Combatting Sexism and Gender Bias – What Can We Do?

In the face of seemingly unending amounts of negativity it can be hard to hold the faith. To keep your own positivity going, to maintain your own confidence in yourself, and to manage the unconscious bias that affects all of us, any gender. To keep believing that one day we will have true gender equality when there will be mutual respect and attention to both genders and the idea of having to legislate to make it happens seems farcial. In part, this post has been provoked by the vitriol heaped on British MP, Diane Abbott. The first female Black MP. Many times I have disagreed with her politics. But the treatment she has received has gone beyond that. Vile racist and misogynistic abuse. And from women, as well as men.

We’re not quite there.

Some time ago I was guest speaker at an RBS women’s event (which included men, I’m happy to report). I was asked, what we can we do? We feel so helpless, so small in the face of such a big task. There were lots of answers I could have given, (not least why you don’t use my RenewYou course to further your cohort of confident women together to challenge the status quo – I resisted).

Instead this is roughly what I said:

We are bombarded with images of what women should or shouldn’t be every single day. Most of these images bear little reality to real women, to us. Those of us of a certain age have been told what are suitable careers for women, and all of us are told what we should look like, what we should wear, etc. Although intellectually we know this to be ridiculous they go deep. Unconscious bias is instilled from a very early age.

Every time I hear a woman criticise another woman in a sexist way for her choices, her style, her body size, her promotion, I weep a little.

We all need to be aware of our own unconscious bias. If we want to make the world a better place we need to make sure 50% of it is getting a fair crack of the whip. Everyone will be better off. Celebrate the achievements of women. Celebrate every tiny step towards a fairer society. Tell women you stand with them when they achieve against the odds. Enjoy and admire the unaverage sized woman in a bikini who has managed to triumph over body fascism and is wearing what the hell she likes; applaud her silently inside for overcoming society’s prejudice. Consider when listening to men speak if you are subconsciously thinking they sound more authoritative than a woman. Don’t judge women by the standards men have set.

We are all different, not better, not worse, but different. We owe it to the next generation to be aware of our own biases and deal with them. I live in hope that the next generation will not have to wade through acres of news to find a reference to a powerful woman, or see photos of international summits where women are featured in a ratio of about 1 to 10 to men, or hear women being criticised for showing emotions. And when fashion pages will feature actual fashion, for all sizes, shapes and genders.

We all need to positively promote gender equality. Up the women!

RenewYou is my one day course for women used by many organisations to help increase gender diversity and have a team of all the talents. You can find out more here.


Posted on June 13th, 2017 by

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