♫♫ I’m so sick of running
As fast as I can
Wondering if I’d get there quicker
If I was a man.♫♫
………. Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift has the unique ability to capture the zeitgeist of the times. Having just released the video for “If I Were A Man” from her 2019 album “Lover”, I find it a far more appropriate theme for this year’s International Women’s Day than their: “I am Generation Equality”.
Let’s be blunt – we might have made it to “the room where it happens”, but reality is there continues to be a real bias against women who aspire to power. We continue to evoke far more resistance, both overt and subtle, than I would have expected to be the case by now.
My fearless editor, Dennis, questioned why I was covering this topic yet again. To which I responded, continuing with my Taylor Swift theme, we can’t just “Shake it Off”.
When I first watched the video I found it remarkable how Swift’s verses encapsulate the very challenges women continue to face today.
♫♫ They’d say I hustled
Put in the work
They wouldn’t shake their heads
And question how much of this I deserve♫♫
Whenever women are working with men on male gender-typed tasks, men are more likely to be credited for joint successes and women are more likely to be blamed for joint failures.
Research shows women are held to stricter standards for promotion: promoted women’s performance ratings are higher than promoted men, and performance ratings are more strongly related to promotions for women than for men.
♫♫ I’d be a fearless leader
I’d be an alpha type
When everyone believes ya
What’s that like?♫♫
It’s easier for men to be thought of as successful leaders. Referred to as "role congruity", women are stuck between a rock and a hard place because of this. When they conform to female stereotypes they are thought to be poor leaders, but if they adopt stereotypically male characteristics they are penalized.
This was seen in the case of Jill Abramson, the first female executive director of the New York Times, who was fired due to clashes with Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. Her demeanor was criticized as being “pushy”, “stubborn”, “uncaring” and “brusque”. I question if Abramson would have been described in the same way if ♫she were a man♫
♫♫I’m so sick of them
Coming at me again
‘Cause if I was a man
Then I’d be the man♫♫
I’m often asked by my younger female cohorts if I think things will ever change, and I find it hard to answer. I’ve tried to live by the famous first rule of Bill Gates’s 11 Rules you will never learn in School,“Life is not fair – get used to it”
But then I question myself and wonder, that after six decades on this earth, have I become one of those women, described by Rebecca Solnit, author of “Men Explain Things to Me’, “… who are so inured to the task of surviving patriarchy that they can’t break out of the “not that bad/toughen up” framework to acknowledge that, yes, this shit sucks, and it does have an effect on us, and it’s wrong.”
Let’s face it, true parity still looks a long way off when confronted with the cold hard facts:
- Only 23 (or about 3.3%) of TSX-listed Canadian companies had a woman CEO as of July 2018.
- Women represented an average of 15.8% of executive officers in TSX-listed companies as of July 2018. 30% of companies reported having only one woman executive officer and 34% reported having two or more.
- Canadian women held just 25.8% of S&P/TSX 60 board seats in 2017.
- Canada has the fifth largest workforce in Artificial Intelligence (AI), but women make up less than a quarter (24%) of those employed.
We haven’t made quite as much progress as I would have hoped and it’s easy to feel daunted by the task that still lies ahead. But I continue to work to reject that little voice in my head that stokes my insecurities and suggests how I should or shouldn’t behave. And remember:
“ No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”
……. Eleanor Roosevelt