10 Dec Michelle Obama Exposed The Gender Inequality in 2018. How Do We Change?
“Marriage still ain’t equal, y’all. It ain’t equal. I tell women that whole ‘you can have it all’—mmm, nope, not at the same time, that’s a lie. And it’s not always enough to lean in, because that s**t doesn’t work all the time.” – Michelle Obama, 1st December 2018
Last Saturday, the former First Lady Michelle Obama shocked the Barclays Centre audience in Brooklyn during her talk about work-life balance, marriage and careers on her promotional tour for her memoir “Becoming.” She voiced the issues that have been silently continuing in our culture – the inequality of males and females in the workplace and society as a whole.
Michelle Obama highlighted the expectations of males and females in the workplace and society are still not equal, even in 2018.
She has joined a surprising number of female voices who have criticised Sheryl Sandberg’s argument in her 2013 book Lean In that women can bridge the leadership gender gap by “leaning in” to their careers instead of holding themselves back. Michelle Obama summed up the problem in a beautiful phrase – it doesn’t work all the time because no matter how much we “lean in” if the workplace and social culture is acting against us, we cannot win.
Critics have argued that Sandberg’s Lean In downplays the obstacles that working women face on a daily basis, and ignores the realities of less-privileged women. The advocates ofLean In argued that women should change and not the workplace as a whole. The inherent misogyny within the workplace has been exposed in 2017 and 2018 by the investigations into Harvey Weinstein resulting in the rise of the voices of the #MeToo movement.
Sarah Seltzer, the critically acclaimed political and cultural journalist, wrote in the Nation in December 2017 that the #MeToo stories have “revealed a staggering, industry-spanning problem with workplace misogyny has suffered what may amount to a death blow this year.”
“It’s become glaringly clear in these past weeks that, far from merely balancing work, life, and gendered expectations, women working in industries from glamorous-seeming Hollywood to crowded restaurant kitchens have been navigating a brutal minefield of harassment, abuse, and inappropriate behaviour – not to mention plain old sexism and bullying – in order simply to keep their jobs, never mind advance in their careers.”
During the past year, we have proved that the voices of the few standing up with courage to speak out against Harvey Weinstein can start to change a whole culture. The #MeToo campaign has empowered women to speak up against a culture of silent sexism within workplaces, against quietly accepted behaviour because it had always happened. But once the first voices spoke up, the culture has started to change. #TimesUp has followed to highlight the inequality of pay and contracts between men and women in the same roles so that legal changes must be made
As Margaret Mead, the cultural anthropologist, said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
By being aware, speaking up, and working together we can change a culture.
One woman cannot change the inequality by herself, but by networking together within teams, companies, and industries we can all enable our workplaces to be more equal.
Cultural change in the workplace must start with the leaders and boards themselves –by increasing the numbers of females in the boardrooms, we can start that change to have a more equal workplace. By opening the debate on the expectations of the male vs female care giver and their flexibility in the workplace, we can change the culture of from inequality to gender balance.
By defining our “WHY” to ensure equality for every member of staff within each company we can all change our mindset to be positive towards every individual, behave appropriately, with respect, and empower everyone to have authentic equal opportunities.
Establishing equality of opportunity for every member of staff is the responsibility of ALL of us. We create our culture. By working together we can ensure the “Me” becomes “We.”