. There are countries in the world where women don’t have the same rights to life and freedom as you and I. Where they can’t drive a car, or wear what they like, or choose their husbands or enjoy the same access to education. It’s all very well us Western Europeans or Americans or Australians crying that there aren’t enough women at the top. What about the places where there aren’t enough women at the middle, or even at the bottom? How about we also shout about that too? How about we stand together to raise future generations ACROSS THE GLOBE who value women AND men and embrace the different things men and women can bring to the table precisely because they have different genders?
We don’t need to address the gender imbalance. Rather we need to keep working to change gender mindsets.