The main thing that caught my attention today, was a discussion on a main-stream TV news channel that had 3 women passionately debating the various arguments around this subject. Afterwards, the male TV co-presenter commented that he could “wake up now” as they were going to a news clip about the football.
I have recently finished reading a book called “Lean In”, by Sheryl Sandberg – the COO of Facebook. I read it, to try to understand why many women feel so marginalised in the workplace. In an era where there is no statutory bias or deliberate attempt to discriminate against women, I had previously held a view that many women are seeing bias, where there is none. Most sensible senior managers openly encourage the hiring of females in the work-place and believe they treat them as equals.
I have come to realise that many male managers do indeed have an unintended bias against women, forcing female bosses and female staff to avoid acting in a way that would be totally acceptable if they were men, in order to fit in. It is a blind-spot rather than deliberate discrimination, but whatever the intentions are, it is the practical reality that counts!
Just like the male TV host who switched off, when discussing something that is relevant to half the planet, I challenge male managers to look out for signs of unintended biases against females in the workplace. Whatever our views on feminism, true equality of the sexes will only be a reality in the workplace when we no longer find it necessary or relevant to describe a boss or a colleague as “female”. And just like the Beyonce debate, dropping that descriptor should in no way make women feel less feminine!