By Imogen Randell
Imagine for a moment that the idea of gender equality was a brand. A product that could be sold.
If that were true, the person in charge of marketing that product would be sacked tomorrow, because they’re not even convincing the people who should be their fans!
The “sales” data on gender equality tells a stark story.
When asked who benefits from Australia working towards gender equality in AustraliaNOW (a monthly survey of sentiment), more than half of Australians said they think women will benefit. I suppose that’s not surprising.
What is surprising is that only 14 per cent of women think men will benefit from equality. That is even less than men themselves (25 per cent of men think men will benefit). If women aren’t convinced men will benefit from greater equality, then frankly, the marketing has been poor.
The gender equality debate has been raging for most of my life (which is just over 50 years). It’s been slow progress. We have made some positive changes, but in my experience working in consumer research in a communications group, negative behaviours have presented in a more insidious form that are difficult to point out and tackle, and progress has been slow on issues such as the gender pay gap in professional fields.
According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the gender pay gap sits at 13.3 per cent. Women earn – on average – 87 cents for every dollar that a man earns. This disparity is highest in the private sector in professional, scientific and technical services.
A growing consciousness of the need for intervention appears to be taking hold, as AustraliaNOW’s most recent survey of Australians revealed that 56 per cent agreed that major social changes – including gender quotas – are needed in companies (up from 48 per cent in June 2021).
In my younger days, I would have argued that women needed to be selected on merit alone, but experience has taught me that sometimes we need to force change.
As is the case with most social issues, knowledge is power. Transparency on pay in larger organisations helps to bring attention to disparities and forces accountability. The majority of Australians (62 per cent) agree that companies with more than 100 employees should have to report their gender pay gap, albeit women are far more likely to agree than men (69 per cent vs 54 per cent).
While these are positive initiatives, there remain myriad subtle issues that disadvantage professional women. And while these issues have been identified, and many have some form of strategy or awareness-building initiative attached to them, these are clearly falling short in terms of the change needed to close the gap and reach equality.
I believe part of the reason for this apathy is that far too often, the public debate pits women against men in the fight for gender equality as if men lose if women gain equality. This sort of zero sum approach to equity and equality is symptomatic of a “brand” that is misunderstood and not being marketed correctly.
I can imagine that the key task in the job description for the Gender Quality Marketing Manager role would be to sell the benefits of gender equality to all Australians, not only women.
And, the job description would recognise the challenging nature of the role, would be inclusive and open to all to apply based on qualifications, skill and experience. In today’s world, I can only hope that the final salary would be the same regardless of gender, and not presented as a salary band that shifts up or down depending on the unconscious biases of the selection committee.
Imogen Randell is the CEO of Quantum Market Research and Hall and Partners and is passionate about ensuring that women thrive in the workplace.