The double standard for women and men: Part 2

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Continuing on from the last blog… Over the weekend I saw 2 movies…The Danish Girl and The Intern. You couldn’t have 2 more different genres of movies. One is a classic art movie whilst the other was classic American Pulp. Both had been high recommended but I must say the latter left me a little wanting. Despite their polar difference in quality of film…both tackled the topic of gender – from very different perspectives.

The Danish Girl is the true story of a person who is transgender, a woman trapped in a man’s body and how he and his wife (or she and his wife) tackle with the enormity their journey…plus it is 1926 in Copenhagen. Whilst The Intern is a modern day story of a female entrepreneur, wildly successful who is also a wife and mother with a “stay at home” father to look after their daughter.

Both movies challenged perceptions of gender (one way better than the other) and left me thinking about how I see people…both women and men, and the roles that we have. What I find fascinating is our society’s need to put people into boxes…it makes it easier to judge and handle each other I guess but it also means we cannot be our true selves. Why is it that gender defines who we are and our capabilities of task? Why do we need to be defined by them at all?

I am still reading Annabel Crabb’s book the Wife Drought (got lost in a fiction novel but I am back) and she refers to a study done at Stanford University in 2007 where researchers looked at the impact of a person’s marital and child status would have on a starting salary for a new role (reflecting their value to the company). What the research found was that a man married with children would be seen as the most valued and competent and had a starting salary of $150,000 whilst his equivalent female candidate was perceived as less competent and reliable with a starting salary of $137,000; what this shows is how we think of gender despite being in the same “capacity” i.e. employed and with children.

Why is it so? Well without going into the long history of gender studies, in short men are seen as breadwinners and women are the nurturing caretakers of the family and home. This may seem outdated but not much has changed for women other than the fact that there is many more women in the workforce. They still do the lion-share of caregiving and care-taking the house.

I totally didn’t connect with The Intern…because although I would like to think that the stay at home father thing is real…I only know of 1 case in my large-ish network PLUS the evidence shows that there was a bump in the number of stay at home dads just around the time of the GFC and now the number of men who don’t work is back to its minuscule percentage. I know it exists but it is far from being the norm.

Our perceptions need to change…so where is it working? We only need to look at the Nordic countries. Take a look at this great photographic series of Swedish Dads… which shows images that we don’t general see as the norm yet in Western countries…but they give me hope. Furthermore, another country that has got it right is Norway where paid parental leave commenced in 1977 and today 90% of Norwegian fathers take paternity leave. PLUS they do 3 hours of housework/ caring per day whilst women do 3 ½ hours per day…much more equal. It is all interconnected.

Their success in shifting the “norm” gives me hope and faith that perceptions will change but I am still somewhat cynical considering a woman’s worth is not deemed as equal in many aspects of Western society whether it be in work (pay gap), legally and otherwise and even worse in many other non-Western countries. Having said that, this cynicism fuels my passion to affect change. How…well, I am still working on that, keep you posted. By I know with each conversation I have, and with each blog post, each coaching and training session I run, each keynote I give, I am challenging the status quo on how gender is perceived.

Gender equality is a human issue, not a woman’s issue and the sooner we see this, the easier our roles will be with each other, as we will define it for ourselves rather than have others dictate what is the right or wrong thing for a woman or man, mother or father, wife or husband or partner to do. We need to think for ourselves and see what is right for us.

I came across this TED talk just this week – the timing of things is impeccable.

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