Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Eurythmics Strategy - Should sisters be doing it for themselves?

I was totally inspired at a recent conference to see the extraordinary creativity of young Australians using YouTube and home movie making to tackle bullying at school. The major thrust of their strategy was sending the message that bullying is uncool and if you can get the bystander to confront the bully, the target feels supported and the bully sees that it's not just the victim who has a problem with their behaviour. If you take this to the nth degree, the bully isolates him or herself through their antisocial behaviour and may then acquire more empathy for others and motivation to curb the behaviour.

In a parallel universe, there is increasing amount of chatter about the role men can play in shattering the glass ceiling for women given that in many sectors and companies, men are still the gatekeepers. 

The risk and therefore the controversy with this uncommon strategy of deploying the bystander and the gatekeeper is that it could appear like those targets of bullying or discrimination respectively can't stick up for themselves and need someone else or a man specifically to advocate on their behalf.

 In my opinion, it's a risk worth taking.

More and more often we are seeing men appealing to other men to stamp out violence against women. We see and hear third hand accounts of the horrific impact of road trauma, problem gambling, drinking and street violence by those who have witnessed it.

The best way to normalise equal opportunity in the workplace is to have prominent men demonstrate through their words and their behaviour their belief that capable women bring so much to the table and that it's both dumb and unjust to subject them to continued systemic disadvantage. Of course women will continue to demonstrate their worth but men can and must at times fight for a woman's right to be given the chance if those men still hold the balance of power. Similarly women's responsibility is not to see other women as their automatic competitors and kick the ladder from underneath them as they climb.

To suggest that the only strategy (to almost quote the Eurythmics) is that sisters must be doing it for themselves, limits our progress and disrespects those men - partners, husbands, fathers and sons - who are truly gender blind and want all talented and hardworking employees to flourish at work.