I believe we are still a long ways off from women’s equality in the workplace. We assume (often mistakenly) that in this progressive era, most issues of social injustice such as women’s equality have been addressed and rectified. This attitude puts us at risk of looking the other way even when such injustices persist, and makes us complacent in our own assumptions.
My generation (millennials) think they are better, more tolerant than their predecessors. If you ask a guy around my age (20-30) if he thinks he women are treated equally at work, odds are he will say yes, or even cop to being a “feminist” (whether or not he understands the full implications of the word). Men can say they support women all they want, but until I see it in action, and until I hear from my female friends that they feel supported, or god forbid, EMPOWERED by their male colleagues, I think we are still a long ways off. At my own jobs I’ve seen girls taken less seriously than their male counterparts, made to feel like second-class citizens while the “guys” handle real business. And when I look back, I can see I’ve been guilty of this myself. There’ve been times where I’ve let in a male co-worker on a promising new deal, just out of a baseline level of comfort I feel in working with other men.
In some situations, our generation can even be worse than our predecessors. If you bring a group of young guys together who are especially “bro-ey”, it can create a type of insiders club where women are made to feel excluded and in order to gain admittance, have to act according to the cultural norms created by their male colleagues. The standard of acceptance and success then becomes one created by men for men. The men involved may not even realize it unless they are consciously and proactively examining the cultures at their companies. I’ve also heard from female friends about instances where their male bosses will tell them that they want them to succeed, but their conduct indicates almost the opposite. And if they voice concern, or even seem disgruntled, the blame is placed on them for feeling that way, never on the the men will attribute it to a “bad mood”, or to their “being a woman”. The truth is most men still don’t know how to speak to women so that they truly feel like equals. And more importantly, these are significant obstacles that men never really have to deal with or think about.
So why am I writing this now, especially when much has already been written on the topic by people far more qualified? The primary reason is that it makes me sad to see so many of my incredibly talented and wonderful friends, who also happen to be women, struggle to succeed in industries that continue to be dominated by men. We are not having this conversation regularly enough, businesses don’t examine it closely enough, and because men still hold on to the highest positions of power, structural inequality persists. Take my industry (entertainment). Besides the fact that there are still so few female directors and tv show runners, the business side (which is perhaps more important since those are the people doing the hiring) is still male-dominated. Look at the big media conglomerates. Sumner Redstone (a man) runs Viacom. His heir apparents (Les Moonves, Brad Grey, Phillipe Daumann) are all men. Rupert Murdoch’s son now runs News Corp. Jeffrey Bewkes runs Time Warner, Bob Iger runs Disney, and men in Japan run Sony. Women are absent at the highest levels of decision-making?
I’m tired of the hypocrisy of men SAYING they treat women equally, and having no clue how to talk to women so that they truly feel like equals. And today is a good day to remind ourselves not only of our far we’ve come, but how far we still have to go.