Happiness or the top jobs? Workplace sexism wants women to choose

04 August 2016

So do you want happiness or the top jobs? It is women who have to choose, apparently. And according to Kevin Roberts, the Chair of Saatchi and Saatchi, women wisely choose happiness.

Clearly, then, this isn’t a case of discrimination, unconscious bias, prejudice or men hanging on to what they’ve got. It’s just that us women know what is really important. And that’s happiness, which apparently emanates from not aspiring to those tricky, demanding ‘big jobs’. The recent Gap T-shirt furore springs to mind. Boys should have Einstein in mind, and the girls can be social butterflies. In pink.

 

Gap Ad Sexism - Views from EW

 

Surely any job at the top needs to be designed and implemented in a way that people – men and women alike – can perform at their best and be happy doing it. Why should the two be mutually exclusive?

Cindy Gallop is right. The Chair of Saatchi and Saatchi’s comments about women aren’t just about one individual getting it hopelessly wrong. When these moments happen, they come from somewhere. An organisational culture, the culture of a whole sector, the political landscape.

I’ve never really believed in the rotten apple theory: the one that claims ‘we are all fine, except for him/her. He/she’s very bad and we are shocked, but the rest of us are A-OK’. If the company in question were a good one, it would create a culture where the ‘bad apple’ is noticed and something done about it.

In one sense, though, it is quite helpful when someone like Mr Richards puts their foot in it, painful though it is in the short term. It makes a company think again. It forces them to ask questions like:

  • ‘How can X have thought this and said it so openly?’
  • ‘How does this reflect what others think and feel where I work?’
  • ‘Exactly how many brilliant people are we losing or failing to recruit, or how many clients will we lose because of such antiquated views?’
  • ‘How can we properly build a more inclusive culture, one in which we leverage diversity, and reflect our audiences at all levels?’

Let’s hope the advertising industry uses this latest example of institutionalised sexism to weave diversity and inclusion into the way they run their businesses. It’s only then that they can reap the rewards, and the competitive advantage, that are there for the taking.