Week in Review: Women in retreat, it looks like
By A. Asohan March 11, 2016
- We’ve got a long way to go in closing the gender gap
- Man are the worse, but some women are no better
MARCH 8 was International Women’s Day (IWD), with the theme this year being Pledge for Parity.
How far we are from parity can be seen in any number of research reports. Public relations (PR) firm Weber Shandwick’s Gender Forward Pioneer (GFP) Index found that only 10.9% of the senior executives of the world’s 500 largest companies are women. It’s worse in Asia Pacific, at only 4%.
This follows other similarly sobering studies, like Mercer’s second annual When Women Thrive global report which showed that we won’t reach any semblance of parity even by 2025: Women will continue to be under-represented in the workforce globally, especially in Asia.
As if the hard numbers were not depressing enough, there are the ongoing prejudices and injustices against women, and continued misconceptions about what the issue is – sometimes by women themselves.
In Malaysia, IWD 2016 was marred by the leader of an Islamist political party declaring that a woman’s place is in the home (and especially the kitchen); while a man being charged for the brutal assault of his wife (an incident caught in an elevator CCTV) defended himself by saying it was because his wife was rude to him.
Really, men are the worse. Unfortunately, some women are no better.
I am not talking about women who defend bad men (“boys will be boys,” “a woman must stand by her man,” and even “ooh, it’s Hugh Grant, Liz Hurley should just forgive him!”), although that’s bad too.
Nope, it’s about women who don’t seem to understand what IWD is all about, and why diversity and gender parity are serious issues.
The day before IWD, the media received an email pitch from a Singapore-based regional e-commerce startup. Saying it was full of #facepalm gems would be an understatement.
“People – especially males – are urged to give their female counterparts a pat on the shoulder,” was one. Yeah, just pat them on the shoulder. No need to ensure that they’re promoted or paid fairly, no need to look into work-life balance so that they would not have to sacrifice family for career. Just a pat on the back will do.
“This is what the gentlemen at e-commerce startup Company XXX say: ‘Our ladies are always the Hot Stuff At Work’,” ran the email.
I won’t even go into how patronising and condescending that is, but it was not helped by the killer line: “Here’s an article featuring four female leaders under 30 … and they come with killer looks, too.”
Yes, because women achievers cannot be celebrated without celebrating their looks as well. “Beauty and brains, mah,” as we say in this part of the world, sigh. It didn’t help that some of the accompanying pictures of these four female leaders seemed more appropriate for Tinder.
The inhouse female communications executive – yes, it was a woman – who sent the email pitch seemed completely oblivious to the fact that her email created quite a bit of chatter on social media.
Yes, I get it. Some women take pride in their looks. And some do take advantage of their looks to get ahead in the corporate world (as do some men, actually!). But really, do you think that this is something you would want to make public? Like there’s nothing wrong about it?
The war goes on, ladies. It’s a long road ahead, but at least we can celebrate some women the proper way.
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