Career Change: Standing Up To Misogyny

There is clear evidence that high performing organisations have women at the top. Women make up over half of the UK population and account for 45% of the working population. Despite this demographic, women are not represented at most organisations at senior level. In fact, only 22% of FTSE 100 board members today are women. This situation has now become an urgent issue for the corporate sector. However, what is happening in the wider society in terms of a prevailing acceptance or tolerance of misogyny profoundly affects how young women, the leaders of the future, see themselves and their careers.

A BBC2 documentary by top journalist Kirsty Wark on 8th May 2014 provided valuable insight into the shockingly widespread culture of misogyny in the UK and the US. Called “Blurred Lines: The New Battle Of The Sexes”, the program looked at women’s achievements today in the light of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s. The advances made by women in many spheres have led to a reactionary backlash resulting in a culture that still treats women as sex objects and trivialises sexual violence. Wark asks how, in our society today, has it become acceptable to be offensive to women?

She analysed the role of the internet in normalising and promoting violence against women. Women in the public eye are often subject to misogynistic abuse when they stand up and express their opinions. Professor Mary Beard was subjected to a campaign of unpleasant abuse via the internet last year when she appeared on the BBC’s Question Time as a guest speaker. When interviewed by Wark, Professor Beard stated that the attacks on her were vile and she considered them personal and political. She said that they would drive women from participating in public life.

Caroline Criado Perez in 2013 was threatened with rape and murder on Twitter after she campaigned for the author Jane Austen to appear on new British banknotes, that to date have been dominated by images of men. Two people, a man and a woman were jailed subsequently. Perez commented that it’s not surprising that even women attack other women as in her view, “this society is steeped in misogyny”.

If we as a society wish to encourage women to take senior roles and share in the decision making at the very top, we need to ensure that they live in a culture that is encouraging and supportive rather than one that is aggressive and violent towards those women who stand up for women in general to be represented and reflected at all levels of society.

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