Blog

Creating more gender equitable and inclusive cultures is high on the agenda for many organisations. However there is often a disconnect between existing staff development activities and efforts to create the desired cultures. More explicitly linking individual development to organisational change can make a big difference to the return on investment when developing staff. The ‘bifocal approach’ translates this ideal into reality through clear principles and program design.

We need to interrogate merit

Merit, and the idea that we can accurately assess merit, is situated at the heart of academia. The need to preserve merit and a presumed meritocracy is one of the first arguments to be put forward to counter more ambitious gender change initiatives. But what does merit mean?  Can we assume that the current system is meritocratic and therefore worth protecting? And can we achieve the desired transformation of institutional culture without a frank re-assessment of merit?

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Envisaging a more gender equitable workplace; #TomWeltonTour

Tom Welton’s tour has been enthusiastically received by a higher education and research sector keen to learn from a Department and Institution well progressed on the Athena SWAN pathway. Institutions looking at the year ahead, which for many will involve data collection and analysis, compiling action plans and finalising institutional applications, are keen to receive guidance. We are so keenly tweeting the received wisdom that Tom’s tour has been trending in the top ten twitter hashtags in Australia this week (go Sydney!).

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Quotas and targets for research funding

‘Are there examples of targets and quotas in relation to funding and grants for research elsewhere, and do they work?’ This question arose in a recent discussion on twitter. It was triggered by the latest NHMRC funding round outcomes where women continue to be under-represented. The Science Foundation Ireland provides a compelling example of how a quota can work.

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Merit: A trump card or card trick?

Merit is one of those words that gets bandied about a lot in regard to gender equity. Opponents of targets and quotas often use it as the final trump card in their argument – ‘we wouldn’t want to compromise merit’. 

But what does merit mean? And is it really a trump card or a troublesome concept that is past its use by date? 

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Champions of gender equality: female and male executives as leaders of gender change

I am very proud to present my newly published article Champions of gender equality: female and male executives as leaders of gender change.  It draws on my doctoral research and examines in detail what male and female executives say about gender championing. All agree that it is not an easy role!

As readers of my Blog will be aware, I am keen for men to engage with doing the work of gender equality and this research certainly influenced my thinking.

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Playing the gender card

The phrase ‘playing the gender card’ has been used against women who raise issues of gender bias or discrimination, to discredit their claims. The implication is that by calling gender into play they are not only playing the victim but also directing attention away from their own lack of performance or fault in whatever may have occurred. Perhaps most famously in Australia this accusation was leveled at our former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. 

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Men's work; Women's work

I’ve worked for about 17 years to help improve Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal relations. Jen de Vries has worked even longer to improve gender equity. In both of these fields we are in a time of transition – about 40 years old and counting – from an era of unambiguous and socially sanctioned disparity in rights, dominance and power, to an era of genuine equity. That transition is hard work. And in both of those fields I’m in the dominant group. I’m white Australian, and I’m a bloke.

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Challenges for men: The expectation to lead and succeed

‘We (men) are expected to lead’, one of the male participants exclaimed. As a woman so immersed in working with women’s leadership development programs I found myself somewhat taken aback. It was impossible for me to imagine a woman saying anything like it. For women the reverse could be said to be true: we (women) are not expected to lead. It was one of those moments when you are left in no doubt that gendering processes are alive and well. A moment when socialised gender roles, so often implicit become explicit. And, in this case, open for discussion.

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‘I never expected to be talking about men’s issues today’

Getting men and women together to talk about gender. Sounds ordinary enough. Might happen around a dinner table but when was the last time it happened at work? Maybe it never has? Tim Muirhead and I recently ran a full day ‘Partners for Change’ workshop where attendees came in male/female collegial pairs. Women mostly did the inviting, asking a male colleague to come to the workshop with them, with the intended focus of strengthening their capacity to work individually and together to tackle gender issues in their shared workplace.  

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Lean In. You must be joking?

Sheryls Sandberg’s best selling book Lean In: Women. Work and the Will to Lead (2013) created a bit of a stir when it was first released, and the expression, ‘Lean In’ (at least for women) has moved into popular speech. 

My response differed from some of my feminist scholar colleagues, with their stinging critique. There are a few things about this book that I really liked. 

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Men and women as partners for change

In this blog, which follows on from my previous bolt 'What about the men?' I explore the difference between inviting men to be allies in the gender change work and being partners. As allies men are being asked to help make organisations better places for women. But this assumes that men have no gender, or at least that their gender is not problematic in the workplace.

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What about the men?

What about the men? I have heard this question asked in so many different ways. Men sometimes ask it, complaining they are being unfairly treated, missing out on something that is being offered to women, for example the opportunity to be matched with a senior mentor or participate in a leadership development program. Women on leadership programs often ask ‘what about the men?’ ‘Men need this too’, they say. Or ‘men need this more than we do, they are our bosses and they are the ones who need to change, not us’.

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The 'Bifocal approach': Linking individual development to organisational change

Creating more gender equitable and inclusive cultures is high on the agenda for many organisations. However there is often a disconnect between existing staff development activities and efforts to create the desired cultures. More explicitly linking individual development to organisational change can make a big difference to the return on investment when developing staff. The ‘bifocal approach’ translates this ideal into reality through clear principles and program design.

Read More