Peta Southcombe of media agency Maxux last week posted a controversial opinion piece in Australia‘s media, marketing and entertainment news site, mUmBRELLA, entitled “Ladies, could we shut the **** up?”.
Intentious has a look at the reaction, below.
Ms Southcombe begins her piece with “I don’t mean to be a traitor to my gender, but if I read one more article about the “lack of women in top jobs” I’m going to explode!” Before going on to explain that even though newly appointed Katie-Rigg Smith is so far the only female media agency CEO in Australia, Peta doesn’t believe for one second that women can’t make it as far as any man out there. Making a valid point towards anti-feminist thinking, Ms Southcombe writes:
“When Katie Rigg Smith was appointed as the new CEO of Mindshare, every article focused on the giant step for women out there. But what about the fact that she’s a hard working person who was right for the role. Why is her gender even mentioned? As a woman do I have to admire a woman to be considered a forward thinker? Am I backwards if my inspiration is Ian Narev instead of Gail Kelly? We have programs encouraging “female” mentors. Why can’t I be mentored by a male?”
You can read her entire piece here on mUmBRELLA. As I’m sure you can imagine, response to the piece was insane amounts of chastising criticism from men and women alike, calling Ms Southcombe ignorant, a suck-up, ass-kisser, young, naive and audacious. However, on the particular point above about mentors and admiring hard working people regardless of sex, I agree with her, as do a large number of men and women. The problem is her point was largely lost among the provocative statements that followed. Some of the comments flowing forth in support I’d like to highlight below:
“Agreed. Overstating the “women are under-represented in fieldX” flag (however true) makes it very hard to congratulate female colleagues on earned success without it being second guessed by the recipient and their peers.” –Andy Fitz
“I think people in Australia need to realize that their work environment is totally different from the US, and if you’re reading articles from there with an Australian lens, it isn’t going to make sense. Yes, in Australia women have a much better chance of moving up in tech/advertising. In the US, it’s a boys club at a lot of places, with guys that went to uni together hiring other guys from their fraternity.” –Graham Top article, If is man gets ahead in life and is successful then people just think “He is driven, intelligent and very skilled”. But if a women gets ahead, most people hone in on her gender and praise her accomplishment as a step forward for women…this only diminishes her accomplishment by making most people assume a default position of “I bet gender equality/affirmative action had something to do with that”. –Anthony Bull
“As a now old bag with more than 30 years in this industry I can truthfully say I have never been more fed up with women banging on about what a terrible time they have on the job. Of all the industries, this one has to have been the most amazing for women to have what they want. Perhaps if many of the ‘young’ women I’ve had the severe misfortune to ‘work’ with could pull their proverbial gels out of social lives for more than 5 seconds and stop harping on about their body clocks we would see merit rewarded in the same way its always been… for doing a good job. Get it over girls, you cannot have it all.” –Old Bag
“Thumbs up! Good for you, having your head solidly planted on your shoulders, and acting out of accountability, not entitlement. I wish more people were like you. It seems like a lot of women have no trouble switching between roles of victim and manipulator.” –Alex
…and this one is perhaps my favourite comment:
“Pardon me for stating the obvious, but it is only females who can have babies. That means forced career breaks once twice or perhaps more times. This usually happens when women are in their 30s in our industry – precisely the time they would be considered for more senior roles. Then of course there is the whole saga or getting childcare places (lucky if you can get 5 days a week), getting your employer to accept you may have to work part time (when client demands are 24/7), having to run home or stay home for a sick or injured child, deal with those tut-tut disapproving looks from male co-workers, and most of all maintain your sanity.
With all of that, I find it incredible women can cope at all. And if you add all the invisible sexism displayed by CEOs who don’t even know they are doing it, I’m not at all surprised there aren’t many women at the top. All of the above factors are weighted against women, men don’t have to deal with any of that. That’s why when a woman succeeds , it’s newsworthy any both women and men like me take notice and applaud. So to the author – I like your get up and go attitude, you’ll go far with that. But do understand there is a reason these issues are topical. If you have an easy answer to the issues I raised above I’d love to hear it.” – Don Draper
Whoever this person is posing as the main protagonist of Mad Men, to you, I say you’ve hit the nail on the head. I couldn’t have said it better myself, actually. The meta-media-sexism-shitstorm doesn’t end their, though. A couple of days later, a response piece entitled “Why ladies shouldn’t shut the **** up” appeared on mUmBRELLA, this time written by female publicist at Belvoir in Sydney, Elly Michelle Clough. Some of her statements are highlighted below.
“It’s much harder to identify structural sexism in the workplace that subtly privileges male characteristics.
“If you accept that there is no problem with structural feminism in the media industry, you are effectively saying that there just aren’t as many talented and capable women as there are men, and that is nonsense.
“It is not calling women victims to point out that a recent study by Graduate Careers Australia showed that female university graduates earn an average for $5k per annum less than their male counterparts in their first year in the workplace.
“I can completely understand Southcombe’s concern that people saying, ‘she only got that job because she’s a woman’ could undermine her promotions or appointments. No one wants to be open to the suggestion that they didn’t get where they are through hard work. But there are so many reasons why people are promoted or appointed. Skill, hard work and competency are only ever part of the picture. Acknowledging that there are extra obstacles you have overcome by virtue of being a woman is in no way downplaying your achievements.”
One of the most interesting responses to this comes from a commenter named Tony Simms:
“Over the last few weeks I have been astounded at the approach of a couple of former very talented female colleagues who deserve to be paid well in their new roles but were incredibly over obliging during the negotiation process. As a direct result they were taken advantage of as they felt it was wrong to be “too pushy” as it might send the wrong signals to their future employer. They were just happy to be in a job at all and were willing to sacrifice the salary they really deserved just to get in the door. The thinking is to get in the door and knock their socks off and then they will want to pay them more.
Regrettably most employers will be delighted with their efforts and take advantage of the skills they are buying so cheaply and once again wage disparity will rare its ugly head as will the lack of seniority and promotional prospects.
Not all women have this attitude. But are those who do creating the problem?”
Food for thought.
I’d love to hear some of your opinions and/or stories, whether you’re male or female.
- Why can’t western women seem to figure out the corporate world? | Sadhbh Walshe (guardian.co.uk)
- Why ladies shouldn’t shut the **** up (mumbrella.com.au)
- Why are there so few? (mumbrella.com.au)
- I, Anna – Exclusive Q&A with director Barnaby Southcombe (cinemurmurs.wordpress.com)
- Women workers worse off in Britain – Confused.com (confused.com)
- When mom is the CEO at home, workplace ambitions take a back seat (examiner.com)
- Women in the Workplace (offoxesandhedgehogs.wordpress.com)
- Ladies, could we shut the **** up? (mumbrella.com.au)
- Gender: I Earned My Opinions (femingenuality.wordpress.com)
- Everything Is Sexist Now (bitsnbooks.wordpress.com)