Choose to Challenge gender myths and damaging messages

Over recent years, everybody became a diversity expert and ‘good ideas’ are spreading fast – even when they are based on false assumptions or have adverse effects. Also in the gender area people reproduce myths and overlook empirical insight. #IWD2021

Who is talking about gender, equality or women’s issues on International Women’s Day – and how are their messages perceived? Developments in recent years led to a renewed focus on female voices and even occasional incidences of male bashing. The underlying dynamic also exists in other diversity areas – and already turned out to be a dead-end road in the 1990s.

This article discusses reverse sexism and the need to role-model, e.g. by include men in gender.

Choosing to Challenge myths about gender

Do you know myths in the gender diversity area? As D&I experts we are vividly aware of gender stereotypes whereas we might not know some of the empirical research that challenges statements that are presented as ‘clear’ fundamentals for demand and actions. Here are my TOP 9 (from the past 3 years):

  1. Women are less inclined to compete than men? This article consolidates relevant research about this questions
  2. Different attributes drive the success of women in top management? This article describes another (!) piece of evidence that similarities across gender are greater than differences
  3. Female leaders influence the corporate reality towards more equality? This article provides large scale data that add another aspect
  4. Targets are an effective tool to move the needle? Over years, a whole body of research challenges this prominent assumption including this
  5. A focus on women can raise their representation in STEM? Well, nobody wants to be put in a box and also in this respect a broad approach works better
  6. The young generation and the online world are better? This assumption has already eroded and here is some beef to the online bone
  7. Women are accepted and supported – also by other women – in management? Sisterhood does exist just like male-bonding but the reality behind surveys might be different from the data
  8. Get good grades, girl, and be an authentic woman? I would not want to challenge this advice – however, D&I experts must know the complete picture
  9. The gender pay gap is the largest pay gap? Yes, it is wide and only closing gradually. However, D&I experts should be aware of other, sometimes larger pay gaps

Choosing to Challenge established D&I frameworks

From underlying assumptions to strategies and tools. Gender Diversity and D&I at large has become a will organised business with numerous ‘solutions’ delivered to your doorstep and tightly knitted networks to ask for ‘tips & ideas’. However, each organisation has its distinct culture, history and business context. Creating buy-in, impact, progress and overall success requires more, as shown by my TOP 9 (from the past 2 years).

  1. Doing more of the right activities will increase the momentum? This article discusses how impact is created
  2. What gets measured gets done? Using numbers can be tricky, both in regards to which metrics you choose and how you look at them
  3. Having more diverse teams will be good for the organisation and the underrepresented? Unfortunately, minorities benefit less as this article shows
  4. Starting with a people focused approach linked to CSR is effective? What if you had more success with a business-based approach to culture
  5. The covid-19 crises has created a new normal with flexibility? This is what we see in our bubbles and here is the bigger picture
  6. Women at the top are important role models? Depending on the context, they may be role models or perceived as tokens
  7. Equality, equity and fairness are basic values that drive D&I? They are if they are actually shared which is less the case than shared corporate goals
  8. Prominent supporters are good to have? Absolutely, they can have the biggest impact or sometimes damage your agenda
  9. D&I experts are role models for the values and principles they spread? Yes, they have vivid awareness for a multitude of mechanisms and they might also be prone to some forms of bias

Together on International Women’s Day

Each and every event in the Diversity diary should be an opportunity to showcase the essence of our shared agenda: United in Diversity – Together for Inclusion. My experience clearly shows that only women and men, black and white, gay and straight can instigate and drive change together. This is why I implement the concept of allies also beyond the LGBT area where it first emerged from. By the way, the LGBT area was the first to actively pursue the synergetic potential of Diversity 20+ years ago…

I will always choose to march together with feminist sisters or black brothers, even when they might have reservations. At the same time, I would never rise to speak at such an event but see my role as visible supporter only. When I do this – or my job in general – my personal experiences of exclusion, marginalisation and discrimination today are less important while I am proud of having inherited profound values from my family, with lots of gender, international, inter-religious and inter-generational role models.