I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard a male leader mention his daughters to justify his position on gender equality.
“As a father of daughters,” it usually begins, before going on to express a desire for them to grow up with the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
If they’re speaking at an event or on a panel, the line will usually generate a collective groan from the women in the audience, or at least a few subtle eye rolls.
I watched Scott Morrison make the point on ABC’s 7:30 a couple of weeks back, in order to sidestep a question on what the Turnbull Government is doing about the stalled progress for women on boards.
Here’s what he told Leigh Sales, when asked if the lack of women on boards was a result of sexism or a boy’s club:
Well I hope it’s not one of those things…As a father of two daughters, I want them to grow up in a country where they’ll be able to realise every ambition that they have, and that includes the job they want to have, working in the employment they want to do, and if they want to become a director or a pop star…
Over the past couple of days, we’ve heard it come up over and over again regarding concerns for women’s safety, following the ousting of Harvey Weinstein as the international man of disgusting predatory behaviour.
This is what Matt Damon (pictured above) told Deadline.
Look, even before I was famous, I didn’t abide this kind of behavior. But now, as the father of four daughters, this is the kind of sexual predation that keeps me up at night. This is the great fear for all of us. You have a daughter, you know…
Damon’s comments came following reports he was one of a number of actors to pressure the New York Times into dropping a story on Weinstein’s behaviour back in 2004.
Recently, I heard the ‘as a father of’ line with a bit of a twist while interviewing Ben Webster, for our podcast Work It Out.
We’d brought Ben into the studio to learn more about his insurance company Travel With Jane, which earlier this year announced it’d be offering a 16% discount to any travellers who identified as a women, based on the then national gender pay gap (sorry fellow female-travellers, the discount is now only 15.3%). While it was a great marketing ploy and generated the company plenty of headlines in the process, speaking with Ben it quickly became apparent he was well across the disadvantages facing women in the workplace and was keen to not only address them in his own business, but to also make noise around the issue elsewhere.
During the recording, when Georgie Dent and I asked why and how he’d developed an interest in such issues, we were pleasantly surprised to hear Ben was a father of boys. Indeed, having been so used to hearing fathers use their daughters as their inspiration for engaging in such issues, I’d actually made the assumption Ben would have daughters.
Ben’s boys are still young. He explained that he works flexibly — taking Fridays off to be with them, and that his business runs off a “remote first” policy, meaning his team are often only in the office two or so days a week. He believes the genuine flexibility the business offers has helped him attract the best possible staff, including a tech team that’s 50% female.
He explained that Travel With Jane initially started offering the pay gap discount to start a conversation in the issue. “It won’t surprise you to know a lot of men out there don’t believe the pay gap exists. And we get a lot of feedback with that,” he said.
That “feedback” comes in from all over the world and is often targeted at “Jane”, the character the business uses for online customer questions.
Ben didn’t require the “Daughter Water” to get interested in the gender pay and opportunity gaps. He needed common sense. And it’s working for his business and his family.