When parents gaze in wonder at their new offspring, pondering a name for their bundle of joy, few could conceive that their choice could saddle their child with a lifetime of gender discrimination and prejudice. All because of a name.
Twitter got fired up recently over remarks made by a HR specialist in the States who conducted an experiment with one of his female work colleagues. For a fortnight the two co-workers swapped names on all their email correspondence. The results were alarming – the female worker discovered that she became more productive, her work became easier as people responded with more respect, and quicker to her requests for information or to progress projects – conversely her male co-worker found his efforts were less fruitful as people were slower to respond, more questioning and less cooperative – all because ‘he’ became ‘she’ on emails.
If ever there was an argument for giving your child a gender-neutral name – then this is it!
Unfortunately sexism in the workplace runs a lot deeper than email correspondence, it is firmly entrenched in every layer of society and in organisations the prejudices are played out from the shop floor to the boardroom.
As a society, we have come a long way but with every step forward there are still several in reverse and we need to continue to push for change.
At Newcastle High, as an all girls’ school, gender plays no part in success or failure. Girls succeed on their own hard work and merit – they take Sciences, ICT and Mathematics never considering that they are the ‘known’ preserve of boys. They take leadership roles, speak their mind and challenge the status quo. They learn that there are no limits to what they can do, they learn from their mistakes and move on to achieve. They follow their own path, not one designated as ‘appropriate’ for girls. This environment equips them to challenge any gender bias and sexist behaviour they may encounter in their lives and in the future workplace.
For all their confidence though, girls can’t drive out gender bias and inequality on their own, it is far too deeply entrenched.
In a girls’ school teaching feminism and equality is like preaching to the choir – we’re all converts, we need to take the message wider and get more people on board. To do this we are reaching out to our school community, in particular to Dads, encouraging them to play their part in bringing about change. We know these men are committed to giving their girls the best start, after all, they have made a huge commitment and investment in their education. We are now asking them to consider how they can help make society a better, more equal place for their daughters and girls and women like them, starting with the workplace.
We’re following the lead of St Paul’s Girls School in London by launching ‘Dads4Daughters’, an initiative they introduced last year. Inspired by the United Nation’s, ‘He for She’ campaign, Dads4Daughters aims to enlist fathers in the fight to secure full gender equality in the workplace. Based on the belief that dads, alongside mothers, are in a strong position to deliver change.
St Paul’s was prompted into action following the results of a survey carried out with their own alumnae, which showed that 71% of respondents had experienced, or witnessed gender inequality at work. Sadly, 65% also said that women might not challenge workplace culture for fear of it impacting on their own promotion prospects. It is unfathomable that in 2017 women still face such inequalities in the work place.
So, like St Paul’s, we are asking our dads to become champions for change.
We want them to think about equality in their own workplace and to consider whether their working environment has a culture in which their own daughter could succeed. If the answer is no, then what can be done to make a change?
The campaign starts today, 15th March, on national Dads4Daughters day. As a starting point we are asking dads to take an online ‘unconscious bias’ test and pledge their commitment to greater equality in the workplace for current and future generations of daughters.
This is the first step in our plans to support the Dads4Daughters campaign. We will also be raising awareness, debating the issues and developing our own manifesto for change.
We hope that with the help of fathers, in the not too distant future, women will enjoy a workplace free from gender bias and that pay inequality and glass ceilings will finally be removed.
This is just the start – we all need to do more to challenge gender bias. If both men and women work together to push for change then a female name at the bottom of an email won’t be a barrier to getting the job done.
Take the unconscious bias test and make your pledge.
Take the pledge