What is gender balance and how can we achieve it?

What is gender balance and how can we achieve it?

We’ve set ourselves two questions in the headline there, and one is definitely easier to answer than the other.

What is genderbalance?

It’s a world in which men and women are expected to participatein proportion to their share of the population. So if a population is 53 percent female, you’d expect an average of 53 per cent participation across theeconomic, social and political arenas. Gender balance is, essentially, workingtowards making sure our various areas of communal activity aren’t beingdominated by one group. That doesn’t just mean picking half and half. It meanschanging the general public’s ideas on what’s appropriate, too.

Here’s a practical example, torn from the headlines. Channel7 took down a photo of AFLW player Tayla Harris in full flight, because trollshad been writing crude comments under it. There was an immediate backlash – including fromTayla herself – because the photo wasn’t the problem, was it?

In the aftermath, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews postedthis side-by-side of football great Ted Whitten and Tayla.

Just two people doing their job.— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) March 19, 2019

As you might imagine, there hadn’t been any outcry over Ted’spose…

Right. Okay. For starters, it has to be a team effort. Thisisn’t something you can do on your own, unless you happen to be the ruler ofthe world and you’re wearing the Infinity Gauntlet. Even then, you needunderlings to be handing you a good mix of CVs. Douglas English of Culture Amp talksabout how his company stopped using talent agencies to recruit people because itwas overwhelmingly men being sent over for interviews – and they favour a morediverse workforce.

What we’re saying is, even if you decide you’re going to tryfor gender balance in an organisation, it takes more than good intentions. Youmight even have to fight against people who seem to share your goals, because theyhave assumptions about the world. Like we all do. And you’ll have tochallenge them.

Not everyone will thank you for challenging theirassumptions, but nothing changes unless you do. People aren’t going to open thedoor to, say, allow women to join their traditionally men’s-only club unlessthere’s a public outcry against them.

Beyond changing people’s mentalities (easy done), here arethree practical steps for any organisation to consider:

*LEADERSHIP: Thepeople in charge need to set targets and hold the organisation accountable forthem.

*CULTURE: It can’tbe just the leaders making these decrees, though. There are a thousand tinyways that an organisation shows what it thinks of men vs women – is therematernity leave? Paternity leave? Posters of naked women on the walls? Freetampons?  

*ENVIRONMENTAL SUPPORT:This varies depending on the organisation, but basically means providing bothmen and women with the tools they need to perform at their best.


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