This month the CTM team are thinking about gender discrimination, after a recent episode was reported at Google. The report on Google can be read here. Here’s what our columnist had to say about gender discrimination.
Conscious Thoughts: Reducing Gender Discrimination – Change Your Perception
Sadly, today discrimination is still everywhere. You just can’t seem to get away from it. From the subtle “office banter” to the full blown ignorant ways as shown in the recent discrimination case, reported at Google. There are several reasons it could be argued, as to why gender discrimination toward women seems to be so evident even in 2017. After some thought the top five reasons I came up with are:
- Women are seen as the weaker sex.
- Women are seen as “emotional creatures.” Not built for “men’s work.”
- The age-old classic “it’s a man’s world” view point.
- Women tend to take time out from the work environment, more so than men to care.
- Women tolerate it (discrimination), in fear of losing their jobs.
Looking at these reasons the first four all boil down to perception, or how women are seen clearly by men when it comes to work. When you take this angle and then look at the recent case identified within Google, these theories that link perception to discrimination is clear. The “Anti -Diversity Memo” written by Google’s (former) employee James Damore, clearly highlights the need for attitudes and perception the change, when it comes to women in the world of work.
Damore claims, biological differences conclude why there is a lack of female presence in the engineering field. These biological differences from his point of view mean bluntly, women are not cut out for the job. I’ve never heard something so ridiculous, dated, or narrow minded in my life. Could it be the environment makes women appear they are not cut out for the job instead? It could be argued that the lack of female presence in the engineering field, is down to points one to four a poor perception of women as a whole. In additional women (may) need to take time out to care, however, the industry does not offer the flexibility women may need. Hence the lack of applications or interest, as the overall environment and working conditions are not welcoming. The latter could suggest that women are discriminated against from not only male attitudes, but the nature of the industry itself. So, what can be done?
Firstly, Google are right to terminate this pig-headed man’s contract. After all, Google are a forward-thinking business, rightly so they should distance themselves from such extreme points of view around diversity– if they don’t want bad PR of course. Secondly perceptions need to change in general. Women should not be seen as “less committed” as they have caring duties, “less able” because they are “emotional”, “not cut out for that sort of work.” Blah blah blah the list of negatives is endless.
In the UK, London in particular we have female bus drivers, plumbers and even mechanics in large numbers. From my own experience, I have used all over these trades and been greeted by women! I felt so proud when I’ve opened the door to a female plumber, or had a rescue call out in the middle of winter from a female mechanic, as my car would not start. This is only happening with a change of perception in certain industries and professions. Women are taking up these professions as they are encouraged to, employers are welcoming them.
Second, it could be suggested that Google think about their current practices around working arrangements. Are they suitable not just for women, but any employee with care responsibilities? Do they offer flexible working? Family friendly policies around annual leave? These are things that would increase a female presence, more so than anything, in any work place.
Speaking from my own experience, I took a period of maternity leave and then returned to work. I faced discrimination instantly from my male boss, funny thing was he was my age! Which I could not understand, his view point was very dated. I challenged it (of course), he soon learned to stay in line when it came to me, otherwise he would be up to his eyes wrapped up in discrimination laws I was happy to school him on. If he tried anything “funny” again.
That said, the positive was it was helpful to have the option to reduce, or change my hours for work life balance. Clearly a business needs to put their productivity first, however remember you are nothing without your employees… food for thought to all the employers out there.
In the UK, we have so much legislation around diversity and family friendly policies. Employers (mostly) fall over themselves, to ensure they are not going against any “human rights” employees have. My advice to Google would be to explore this, ensure that you have an environment and working arrangements that are welcoming to women, and anyone who has care responsibilities. This may help attract and retain female employees in mainly male dominated areas such as engineering. Put aside the “biological differences.” This is the biggest myth if ever I heard one, it’s all down to perception and environment.