So I’ve come to the end of my programme of training with The Women’s Organisation in Liverpool and it was really nice to receive a certificate too. Just to explain though, to the people who have asked me, ‘is there a men’s organisation,’ there is still a lot to do before we reach equality, which it why we still need organisations like this.
“More than twice as many men than women are self employed: 14% of men, 6% of women”
You really have to ask yourself, what aspirations do I have, what have I learned from my parents, books, television and films about the role of women in society? For me it all starts with the books you read as a child, where the heroes were men and all the girl could aspire to was getting married to a prince. Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, think about it, you are taught that the best a woman can hope for is to be beautiful, so a man will rescue her.
The films of the 1980’s, how many featured a woman as the lead character? Blade Runner, Karate Kid, Top Gun, Back to the Future, Ghost Busters and Raiders of the Lost Ark – erm I’m struggling to find one. Get to the 1990’s and you have Pretty Woman and don’t get me wrong, I do love the film but it’s the same plot as the books I read as child, the man saves her from that world because she’s beautiful.
“Women in full-time work currently earn an average of 15% less per hour than men”
You might think this is a stretch but think about it, everything we read and see effects our perception of ourselves and this also impacts on our ambitions too.
Women have always been capable of achieving great things in all areas of business, that is not up for debate, but there are still not that many women at the top and you’ve got to ask yourself, is it because of a lack of confidence or a lack of aspiration to achieve this level of success? We needed more positive female role models perhaps?
When I put together a short film on women in business in the Baltic, I met a number of very impressive business women and each one of shared stories of sexism in the workplace including Becky at Constellations/Hinterlands who gets asked by customers if they can speak to the manager and myself, who was once asked by a client to make them a coffee while they waited to see their advertising agency account manager – I was there as their account manager – of course I made the coffee and then introduced myself.
I’m not blaming the people who ask those questions because we all make assumptions, based on stereotypes we have formed in our heads. I’m just saying that we all need to keep challenging those stereotypes and assumptions.
The good news is every day that we’re successfully running a business we’re helping to challenge the aspirations we had as children. You’re writing your own story now and importantly, you’re helping all the women and girls around you to develop positive beliefs and aspirations for their own future. So perhaps there will be a day when The Women’s Organisation – who try to redress the balance – doesn’t need to exist, but we’re certainly not there yet.