Women in Defence follow up from our blog with Natasha Stromberg to talk about the diversity challenges today.
What do you think are the biggest diversity challenges we are facing today?
“We made a big deal of Hilary Clinton potentially becoming President, but we’ve never made a big deal of a man becoming President”
People are sceptical and say “it’s all solved now- we’re all equal- because we’ve got a female PM, we’ve got women running companies.” But the fact is, we have very few women running companies and we made a big deal of Hilary Clinton potentially becoming President, but we’ve never made a big deal of a man becoming President. So it just shows you that it is still extraordinary for women to take certain positions.
At the same time the pay gap is still alive and well. There are many women who are prevented from going into certain jobs. Women are not economically powerful, and it’s important that women are economically powerful.
I also think unconscious bias is a really big thing. I think we have moved away from outright sexism, because most educated men know that it’s not ok to behave that way. But we all have unconscious bias. It’s proven again and again - for men and women.
Paradigm Shift for the better...?
We have, particularly in the West, made huge improvements but I like to quote a female Supreme Court Judge in the United States- Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She says, “People ask me when we will have equality, and I say when there are nine women on the Supreme Court. Now there are only 9 judges on the Supreme Court so people say to me, ‘well that’s not equality, that’s discrimination’ but I say ‘well there’s been nine men and no-one has said anything.”
So when you think about it that is Equality - when we have all women stocking a board like we have had all men. Because no-one says anything when it’s an all-men group, or at most they’ve started to say that it’s un-diverse…
In Defence & Security and STEM what do you think are the causes of a lack of diversity?
It’s the segregation of men and women into sectors at an early age.
“The single biggest cause of the pay gap is occupation and industry segregation sorting of men and women.”
A recent report I fore-worded for GlassDoor says that this is due to the social pressures that have diverted men and women into different college majors and career tracks
What do you think we can we do about that?
“Just saying ‘girls- all 3.5 billion of you- like doing this’, and ‘all you 3.5 billion men and boys like doing this’, is, when you think about it, nonsensical”.
Well, we really need to stop gender segregation from the moment children are born. That’s why Genderbuzz® is from the cradle to the grave. Some girls might want to play with dolls, some might want to play with Meccano. And boys are the same. Just saying ‘Girls- all 3.5 billion of you- like doing this’, and ‘all you 3.5 billion men and boys like doing this’, is, when you think about it, nonsensical.
Gender segregation starts early and if we want to stop it in later life- i.e. when kids hit their teens and start to be sorted by profession, then we have to stop it all the way down the chain. There’s no point in intervening just at one point. There have to be multiple intervention points.
Girls need to be given permission, by us as adults and by the media, not to just like having their nails done and perhaps to want to be car mechanics. I was never like that as a child, when someone asked me aged nine what I wanted to be when I grew up I said I want to be an international businesswoman and that’s what I .became. It didn’t even occur to me to be anything else, I thought that’s what I want to be and that’s what I’m doing.
This stereotyping and gender segregation is not doing us any favours, so we need to cut it out.
We all need to stand up and put our money where our mouth is. I’m a leader in this field and I don’t mind standing up but I can’t do it alone. We all need to be a bit braver about calling out things that stereotype women and we all need to do it in our everyday lives.
Don’t just wait for someone else to do it.