We see this particularly on International Women’s Day, where all of us are called to consider and reflect on gender equality and our role in it.
This is what Washington Post columnist Monica Hesse calls the “Female Relationship Resume”. It sets out a list of women in a man’s life that ‘prove’ he supports women.
The obvious problem is that these are almost always women he is related to. And suggest before he had a daughter or a wife he was complete unaware of gender inequality.
I am cynical of men who point to this resumé, mostly because it is not something I have. But not having this has not hindered my own pursuit of gender equality.
Apart from being born to a woman, I don’t have these relationships. I am a single, childless gay man with only brothers. Gender inequality has never made sense to me, which has only been confirmed by reading the mountains of evidence which highlights this.
And I am still able to fundamentally disagree with discrimination. I’m not convinced this is a particularly high bar for any decent person.
Even if I had a long Female Relationship Resume I think I would struggle to recite it. They are awkward, contrived and suggest an ignorance to the obvious.
Professor Isabel Metz from the University of Melbourne studied this by conducting 40 confidential interviews with male CEOs to understand their drive for gender equality.
She found that men were more likely to act on gender equality if they had a daughter or if they could see the discrimination their wives had experienced.
Of those interviewed, most were what she called “bystanders”, who were largely ambivalent to acting on gender equality.
Alongside this, research from the London School of Economics found that men with daughters are less likely to support traditional gender norms.
Men who primarily point to their Female Relationship Résumé are proudly highlighting their ignorance. They are suggesting that they have ignored other moral and business imperatives for gender equality until it was smack-bang in front of them.
There has been a lot of analysis of why the gender pay gap persists, why women are missing in leadership positions and why social inequalities between men and women continue. Continuously they point out, as recently as last year, discrimination forms a significant part of this.
I fully recognise that people require emotional pulls in order to act on a range of issues, but it strikes me as odd that of the massive amount of evidence that gender discrimination persists that men continue to lean on the women closest to them to open their eyes to it and justify their interest and eventual action.
Put simply: Because you don’t need a daughter to realise gender equality is worth pursuing.
Conrad Liveris is a non-profit executive and economist. He was appointed by the Western Australian Government as an Ambassador for International Women’s Day for 2020.