Kristin: Yesterday I attended a breakfast in Adelaide called “Think Women” organised by Women on Boards. The agenda dealt with issues and strategies in relation to gender in the workplace, specifically about pay gaps and cultural norms that act as formal and informal barriers to women reaching senior roles in organisations.
For anyone going “why would that even be necessary, surely it’s a choice not to pursue those type of roles?”, Catherine Fox who writes the Corporate Woman column and is deputy editor of Australian Financial Review’s BOSS magazine took us through 7 career myths that’s she collected in interviewing many CEOs.
The 7 Career Myths on Gender Inequity
- Workplaces are meritocracies: We want them to be, but companies still tend to be formal hierarchies which favour certain types and unwritten rules and norms for progression.
- The gender pay gap is grossly exaggerated. It’s not. An Australian survey in 2009 found an average of 18% pay gaps on the same job, and a shopping 28% gap looking at the same job in financial services. This does not even touch the issues of job segregation where women might tend to work in lower paid industries.
- Women have children and choose to leave their jobs or lose interest in their careers. Catherine notes that the concept of “choice” here is fraught.
- If women behaved more like men at work and stopped being so emotional they would succeed. Catherine noted that workplaces are emotional – people get angry, elated and tired. Inappropriate displays of emotion are perhaps not welcome, but thinking of the workplace as a rational emotionless space doesn’t help either.
- Programs and targets for women in the workplace are unnecessary and unfair. The gender gap is unfair. Having disadvantaged groups n the workplace is unfair.
- Women are scarce at the top because there are just not enough of them in the pipeline. And yet, in Australia, women make up 45% of the workplace, %60 of uni graduates. There is a pipeline of capable women.
- Time will heal all. Yet, it’s not improving gender gaps. Over the last few years, the proportion of women in senior executive and board positions has declined.
Ruta Asimus from Whyte and Coaches also presented a number of strategies for career development, Luella Forbes from SMS Consulting shared her career experiences and Ruth Medd spoke about the value of adding a board role to the CV.
Twitter was mentioned and despite some of the generational differences with social media, it was seen as an effective way to continue to network and to spread information on gender issues more widely (such as the decrease of women in Australia’s House of Representatives following the Federal Election). So I’m not quite sure what to make of this article from PsyBlog which states that “Men are Twitter Leaders” not in terms of participation, but in terms of followers. Do they think influence also? Or is this just another myth?