It’s great to hear Channel 7 journalist and Sunrise newsreader has never experienced discrimination at work. Especially in the world of television, where we’ve heard so many women share experiences to the contrary.
In an op-ed for the Daily Telegraph today, Barr writes, “Am I the only woman who’s not angry at men? I’m a woman and I’ve never felt discriminated against.”
She follows it up with, “There. I’ve said it”, as if plenty of other women feel the same way but are too afraid to say so. And perhaps plenty of women do.
Barr’s piece is straight to the point, declaring she’s “not angry at men” and can’t recall ever missing out on a promotion to a man. She’s never missed out on the best stories to a man, or felt undervalued on account of not being a man. She’s always believed women are just as good as the opposite sex
Barr seems to infer we’re developing a culture of man-bashing by speaking up about discrimination at work.
When we talk about workplace gender equality we’re not blaming men. Rather, we’re seeking to adjust a system that is so culturally and structurally entrenched it’s proving difficult to change. We’ve been at it for decades, ever since women have been graduating from higher education in at least equal numbers to men.
One in four women have experienced some kind of sexual harassment at work over the past five years, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission. So if you haven’t experienced it, it’s likely one of your colleagues, at some point in their career, has.
Discrimination runs much deeper and broader than sexual harassment and can be difficult to identify. But when I look at the figures, such as the fact that less than 10% of board and senior executive positions on the ASX 500 are held by women, I know there’s something more complex than ‘men holding women back’ that’s going on.
Meanwhile, Barr writes that she doesn’t know what the men at Channel 7 get paid, nor do they know what she gets paid. Women working fulltime on average earn 17% less then their male counterparts according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, so that might be a good place to start in figuring it out.
“I’m starting to wonder if many of us need to find a better drum to beat than the one that blames men for most of our problems,” Barr writes. “Isn’t it about time we took some ownership?”
Women are taking ownership of the issue. We’re talking about it. We’re calling out the fact that in a system that’s supposedly based on ‘merit’ women are still not achieving leadership positions across our business and political institutions at the same rate as men. We’re seeking ways to share and address conscious and unconscious bias at work, push flexible career options, promote the merit of feminine leadership traits and ensure everyone’s aware of the data available to back the fact women’s workforce participation benefits everyone.
We need to understand there are still difficulties facing women at work before we can ever hope to address them. That’s not blaming men. That’s blaming the long-term, socially and culturally entrenched values and norms that continue to determine the way we live and work. And then it’s seeking to change them.