Skip main navigation

Summary on gender diversity and allies

Women face more barriers in the business world than men, they generally get paid less, and are less likely to get promoted. Sign up to find out more.
Human crowd forming gender equality symbol on white background. Horizontal composition with copy space.

I hope you found the podcasts in the last three steps of interest, and that you recognised some of what was discussed. Often there is not a crystal clear divide in terms of gender challenges – i.e. some men will have similar challenges to women, etc – however there is definitely enough data to support the views I have expressed in the podcasts.

Women do face more barriers in the business world than men, they do generally get paid less, and they are less likely to get promoted than a man of the same ability. Women also do create barriers for themselves, in general more than men do, in terms of career progression. And women are seen to represent all women in a board or leadership position, whereas men simply represent themselves. We see this particularly starkly in politics and the language used to describe women and men. To start with, women are often commented on in terms of their gender, when not necessary. And then the adjectives and nouns used are generally ‘more inappropriate’, or negative, than those used for men. Women’s indiscretions and misjudgments are generally viewed more harshly than those of men.

So what do we do about this as leaders? We need to call out poor and unfair behaviour, and we need to become allies for those who cannot defend themselves (it’s very difficult for a woman to defend women – and much easier for a man to do so). The allies concept is popular in the LGBTQ+ world, and can be applied to any area of diversity/discrimination. A leader will ensure they build allies to support those who are under-represented or mistreated, and we often see corporates allocating senior leadership to head up networks and other support groups.

I say it is difficult to defend yourself or your own ‘group.’ But there are exceptions, such as a wonderful speech given by Julia Gillard in 2012, then first female Prime Minister of Australia, which has been said to have transformed the treatment of women in politics in Australia, and was also voted ‘most unforgettable moment in TV history’ by an Australian poll. If you get a chance to listen to it, please do. Otherwise here is a transcript of the opening part, which demonstrates Gillard’s clever use of language and her careful preparation to deliver something very powerful. She references herself, and then government (which gives her greater authority) as not accepting the opposition’s words. And she uses factual, recorded evidence to make her case, which cannot be refuted.

“I rise to oppose the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and in so doing I say to the Leader of the Opposition: I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not.

And the government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man — not now, not ever. The Leader of the Opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office.

Well, I hope the Leader of the Opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation, because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives; he needs a mirror. That’s what he needs.

Let’s go through the opposition leader’s repulsive double standards when it comes to misogyny and sexism. We are now supposed to take seriously that the Leader of the Opposition is offended by Mr Slipper’s text messages, when this is the Leader of the Opposition who has said, and this was when he was a minister under the last government — not when he was a student, not when he was in high school, when he was a minister under the last government.

He has said, and I quote, in a discussion about women being underrepresented in institutions of power in Australia, the interviewer was a man called Stavros, the Leader of the Opposition says: “If it’s true, Stavros, that men have more power, generally speaking, than women, is that a bad thing?”

And then a discussion ensues and another person being interviewed says, “I want my daughter to have as much opportunity as my son,” to which the Leader of the Opposition says: “Yeah, I completely agree, but what if men are, by physiology or temperament, more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?”

Then ensues another discussion about women’s role in modern society, and the other person participating in the discussions says, “I think it’s very hard to deny that there is an underrepresentation of women,” to which the Leader of the Opposition says, “But now, there’s an assumption that this is a bad thing.” This is the man from whom we are supposed to take lectures about sexism.”

It is worth pausing to go over this speech a few times, and note how Gillard is immaculate in her argument, and authentic (she wrote notes as the opposition leader spoke, and the speech was a response to what he said, although as she used extensive quotes she must have prepared something in advance of course). She didn’t have time to plan this all out exactly, although she probably could guess some of what the opposition leader would say, but her passion, when combined with that authenticity, and vision for inclusion and equality, resulted in something amazingly powerful.

This article is from the free online

Applied Leadership and Self-Development: the Final Steps to Mastery

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now