As part of International Women’s Day 2019, the Mediaverse team had the privilege of listening to Janet Menzies, Chair of Male Champions of Change.
Janet spoke about the progress we have made in improving gender equality, highlighting how far we’ve come from the days women weren’t allowed to have mortgages, their own bank accounts, or vote. She also focused on how far we still have to go. Stereotypes that hold women back are as prominent in our communities as they are in our workplaces and Janet was emphatic about the importance of challenging these wherever we encounter them. She asked us to consider this in relation to stereotypes that pigeonhole men as well. Why not have 50% representation of men in your organisation’s admin roles, for example?
“Shifting the system not fixing women.”
Male Champions of Change grew out of the belief that while much of the work to get us to where we are now has historically been done by women, progress on gender equality should be everyone’s responsibility. Janet used the example of the simple yet highly effective approach of men in positions of power asking about gender equality when invited to conferences, and holding organisers accountable when panels aren’t diverse.
The contentious issue of merit was one that Janet also raised. While basing employment decisions on the merit of a candidate makes sense, Janet encouraged us to look beyond our initial thoughts and question how we define merit in the first place. Asking what gendered aspects went into definitions of merit often uncovered unconscious biases that those making merit-based decisions were unaware of. If only a small fraction of female candidates are progressing to final recruitment stages, it is worth investigating key selection criteria for unconscious gendered expectations. How much more likely would it be for a man to have been given the career opportunities that are key determinants of a candidate’s suitability?
At Mediaverse, 50% of our team are women, this is even higher at Medianet with 63%, and the benefit we see from this shows how important diverse workplaces are. Our awareness of gender equality helped us reach this point and it’s something we aim to take beyond our working lives into the community.
As Janet asked the audience, “50-50: if not, why not?” If we listen, learn, ask questions and experiment, amazing things can happen.