INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY 2020

Maybe I am a feminist after all

9 March 2020

Let me start with the elephant in the room.  As a middle aged white  man, I have had a privileged career some of which is a direct result of my gender.  For most of that time I don’t think I really appreciated that.  I qualified just before the number of women entering the solicitor’s profession exceeded the number of men.  My perception was that, in the places where I worked, men and women were treated equally.
Job done.  

However, as I have got older it has become clear to me that my views were to put it mildly superficial and naïve.   The start of the problem is that the world of work is created by men for men.  The way we work and how we reward success is stacked against those who may tolerate rather than share the culture and that is before we get into gender imbalance in relation to maternity and caring responsibilities. 

These structural imbalances are compounded by the different way in which women are treated in the workplace.  The often unconscious bias of treating something said by a man (particularly a middle aged man) with more deference than a woman.  More troublingly, the treatment of women by some men particularly in social settings that has led to what we now describe as the cause of the #MeToo movement.   There are also those, often small, almost imperceptible exchanges that leaves a woman feeling that she does not belong or is not as good as others.  All of these factors operate to drive some out of the workplace and lower the trajectory of the careers of others.

I do regret that it took a while for me to figure all of this out.   I am not sure why I did not think about it more. Having got there, it is now my role to try and do something about it.   While I wouldn’t describe myself as a feminist as it seems to me that I can never fully appreciate what it is to be a woman in the workplace, I am an ally of women and believe in the social, economic, and political equality of the sexes – so maybe I have become a feminist after all. 

I now find myself constantly assessing my own behaviour to ensure that I am not perpetuating the issues I have described above.   I may fail sometimes but I am trying.   It is also incumbent on me to do my small bit to level the playing field.  It is imperative that everyone in the workplace should achieve what they are capable of.  We will get there, but only by working together and appreciating that a society that is truly equal is a moral imperative we all need to share.      

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