Talking privilege and gender

Talking privilege is a blog series for MiQ employees to discuss different kinds of privilege and the ways they affect work and life in general. Privilege can be a hard topic to discuss. Many people who benefit from privilege on a daily basis aren’t aware their privilege exists. And people with less of the unearned power that privilege affords often have less power within their business too.

We started this blog series to reflect on the different types of privilege we all need to be aware of in MiQ, in our industry, and in society at large.

 

By Rebecca Rosborough, Chief Marketing Officer, MiQ

Gender and privilege is a topic I’m passionate about. Let me explain why. I grew up in a lower working-class household. Because of my social-economic environment, I didn’t have access to the same opportunities that other children who grew up in higher economic environments had. But as I forged my way into the working world, building my career as a young woman, I realized that although I held privilege – I grew up with a roof over my head, food on the table every day, I received a university education – the dominance of men was clear in virtually every aspect of modern (working) life. (For the sake of transparency, the experiences I describe are not in my current role at MiQ). On more occasions than I wish to remember, I was made to feel like the “token” female in the room and not an active participant within the decision-making process. I was there to tick a corporate box rather than being seen for my own merit, value and opinions. While this had a wide impact across many facets, the most crushing is how separated and lonely that made me feel. And when I chose to rally against this, I was told I was too aggressive. For a long time it meant I was second-guessing raising my hand, and it made me wary of being the first person to comment or raise an objection, for fear of being singled-out or it weakening my reputation in the company.

And throughout all this, what struck me the most was how many men were oblivious to this. That’s the problem. Often those who are in positions of power and influence are unaware of their privilege – be it because of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, wealth, physical fitness, safety, or educational attainment. Prof Michael Kimmel put it best when he said,

“Privilege is invisible to those who have it.”

But those who “differ from the norm” are always being made aware of their difference, whether it is LGBTQI+ employees being paid less or not being promoted equally to their straight peers, or those from working class backgrounds entering high-status occupations earning nearly 20% less than those from privileged backgrounds or that according to research 25% of women will experience sexual harassment in the workplace.

Despite the still very evident challenges that women face, I’m amazed that some people believe the gender imbalance is an issue which has been “dealt with”, that it’s somehow a thing of the past, rather than something which causes difficulties for women every day. Just take a look at some of these statistics:

  • The  New York Times reported that there are more male CEOs named David than total female CEOs in the United States
  • According to the WEF, it is going to take at least another 108 years to close the gender pay gap
  • Only 6 countries in the world give women equal legal work rights as men
  • A Washington Post poll showed that 54% of women have experienced unwanted sexual advances and 30% said it involved a man at work

And the list goes on…

But despite these disheartening numbers, many men still show a lack of interest or don’t attend those gender workshops and sessions that their business puts on for their employees. Why is that? For me, it goes back to Prof Kimmel’s theory that privilege is invisible. Men believe that the playing field is nearly level (and so good enough), and that “gender” is synonymous with “women”.

If we are truly to strive for gender equality, then gender has to be as important to men as it is to women. Men need to understand that gender equality is not only the right thing to do as human beings, but it benefits both personal and business life. Those businesses that have gender parity perform better, have higher returns on investment and have happier workforces. And at home, when men share housework and childcare, their children do better at school, are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and childhood depression and they have happier and healthier marriages.

For me personally I’m lucky to work for a business where gender equality is top of mind. But for me the legacy of the past remains and makes me keep up the daily fight against those past behaviors that acted as a weighty barrier against making my voice heard.

These experiences and considerations continually urge me to be vigilant in supporting anyone else in this situation. But almost more importantly it’s made me determined to remove as many barriers as I can, to talk openly on these topics and be approachable. Leaders must shed this perceived need to appear flawless. We must lead the charge in openly discussing the good and the bad – and also admitting that some answers may not yet exist. Listening and talking about challenges helps to normalize and create broader acceptance and belonging. A culture of courage is imperative to bring this about, and it’s vital that this is encouraged across all groups and with all peers.

In order to grow a truly inclusive and diverse workforce, particularly in a rapid-growth industry such as ours, we must all be aware that the required resource, but also investment from every individual, is huge. Cultivating fairness and parity at an innate level needs frequent consideration, reconsideration and outside counsel to even be attempted, and while we do address this issue every week as the MiQ board, we know more can be done. And it will be.

If you would like to read the Privilege & Race blog post by Kayode Ijaola, Group Trader Manager, MiQ, follow this link.