We’re constantly being told what we can and can’t do, where we’re allowed to go, at what age we’re allowed to go places. And it may be frustrating, but we allow it because it’s external. But, at least we always have the ability to control our internal things.
Or do we…
We all think we have control over things that WE choose. Things like our role models. But what if we actually didn’t? Think about it – how many guys have women role models? Yet how many girls have male role models? Now hear me out. I get the automatic reaction that girls want to be like girls and guys want to be like guys, I do. But actually think about it. How come no one would blink an eye if a young girl had a poster of Barack Obama, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, but it would be so wrong if a young boy had a poster of Hilary Clinton, Beyoncé, or Ivanka Trump solely because they looked up to them? Yeah, I know – the realisation of how true that is, is frustrating.
Now I don’t want to preach, far from it. I get that we still have a long way to go in business as women. The fact that the percentage of senior managers throughout the world that are women is still only 24% in 2012 is a little more than just depressing. But the fact that children feel, be it subconscious or not, that they have restrictions on who their role models can be. That my friend, is extremely depressing.
Now contrary to what most of you are thinking, I do not think that the answer is to push for more businesses to hire women and to promote women as incredible role models. I just want successful women to be promoted as equally as men, and to be viewed as a good role model for both boys and girls. I think a lot of the time those extra pushes actually do the complete opposite. Take the awards for companies that hire a lot of women: “Top Employer for Women”. Fantastic! I think it’s great that women know which companies they can work for that will not discriminate against them, really I do. But what about the other extreme? Are men more intimidated by companies that are the “Top Employers for Women” because they feel they may get overlooked for not being a women? Or maybe that the female managers will be this crazy, media induced version of a feminist? Or that the entire office culture will be a replication of the Stepford Wives? That is not what we want!
But it all starts with education. Not of the masses and not that your company hires the most women or has the most women in senior management roles, but of equality. Equality in the office, in our everyday lives and in our role models. Educate your own kids, other children, people that you care about. And one day, maybe just one, we’ll be able to take over the world enough to have our posters on walls of people who look up to us.
University of Alberta