This is not a political or social commentary blog most of the time. Today’s post is an exception – however it definitely has PF implications, so please feel free to read on.
I work for a reasonably large organization, at least in my region. It is a Crown Corporation (meaning owned by the government), and we are one of the largest employers in our province. My organization is progressive – we have lots of women in very senior positions, including our CFO.
In my career before joining this organization, I have never truly encountered the “glass ceiling”. I have worked for men who didn’t like women; I have also worked for women who didn’t like women. I have been bullied, and I have succeeded because of supportive mentoring (from both women and men) and my own hard work. I trained originally as an accountant, now I’m a senior manager in a fairly male dominated industry. I have never truly felt like my gender held me back, and it has never, ever been overtly suggested I don’t belong where I am due to my gender.
Where am I going with this? Today, my husband (who works in Information Technology) sent me a link to this article about a Dell summit held in Copenhagen in April. There were 800 attendees at this summit, and very few of them were women; the moderator hired by Dell was a well known Danish media personality named Mads Christensen. Apparently Mr. Christensen is well known for his sexist rhetoric. During his presentation to the Dell crowd, he made a series of offensive, sexist remarks, including “The IT business is one of the last frontiers that manages to keep women out. The quota of women to men in your business is sound and healthy” he says. “What are you actually doing here?” Even worse, he followed those comments up with a suggestion to the men in the audience that they go home and say “shut up bitch!”.
The author of the original article followed up with another article in which she explained why she believed this presentation was such a problem. Her reasons include the fact that by hiring him, Mr. Christensen then represents Dell, and such sexist, misogynistic remarks not only harm the company’s reputation, but also enhances the problems the IT industry has attracting women to IT in the first place. She also cited several other examples of companies using questionable tactics with a decidedly anti-woman slant.
Finally, earlier this week, Dell posted an apology – on their Google+ page, as written about here by CNET writer Molly Wood. Now, the fact it took almost a month to apologize is appalling. The fact the apology is not terribly public? Well, perhaps Dell computers really doesn’t care about it’s image with women.
So where am I going with this, and how does it relate to personal finance? Well, when women are kept out of key sectors of the workforce, their earning power is reduced. We are already paid less than men (we earn about 77% of what men do, according to some recent statistics I’ve seen). We face barriers – the simple genetic requirement that WE bear the children is something we can’t avoid, unless we choose not to have any. And when global companies headquartered in America (supposedly the world centre of equal rights) continue to perpetuate the myth that women don’t belong in ANY sector of the workforce, I think we need to ask ourselves – do we want to do business with them? Can we use social media, buying power, and political pressure to make these corporations understand that we will not accept this type of behaviour?
I’m currently reading a book called It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor: Free Yourself From the Hidden Behaviors Sabotaging Your Career Success. It’s about the career mistakes women make that hold their own careers back. And I do believe that we make a lot of our own choices and mistakes. But I also believe that until corporations treat women as valued, equal contributors, we’re fighting an uphill battle.