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The long road to gender balance

By Emily Morris 6 August 2014 42

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Katy Gallagher addressed the National Labour Women’s conference on the weekend, talking as the most senior elected member of the Australian Labor Party.  Her core message was ‘women can and do make a difference.’  I wholeheartedly agree.  But it’s going to take a massive mindshift in our society to draw a better balance for women who happen to be mums in finding career success.  Maybe one day a women’s conference won’t be necessary.

With Mike’s post last week, I have been thinking more about women and ambition in Canberra.  Mike threw open a question around the gender pay gap and whether it exists.  Yes it exists.  Yes, I’ve experienced it.  But for me it’s less about the money and more about the opportunity.

Back in a time long ago (or so it feels) before I had children, I started a Women’s Network for the European staff of an international bank.  It sounds more impressive than it was.  It was mostly an opportunity for women to share their stories on success and sacrifice.  For me, it was a way to pick the brains of our older female leaders on how they had found success whilst managing a family.  I wanted the answers and they came usually in the form of having a trusted Nanny, asking family for help, making space in the diary for time with the kids, being disciplined etc.  But they were all questions we asked of our women leaders who were mothers.  I never asked a male leader how he got where he was whilst being a father.   

I do recall being wide eyed and full of career hope when listening and confident that my career could take centre stage along with my children when I fell pregnant with my first daughter.  I felt that right up until it came time to return to work. 

In many ways we have it easy in Canberra.  We are not blighted with long commute times and have (when we can find it) access to good child care.  The space where I feel it all falls down is the old fashioned, hard worn views of a woman’s role.  For many of my friends, they work in busy jobs, have a young family and a home.  These are smart women  – intelligent and well educated in their late 30’s and (ahem) early 40’s and yet the majority of the roles within the home and involving the kids still fall on their shoulders. 

I’m sick of hearing about ‘working mums’.  I never hear about ‘working dads’ – they’re just working.  Or, mums needing childcare.  Surely (and I do fully understand that it isn’t always the case that we are talking about two parents involved in a child’s upbringing), parents need childcare.  Surely, it should have just as much impact on a man as a woman when they can’t secure childcare.  And yet it doesn’t.

These days, I see far more participation from dads.  At pre-school pick ups, dropping kids at day care on their way to the office.  And that is awesome.

I firmly believe that as women and men, we can have it all.  But we can’t have it all at once.  I do believe that when there are young children involved, someone needs to lower the throttle on their career to be the go to person for illness and those in between pick up stints.  I don’t however believe that this should always fall to a woman.

I long for a day when businesses run interviews and make no differentiation between a man and a woman at a stage of life where they are likely to consider having children.  I long for the day that the responsibility is truly split.  That as a community we truly take a step back and wait to hear how that family will play it out.

I am a woman and I am a mother.  Keeping house, managing the kids and putting dinner on the table is not my sole responsibility.

What’s Your opinion?


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The long road to gender balance
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VYBerlinaV8_is_back 3:12 pm 11 Aug 14

Maya123 said :

Saying people should not have presumptions made about them is not at all strange. If someone applies for a job; don’t say because this person is male or female they won’t be able to do the job. Look at their qualifications, training, references, etc. Treat all applicants equally, until the normal facts of the interview process and speaking to referees, etc prove otherwise. It is not only gender that counts here, but race, age, etc. Even if statistically one sex tends to favour certain lines of work (for whatever reason), it is not a reason to presume that those of the other sex who want to do this work can’t do it. Don’t presume they can’t, (because perhaps you don’t know any female cabinet makers or male childcare workers; whatever), they can’t do the job and dismiss them.
My request here is simple and easy to understand. I don’t know why you are having a problem with this. I can only think it comes down to prejudice.
Don’t be presumptuous about an individual’s abilities because of gender, age, etc, until you actually know that individual is not as good as another applicant.

It has always been my contention that we treat people equally, but be open to the fact that people have differences. It is these differences that allow people to excel at various different things.

For some reason you think this is ‘presumption’. It’s not. At no point have I suggested hiring decisions be made on the basis of gender, that is all you. The post above relates mostly to this, and yet does not respond to my comment. I am not ‘presuming’ anything, and have explained this.

I maintain that until we can accept that different people have different strengths, weakness and characteristics (based partly on gender and a range of other factors), yet all are equal, that we will continue to fall into the trap of assuming that equality equals sameness, which does advance the cause of genuine, effective equality.

On a slightly different note, the staff hiring example brings up the issue of where discrimination is, in fact, quite permissble and normal. It is normal to discriminate on the basis of qualifications, skills, experience and reference reports. I guess this is because there is an assumption that things like qualifications, skills, etc are the results of individual efforts, even thought we know the things we shouldn’t discriminate on influence these.

Maya123 12:46 pm 11 Aug 14

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

Maya123 said :

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

Maya123 said :

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

Maya123 said :

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

The bit that many people just don’t get is that ‘equality’ doesn’t mean ‘same’. We see too much of trying to turn men into women and women into men. They’re different, but complement each other. In a strong and productive relationship they can be truly equal, and we need to extend this to the ways in which we interact with each other. Then we’ll see real and meaningful equality.

“We see too much of trying to turn men into women and women into men.”
How about just consider them all people.

Because one of the causes of gender imbalance is pretending that females and males are the same. They’re not. They have different characteristics and different strengths. De-identifying people from who they really are is not equality, it’s just shallow polictical correctness and I think it gets us nowhere.

It is that attitude that leads to presumptions and discrimination. Not all females are the same; not all males are the same. People should be considered on their strengths and weaknesses as individuals, not as some presumption (or want) you are making.

The only presumption here is being made by yourself. At no point have I said that all females are the same, nor that all males are the same. I said that males and females have strengths and characteristics that make them different from each other. I maintain that de-identifying people is a backward step. Being able to separate the concepts of ‘different’ and ‘equal’ is absolutely key.

I quote you: “Because one of the causes of gender imbalance is pretending that females and males are the same. They’re not. They have different characteristics and different strengths.”
And that’s not presumptuous! And another comment from you: “I said that males and females have strengths and characteristics that make them different from each other.” How are these comments not presumptuous? Please explain.

This is a really strange response, Maya. Males and females are quite different. That’s not a presumption, is based on a heap of publicly available research.

I’m sure you know where to find google if detailed studies are what you want.

I am firmly of the belief that humans are all equal. I also believe some have different strengths and weaknesses based on a range of characteristics, one of which is gender. It’s important to remember, though, that generalising is dangerous and although recognised tendencies can be observed, you can’t automatically attribute any such tendencies to an individual.

I’m still not sure of your concern here. Perhaps you could explain your position more clearly?

Saying people should not have presumptions made about them is not at all strange. If someone applies for a job; don’t say because this person is male or female they won’t be able to do the job. Look at their qualifications, training, references, etc. Treat all applicants equally, until the normal facts of the interview process and speaking to referees, etc prove otherwise. It is not only gender that counts here, but race, age, etc. Even if statistically one sex tends to favour certain lines of work (for whatever reason), it is not a reason to presume that those of the other sex who want to do this work can’t do it. Don’t presume they can’t, (because perhaps you don’t know any female cabinet makers or male childcare workers; whatever), they can’t do the job and dismiss them.
My request here is simple and easy to understand. I don’t know why you are having a problem with this. I can only think it comes down to prejudice.
Don’t be presumptuous about an individual’s abilities because of gender, age, etc, until you actually know that individual is not as good as another applicant.

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