It’s a big deal when a woman gets into Downing Street, because it’s rare. I’m not the prime minister, so my life hasn’t just changed overnight. Instead I’m still affected every day by the quieter symptoms of gender inequality, which feature far less in the media than the ‘second female prime minister’ catchphrase.
This week at the Auckland Lean In Circle, that’s what we discussed. The little things, and how they affect us. I’d thought about many of them before, but it was still shocking to hear my co-circlers – all confident, educated, professional women – list them out for an hour and a half.
We started by watching Ellen Degeneres’ skit on the ‘Bic for Her’ range of pens. If you haven’t watched it, it’s super funny – have a look.
One of my favourite lines has to be about them coming in ‘both lady colours, pink and purple’, perhaps so ‘we’ll forget we’re not getting paid as much’.
We talked about how, when we speak to male bosses, we forget that we are experts, talented professionals, and behave as though we are inferior and don’t deserve to be taken seriously.
Then there’s the proven case that when a man is successful, he is well liked, but that when a woman does well, people like her less. Several women complained that they had been accused of being ‘loud’ or ‘bossy’, when a male peer had behaved exactly the same way and been listened to attentively.
We talked about how only men drive prestigious, power cars – in the ads at least.
Or how when men get grey hair they look ‘distinguished’ whereas a woman with the same coloured locks has ‘let herself go’.
The list went on. And on. And on.
Despite the depressing subject, I loved the discussion.
There was humour (thanks, Ellen!).
There was a total lack of judgement, when I admitted – ashamed – that I behave less confidently and more girlishly around my male bosses than my female bosses.
There was empathy and positivity.
We all came away with action points (my homework being to make a conscious effort this month to behave as professionally in front of my male bosses as in front of my women bosses).
There were silly-sounding practical tips. A couple of women shared that they’ve clicked men’s Mach 3 blades onto their women’s Venus razors; exactly the same product, only, because they’re not pink, they cost less. Likewise, Ellen jokes about the ‘Bic for Her’ pens that they’re ‘just like regular pens, only, because they’re pink, they cost twice as much’.
And there were solid, sensible practical tips. At the end I asked if anyone had advice for me on negotiating a payrise in my upcoming performance review. Everyone shared their experiences generously, taking the time to go through my concerns and reassure me with hard facts.
Gender inequality is alive and kicking, but so are we, the everyday – non prime ministerial – women, who are collaborating and sharing and inspiring and supporting, learning and growing, asking for more, stepping outside our comfort zones, and leaning in.
Find out more and join your local Lean In Circle at http://leanincircles.org/