Gender equality at work: Avoiding the overly optimistic trap


Gender equality at work: Avoiding the overly optimistic trap

The US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, effectively denying millions of women access to abortions, has delivered a disturbing message about the frailty of women's fundamental rights.

This decision has served as a powerful reminder that development is fragmented and many countries have not advanced as far as some might have thought despite the rhetoric about gender equity in a variety of contexts.

This includes numerous companies where the diversity and inclusivity agenda is acknowledged, but where results are still sporadic and its emphasis is despised by many employees, particularly men.

According to Michelle Ryan, director of the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at ANU, the delusion that this struggle has already been won is a major barrier to advancement in the workplace.

In many places of the world, including North America, things are not good.

When I look at what's going on in the US, it's not only that; we are regressing as well. The gradual elimination of women's rights has continued for 18 months since Trump took office, she claims.

We must remain watchful and cannot allow anybody to claim that everything has been resolved... There is severe global stagnation right now.

In fact, assessments of representation in boardrooms, movies, and different professions reveal that men and women regularly overestimate women's representation, as Ryan explained in a recent essay on the subject of Nature.

In one of the studies Ryan worked on, it was discovered that veterinarians who believed sexism was no longer an issue in their field were most likely to pay female staff members less than their male colleagues and provide them with less career possibilities.

According to another study, men who overestimated the number of women working in medicine were the least likely to support programmes promoting gender equality.

The essay demonstrates that those who think that women are overrepresented are the most sexist.

The emphasis on quantity rather than quality and "fixing" women are two additional typical pitfalls that appear in all types of organisations and frequently thwart or stall growth.

While tracking and reporting the number of women employed by a company and at all levels is crucial, it is insufficient.

At this point, when there are several requests for evidence, she says, "there is a need to be able to quantify what we can have as targets and for Workplace Gender Equality Agency reporting."

The report card's tendency to use statistics as a compliance or box-ticking method, which is a minimal degree of activity, is the problem.

"I can understand why it's necessary, but it's a first step that needs to be taken and gives people permission to declare we've hit 50 per cent," the speaker said.

Tracking numbers by themselves might not be able to reveal hidden impediments. She continues, "Simple counts obscure differences in quality and the experience of women."

There are a lot of women working in areas where women predominate, but they also have a lot of issues with salary and working conditions.

According to the renowned "Glass Cliff" study published 15 years ago by Ryan and her colleagues, women are more likely to be chosen for leadership positions that are dangerous or doomed to failure. The "poison chalice" effect also applied to areas other than business.

According to Ryan, the key concern was whether women were receiving the same quality of promotions as males. This issue is now relevant as organisations deal with a pandemic, rising costs, and widening cultural divides.

Additionally, there has been an excessive focus on healing women as opposed to tackling systemic change. Focusing on mentoring or educating a small number of senior women may well benefit that cohort, but bias still exists.

"The way I would put it is that mentoring definitely benefit some people but not others. There is no systemic change as a result. The privileged are the ones who profit, but if the system isn't changed, it won't be sustainable, thus the organisation must keep implementing it in order to effect change.

And it ignores women who are weak. In psychology, we discuss a person's capacity for long-term transformation. Being among other women is wonderful, and although things appear to be changing, they aren't.

Additionally, women are given additional coaching to help them overcome "impostor syndrome," develop their leadership abilities and raise their confidence and ambition.

Ryan writes, "But the data is plain. "Embedded systems of inequality need repair, not women," the author said.

Ryan gives an example, saying that while women don't necessarily lack ambition or confidence, their experiences in unequal working settings might undermine their self-confidence. Being treated differently from male classmates and lacking role models are examples of this.

In a similar vein, Ryan argues that women are not fundamentally risk-averse; rather, they function in systems that reward men for taking risks but penalise women for the same actions.

For a few previously fortunate women, these specifically targeted interventions, at most, offer a temporary solution. In the worst-case scenario, they support the success and leadership presumptions that underpin structural gender inequality.

More than ever, deliberate actions and well-defined objectives are required to guarantee improved outcomes for women, regardless of their occupation or industry. Ryan says that this might involve increasing the visibility and voice of women as well as holding top leaders accountable for the advancement of gender equality by monitoring wages, promotions, and job experiences.

Additionally, it concerns the funding of comprehensive gender equality measures.

There is no time to unwind because Australia's growth has halted on many fronts.

The deterioration of women's rights in the US serves as a reminder of how furiously this fight still rages and of the suffragettes' plea for never-ending vigilance.

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