Today’s guest author is Jennifer V. Miller, a leadership development consultant and writer whose digital training materials help business professionals better lead themselves and others. She writes for The Huffington Post, SmartBlog on Leadership and her own award-winning site, The People Equation, which she founded in 2009.
I recently read an article in the Huffington Post with the headline, It Turns Out Google Doodles Are Kinda Sexist. After reading the article, which highlights research by a women’s advocacy group stating that 91 percent of the people featured in Google Doodles in 2013 were “unambiguously white men,” I was shocked. Not that I assiduously study the Doodles, but if asked, I wouldn’t have guessed the percentage was that high.
I am continually stunned by my naiveté.
As a woman whose career spans nearly 30 years and numerous industries, have been wearing some seriously thick blinders? Because, in all those years, I can count on one hand the number of times I have been overtly harassed, bullied or oppressed due to my gender. Does that mean it doesn’t happen elsewhere? Of course not—sexism (and even horrifying harassment) is everywhere, as we are reminded in this short film directed by Éléonore Pourriat that reverses the roles of men and women in an urban setting and highlights what many women endure on a daily basis.
When Jane invited me to participate in this series on raising awareness for women’s equality in the workplace, I hesitated. What could I possibly have to say when I’ve been so darn fortunate in my career? And then it occurred to me: it’s precisely because I have had positive workplace experiences that I needed to write this post.
It’s up to those of us who have found a way to flourish regardless of our gender to shine a light on the continued inequity that women face in today’s work world. For those of us who haven’t had parents, teachers, bosses and other authority figures tell us (or more likely, insinuate) that we couldn’t do something because we were female—well, it’s those of us who should speak loudest. Because, sadly, victims rarely have a voice.
Here’s the thing: it’s likely that even in my “idyllic” career journey, I was a victim of discrimination, but I just didn’t know it. In fact, the benefit of two decades of hindsight leads me to believe that there were at least a handful of times when I didn’t get that assignment, or my wages weren’t as high as my male colleagues’. It’s entirely possible that my gender was the reason.
So whenever I get the chance to shine the spotlight on the gender inequalities that still plague women in supposedly “developed” Western society workplaces, I do so. But my spotlight illuminates like a small flashlight, not the glare of a mega-watt flood light. Harsh glare only causes blindness and defensiveness. Besides, I don’t believe the discrimination is always intentional.
As my fellow writer KeriLyn Engel, who writes the blog Amazing Women in History said of the Google Doodle article, “It’s really reflective of a larger societal issue rather than any maliciousness on Google’s part, I’m sure. Women and people of color have been ignored and disregarded, their talents squelched throughout most of history, which results in their being underrepresented today. So it’s up to us to restore the balance! I’m glad Google is going to start doing their part.”
So what’s your workplace career story? Will you join me in shining a spotlight on the inequities that still exist by taking whatever steps you can to help those in the prevailing culture understand that all is not equal, even if it seems so from their vantage point? Small gestures, when aggregated, can make a difference. Mother Teresa, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and advocate for some of the world’s most voiceless victims said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
Will you help me create a ripple?