We need to talk about Feminism

You are probably wondering what feminism has got to do with a blog about contact management for small business, right? This is not an essay about general feminism, but rather a short post about equality and respect in the work environment.

People tend to think that feminism is a “women’s thing” and that men shouldn’t or don’t need to get involved. Big mistake. This is something that affects us all, like global warming. And like with global warming, part of the problem comes from lack of information.

Another big mistake that people often make is to think that if you focus on or discuss feminism, you are ignoring everything else around you. For example: you are fighting for equal salary in your work place with HR and the management team, and you are also organising the company’s Christmas party, which you are hoping to be the biggest one ever. You can be a feminist, raise money for poor countries in Africa and grow your tache for ‘Movember’.

A very good exercise to help you engage in the feminist cause is to put yourself in the other’s shoes. How would you like someone to tell you that you look intelligent because you are wearing a suite? Would you like your wife or daughter to earn less than a male colleague although they have the same professional experience? How would you feel if someone excluded you of a conversation because they are talking politics and not bags and shoes? You might not realise that what you see as a joke, in fact offends and hurts other human being feelings.

During a pub conversation once, a group of us – men and women – were discussing how difficult for it is for a woman with kids to progress in their careers. One of our friends, a woman who runs her own business hiring private language teacher across the country, said that she was reluctant to hire women with kids because they are less reliable, less committed to working the hours that she needed. “And why do you think this happens?”, I asked. She promptly replied that if the kid was ill, it was the woman that had to deal with it. Now… don’t you think this is a little unfair? If it is the mother that will look after the poorly child, it might be because the father is not doing his part. This friend work with teachers outside work hours, which suits mothers very well – they could teach in the evenings, while fathers take over the home duties, right?

It is just assumed, by this friend and by managers of several companies I worked for, that it is the woman’s role to look after the kids, when in reality, it is both parents responsibility. Some forward-thinking managers and companies are now making sure that both parents can take time off to take their kids to doctors, school events, etc. It is not the women’s solely obligation to raise a child and it is the men’s right to be present in their kids’ life.

Several businesses are now focussing in empowering women, giving them the same professional opportunities as men, making their work space more inclusive. It is a win-win situation for both employer and employee, and has nothing to do with putting men aside, choosing women over men.

Feminism is not about women versus men. It’s about women and men being valued and respected for who they are, their experience, their potential, their needs, despite gender.