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Are You Sexist? 'No' Is Not a Good Enough Answer...

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 14/03/2016 Kate Savage
TRANSGENDER © Meriel Jane Waissman via Getty Images TRANSGENDER

I saw a powerful video recently about the difference between 'non-racist' and being 'anti-racist', and how the two are very different things.
It's a very important message but just in this instance, I'm not going to touch on race or religion - frankly, my blog is not long enough and my soapbox needs a rest.

But I did see, very clearly, how this concept could be applied to workplace diversity - for this conversation, and for #internationalwomensday, specifically gender diversity.

Being pro-diversity does not automatically make you anti-sexist. Forgive me, but feminism is getting too many column inches at the moment and always sparks another debate. What I'm talking about is gender diversity and the negative (incarnation) of that is being 'sexist' - confronting I know, but there it is. So in the workplace we're talking about someone who claims to be 'non-sexist', and someone who is anti-sexist. And we're talking about men and women here.

Briefing someone to do a diversity audit does not make it ok to then hire five white middle-class guys in a row. Having a woman on the board doesn't mean you haven't got a boys club across the wider agency.

And I quote, "Don't worry about her, she'll be leaving to have babies soon anyway," (just one example I've heard in the boardroom).

Being sexist would be saying or agreeing with this.

Being non-sexist would be to laugh nervously, walk out and not do anything about it.

Being anti-sexist (whether you're male or female) is saying, "That is wrong. I think we should consider her regardless." Actively make sure this is followed through. Hell, if this type of comment is not unusual, maybe tell HR.

It's not about male or female, being difficult, being a feminist or offending the boys club.

It's just the right thing to do.

I believe in equality. I don't believe in quotas. I believe in the best person for the job. Parity.

But boys clubs exist, they exist for a reason(s) and the quickest way for equality and parity to exist is for the head boys (and girls) to recognize this and start to be anti-inequality, rather than just thinking (and believing) "I'm not sexist so it's ok."
Ask yourself this:

  • Did you ever think girls are more likely to do the 'office housekeeping'?
  • Do males and females at the same level in your organisation get paid the same?
  • Are you consciously making your hiring process female-friendly?
  • Do you ever make or think stereotypical comments? (Even if you 'don't really mean them')
  • Are you biased towards certain people?
  • When you inevitably talk about how important your culture is - are you sure you mean a diverse culture, or one where everyone you employ is someone you'd want to have a beer with?


Changing an entrenched culture is the toughest challenge you will face.
The historical gender imbalance in our industry's organizations has bred a challenging culture for females under a general assumption that the obstacles to their advancement are often inevitable or insurmountable.
Our research in 2013 revealed an alarming 74% of women in our industry claimed they had been treated differently in the workplace because of their gender.
From crude and sexist remarks, to exclusion, being paid less, and not receiving support due to having children, the figure encompasses a broad but common set of realities for females, which reflect a dated and restrictive environment.
But you can determine what is acceptable. And you can change perceptions of what is possible.

Ref: The Communications Council (@CommsCouncil)

Take some of the budget from the Christmas party and the annual presentation skills training to:
Educate yourself.
Educate your staff.

Then walk the talk, talk the talk. Don't wear the 'Diversity Policy' like a badge of honour, be "Anti".

Attitudes
Behaviour
Salaries
Opportunities
Language
Benchmarks
Development

Sounds simple doesn't it?
Ask yourself, are you sexist? And remember 'No' isn't a good enough answer...
Make your #pledgeforparity today and make sure you're not one of the 'non' people letting equality go under the radar.

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