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June 2012
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Where Should We Find the Women? Overcoming the Unwitting Sexism that Surrounds Us (Part 4)

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

 

In our blog posts over the course of this week, we have explored the role of subliminal messaging and unconscious bias in creating the impression of the social roles that women should take in society.

 

These subliminal messages and unconscious biases are all the more pernicious for this very reason – because they are subliminal and unconscious. But the real opportunity is to harness their power, turning it to our advantage through acknowledging and celebrating the role of women in our society.

 

While we can’t re-write history, we can ensure that our future female generations are not so overtly subjected to the absence of celebrated and successful women in the environments in which they grow up.

 

Here are a handful of ideas for how this could happen.

 

1. The media should be challenged with ensuring that women are appropriately represented across their content. When no sportswomen are put forward for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, it sends the message that no woman was worthy. Are we really saying that half of our sporting population simply wasn’t good enough – and the entire female half at that?

 

2. Public platforms and other profile events should be encouraged to take on the mantle of championing female achievement and success, as a counterweight to rebalance the weight of the subliminal messages that otherwise exist. Can we work that bit harder to acknowledge, celebrate and remember the work of female role models in everyday life? This can happen in the media, in schools, by parents, in communities and within the world of business. Who are the successful women in your family, in your community, in your network? Take active steps to celebrate them, share their names and achievements, and recognise their successes as a first step to inspiring other women to do the same. After all, men have had the benefit of this subliminal inspiration for generations.

 

3. Companies and organisations should recognise that there is an explicit need specifically to support and develop women. Women should be offered more opportunities to develop early in their careers. They should be helped to understand how they can equip themselves to influence with power and impact, recognising the challenges they might face, but also embracing the opportunities to develop, to change and to make a positive difference.

 

4. Calling all town planners and building developers. What would it take for a few of our future streets to celebrate more women, for example, ‘Dame Kelly Holmes Drive’,  ‘Tessa Sanderson Street’, ‘Rebecca Adlington Way’, ‘Jessica Ennis Avenue’? Will we see this in our lifetime? With the further re-development of east London following the London 2012 Olympics, what a great opportunity we have for an Olympic legacy that goes beyond sport, building a legacy to great British women as well.

 

5. Women should be champions of helping other women. There is the well-recognised ‘Old Boys’ Network’ that makes things happen for men. In the 21st Century, isn’t it time that we started to develop the ‘Young Women’s Network’ to support making things happen for women? Unfortunately, women being champions of other women doesn’t happen enough. But now, with the leadership of female figureheads including Karren Brady, the momentum for change is building…

 

With these five ideas, our aim was to get your thinking started. What else would you add to this list? Let us know by sharing your Comments on The Capp Blog, and watch out for future posts as we build more on this hugely important topic.

 

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One Response to Where Should We Find the Women? Overcoming the Unwitting Sexism that Surrounds Us (Part 4)

  • Steve D says:

    If you were to target two sections of the workforce, and promote the amazing work they do, under extreme conditions. You could go a long way to celebrating the women through celebrating roles that are populated by many women.

    By celebrating these roles you will celebrate ( inadvertently) the few men in these roles too, in doing so, you may garner more support from a greater number of people.
    The two roles, Teaching and Nursing

    Both becoming more difficult and more undervalued.
    I agree with a lot of what you are saying, it is difficult not to but you are using the same blunt and somewhat bludgeoning tool for an operation, that, with a broader approach elevates and can include everyone but will definitely celebrate many, many women.

    The problem with positive discrimination is that it still discriminates. And men who want to support institutional change are immediately put into the perception of win- lose or feel stuck on a ‘side’ fighting subconscious messages of prejudice. e.g: Men subjugating women is bad, subliminal messages by ‘the man’ are bad, I am a man therefore I am perceived as part of the problem.”

    Best of luck
    Steve Durbin
    Playworks Oz

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