Rewrite the narrative

Rewrite the narrative

14 April 2017

Kate Wyver responds to the discussion on women in leadership

A story recently went viral about Martin Schneider, a man who started signing his work emails with his female co-worker’s name (Nicole Pieri) by accident. The way people treated him changed dramatically, and when Pieri started using his name as an experiment, she found clients would be far more responsive. Unconscious bias, a huge topic of discussion all throughout this week, can affect women’s careers massively. Over yesterday’s discussion on female leadership, it was agreed that we need to change the conversation.

Things are beginning to change. Erica Whyman said that at the RSC they no longer allow all-male creative teams, while at Headlong Dona Munday explained they aim for a 50/50 balance when commissioning. Tamara and her male colleague at Theatre Clwyd “flip” responsibilities such as switching who talks to whoever comes into their office, no matter who they present the question to. “We will not make change unless we are supporting discomfort,” said Whyman. Earlier this week Prasanna Puwanarajah commented that while writing a new TV pilot, he has made a conscious effort to only introduce female characters until it feels balanced. Yet even with this deliberate effort, he’s ended up with 55 per cent male characters.

Tinuke Craig noted that society teaches the narrative that there is room for just woman. In action movies, there’s a line of men (the strong one, the sexy one, the smart one, the funny one) and then a woman, whose entire personality is summed up by her identity as a female. So what can we do to alter this narrative?

We can call it out. We can stop apologising for being in the room and we can remove the word “just” from emails. We can not tolerate vocabulary such as “diva” or “feisty” and we can ensure we use the same vocabulary for all genders. We can not hesitate when someone asks us what we’re good at. We can join BOSSY on Facebook, and we can support each other (as one audience member suggested, “get along like you’re pissed in the toilets”). We can read Jess Phillips on all-women shortlists or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Blueprint for Feminism. We can recommend women we know for jobs and when asked to prove ourselves, we can challenge the question. Yesterday a panel of female leaders sat in front of us and showed that it is possible. Let’s make sure that the only difficulty the organiser of that panel has is a few years is selecting which of all the inspiring women to have on it.

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