Okay ladies, now let's get in formation

1 Jun 2018

This article was originally published by Elle Magazine, on 1 June 2018 by Lauren Sams.

Professor Julie Cogin, head of the business school at the University of Queensland, believes true equality is acknowledging that not everyone has the same opportunities. “There’s so much unconscious bias in the workplace,” says login. “As a female leader, you’re under such intense scrutiny. A man who’s a terrible communicator is just a terrible communicator. A woman who is a bad boss is bad because she’s a woman.”

While there’s not so much overt discrimination these days, what’s really holding women back is what former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick called “gender asbestos”: deeply ingrained biases that relegate women to supporting roles. It’s something Jessica Bennett noticed when she began working as an editor at Tumblr: her female friends and colleagues were constantly talking about cultural barriers and biases at work, which all boiled down to sexism. One friend was asked to make coffee for her male colleagues, another had her film idea picked up, only for it to be handed to a man to produce. Bennett herself was hired at Tumblr at the same time as a man, and was told they’d have the same job title – “co-editor”. When he started, a few weeks after Bennett, she noticed he’d taken it upon himself to give himself a promotion to “editor-in-chief”. The result? “People looked at him, not me, in meetings.”

Bennett’s response? Founding a “feminist fight club” – a group of women who’d get together regularly to hash out their issues at work, and figure out ways to solve them. It spawned a book of the same name, and similar fight clubs all over the world. It’s something anyone can do, says Ruello. “I used to work at a major bank and I’d have women coming to me with issues. They tended to be the same issues, so in the end I said, ‘We’re going down to the café once a month to talk about this stuff.’” At the first meeting, four women showed up. By the time Ruello left, the meetings were in the hundreds. “The beauty of these ‘circles’ is that literally anyone can start one. Go to the coffee shop and just talk,” says Ruello. 

More and more, women are banding together, demanding change and getting shit done. “After the US election, #metoo and #heforshe, we’ve seen the incredible power women have when we band together,” says Cogin. “It’s really exciting.” She’s right: google searches for “inclusion rider” spiked after Best Actress winner Frances McDormand mentioned the need for them in her Oscars speech this year. (If you haven’t googled it: it’s a clause in a contract that stipulates diversity among employees.) McDormand implored casting directors and producers to invite women into their offices to tell their stories – a stupendously feminist act.

Read the full article in the June edition of Elle Magazine.