I grew up surrounded by strong, independent and intelligent women.
My mother, who has multiple degrees, various certificates and raised three children – two of whom had reasonably serious medical conditions as children.
My Nan in Melbourne – who at the age of 65 took herself off to the local pool to learn how to swim. Who still goes to watch North Melbourne play every single week with the blokes.
My Grandma in Sydney who raised three children with a husband who had to work long hours. Who suffered through the loss of two children and still managed to function and enjoy life to the fullest.
My best friend Harnsle – one of the strongest, most intelligent and outspoken women I know who’s forging a path into radio as we speak (go listen to afternoons on 2GB and you might hear her name).
My other best friend Jes – who not only studied Chinese and bravely went to Beijing when everyone else went to Hangzhou, but also worked for a luxury car brand for 2 years.
I also went to a girls’ school for high school. I study a female-dominated degree. And yet if you asked me if I identify as a feminist, the answer would not be a definitive yes.
Well first of all because it’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to. I’m too busy trying to finish uni and work at the same time.
But also because I’m not really a feminist. I don’t join in on the marches, I don’t hold the protest signs. I don’t believe that building women up over men is the solution to the long term gender gap problems.
You know what I think the problem is? It’s not that women aren’t being promoted over men. It’s that women aren’t even applying for the jobs.
Yesterday a friend sent me a job description for a junior marketing role at a sports club. Something I would love to do and would probably be reasonably good at. I looked at the description and my first reaction was “oh I’m not qualified for that.”
Well why not? I have a double degree with a distinction average. I’ve got marketing experience behind me as well as experience in a political office. I’ve completed two internships and studied overseas. I speak two languages. Realistically I could learn quite quickly how to do all the elements of the job. I am the kind of person that pushes other people to apply for jobs they’re probably not ready for.
And yet I hesitated (and no, haven’t applied for it yet. I’m good at telling other people what to do, not doing it myself).
There is a real trend out there of men applying for jobs they’re not quite ready for, and women applying for jobs that they are over-qualified for. Even I wouldn’t apply for a job unless I ticked all of the boxes. Despite all the role models listed above.
In addition to the lack of women applying for high level roles in companies, the underlying issues that we face in the workplace aren’t always pay related. We also have to deal with the lifestyle issues that are very hard to overcome.
It’s that I will have to take time off when I have a child.
It’s that because of this, employers will offer me less money in salary negotiations. They will look at my age and judge how likely I am to need maternity leave in the next five years.
And I know this happens because I have heard these conversations happen around me in workplaces. My thought is always ‘thank God I’m not at that point yet’. But what about when I am?
I choose to believe that the vast majority of men aren’t out to consciously beat women down. They don’t want to pay us less. They want to offer us roles and promotions. They have wives and daughters who they want to build up and break the glass ceiling for.
I’ve already forgotten the point of this blog post but in the end it all comes down to the fact that I’ve decided I don’t identify as anything in particular. I don’t need to identify as a feminist to make sure that women are being promoted and looked after, to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to close the pay gap. Which will probably make all my feminist friends throw their arms up in the air and ask why they ever bothered.
tl;dr for all you lazy people out there – I’m totally qualified to write about this because I work in two of the most male dominated environments ever created (a boys’ school and a political office). Go back and read the post, it’s a good one.