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June 2012
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Where Have All the Women Gone? The Unwitting Sexism that Surrounds Us (Part 2)

Posted by: Nicky Garcea, as part of Capp’s Female Leaders Month (June 2012)

 

Yesterday I started to explore the ubiquity and impact of subliminal messaging in relation to gender roles. In today’s blog, I look specifically at some of the environmental subliminal messages that influence women’s views of themselves and how they perceive their capacity to be successful.

 

  • Women are often under-represented in the media: There continues to be an absence of women, and particularly older women, in the media. I yearn for the day when there are more women than men – or even the same number! – on TV judging panels. The Apprentice, The Voice, Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, and myriad others all provide examples. I have recently been watching the Great British Menu, and across the entire series, the only female judging chef I noted was Angela Hartnett. Yes, there are fewer professional female chefs, but there are definitely more than just one – see, for example, Clare Smyth, Frances Atkins and Rachel Humphrey.

 

  • Women are not remembered as much in history: There are fewer serious female role models written about and celebrated. I always appreciate the Guardian’s Inspirational Women List that is generated as part of International Women’s Day on the 8th March each year, but it is a shame that we have to wait for this annual event to be reminded of ‘Great Women’. When Alex wrote The Strengths Book, he worked tirelessly to ensure that there was an equal split between the male and female role models who were included.

 

  • Women are not as often used as the source of notable quotes: The lack of quotes from women used in diaries, books, newspapers and social media is astonishing. Occasionally, we might find something noted by Emily Dickinson or Virginia Woolf, but there are far more notable words from wise women that we can draw from than just these two. Try Maya Angelou and Aung San Suu Kyi, as just two of hundreds of possible examples.

 

 

  • Despite progress, there are continued gender pay differences: Research from the Institute of Chartered Management in 2011 found that the difference between what men and women are paid for doing the same job ranged from £500 to £10,546 in different professions. Yes, this is a complex issue, but at some point in a woman’s career, she is likely to experience receiving less pay than her male colleagues for doing the same work. This simply cannot be right.

 

  • Even the streets on which we walk are named after men: As we look around us, even the names of our streets demonstrate unwitting sexism! In April 2012, the BBC noted the work of Italian researcher Maria Pia Ercolini, who painstakingly went through every one of Rome’s 16,550 streets to determine the gender balance of street names. Ercolini and her team found that 7,575 (45.7%) of the city’s streets were named after men, and just 580 (3.5%) were named after women. Similar findings can be seen in most other European cities, including London. Some might say, ‘What’s in a street name?’ but this is just another unconscious cue in our environment that suggests to us that women are invisible in our history.

 

In every one of these cases, it most likely isn’t a deliberate choice to discriminate against women, but this cannot excuse the reality of the subliminal messaging that these choices create. On Friday, Alex and I will look at what can be done to challenge and change the messages we give about gender in our modern world.

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