business meeting

Feminism, Tokenism or Sexism?

Originally posted as LinkedIn article

Well there’s an awful lot in the media about women in authority the last couple of days. Between female bishops in the Church of England and David Cameron’s ministerial reshuffle it’s all we’re hearing. So where is sexism in 2014? Does it still exist? Have things like female only shortlists helped or hindered?

I was very interested to read Dame Stephanie Shirley’s opinion as a female entrepreneur who set up her own company in 1962. She stated that today’s generation of women have it easier compared to then because of the changes in the law but also says that culture still needs to change & this will take time. To see the full article see here: Dame Stephanie Shirley article. She blazed a trail that really made a difference by directly employing other women in positions they wouldn’t have been considered for in other companies.

You know what? I absolutely agree with her, we have got it easier AND there is still work to be done. But that culture change is happening. In Management Today (July/August 2014) Smruti Sriram, CEO of Supreme Creations, says “If there’s discrimination I’ve chosen not to feel it” and that reflects my own attitude. I’ve never knowingly been subject to sexist behaviour. Let’s be clear I’m not talking about my Granda’s friend saying “Y’all right bonny lass”, to me that brightens my day. I’ve never knowingly had a opportunity taken from me, or just as importantly given to me, just because I’m a woman. It may have happened & I just haven’t noticed but in a way doesn’t that take all it’s power away anyway?

Does that mean I’m comfortable accepting sexism exists? Absolutely not! I disagree with it whether it be anti-female or anti-male. If you’re reading this in the future and you’re about to offer me a job just because I’m a woman & not because I’m the best person for the position please don’t because I won’t be happy in your organisation. Only give me the role if I’m absolutely the best person for the role.

So no I don’t agree with positive discrimination towards women because I actually think that empowers the argument that we’re a weaker sex and we can’t break through without help. Culture may take longer to change but virtually every couple I know now share childcare & housework much more than they ever used to. Or the woman has chosen to stay at home with the children, as I did when mine were younger. Has it affected my career? Probably, I’m perhaps a few years behind where I would have been. Do I regret it or feel it’s unfair? No, it was my choice & I’d make the same one again. If I say I was forced into that decision by cultural expectations I’m only undermining my own decision making really. Anyway those years with my children are part of what’s made me who I am, terrible three’s and all!

So what do you think? Have you, male or female, been the subject of sexism? If so how did you deal with it? Or do you feel I’m on the wrong track? Do you think sexism is still rife in our society? I’d love to hear your thoughts.