When being great at your job just isn’t enough

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Gather around kids it’s story time! And boy do I have some tales for you. Now I’m a Kalgoorlie local. I’m born and bred so all of these stories are from my experience with local employers, you may know them, you would definitely know the organisations and some of you have probably got similar stories. All of these instances took place from the mid 90s to current day.

The business owner who answered the phone to my husband and told him I couldn’t come to the phone because I was under his desk sucking his c*ck. I was in my mid 20s, I needed my income so walking wasn’t an option and I was afraid of losing my job if I called him out, I was powerless.

The very senior manager who told me I couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about because I was a women and *gasp* young.

The same senior manager who announced at a morning tea for a departing pregnant employee that he won’t employ another female unless they presented a certificate of sterilisation. The group laughed nervously and the poor pregnant employee stood there looking like she wished the ground would open up.

The mining manager that refused to have any conversation with me in regards to recruitment without my male manager present or cc’d into correspondence because I couldn’t possibly understand how the mill operated and therefore couldn’t recruit a capable employee. Guess what I did know and I was more than capable.

The same manager spoke over top of me and tried to run an interview no less than 2 minutes after giving him explicit instructions on how the interview would progress. He failed.

The Manager who claimed 2 initiatives of mine as his own work, received commendation for the initiatives from the executive and an industry group and then explained to me that he had to as he was worried that no-one would consider the initiatives if they knew they were from me. I resigned.

The manager who when I asked why I wasn’t being paid as much as my male colleague doing less complex work told me I didn’t need to be paid as much because I had a husband to look after me. I found a job at a company that paid me what I was worth.

These are just a few of my stories, now look around your office at the female employees, how many similar stories do you think they have? What about your friends, significant others, mothers & sisters, how many people do you know have found out the hard way that sometimes when you are female, being great at your job just isn’t enough.

A recent report from UK law firm Slater and Gordon found that almost one in three bosses wouldn’t hire a female candidate – in case they became pregnant too soon.

A report conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission titled ‘Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review’ reveals that one in five mothers had their employment significantly altered during or after parental leave.

The report highlighted that women were made redundant, restructured, dismissed or their contract was not renewed either during their pregnancy, when taking parental leave or when they returned to work.

The gender pay gap in Australia is currently 15.3% and has hovered between 15% – 19% for the past 2 decades. Sex discrimination continues to account for the single largest component of the gap. This component of the gap is increasing over time (from 35 percent in 2009 to 38 percent in 2016). The research shows that systemic discrimination remains a persistent feature of the workforce, while the proportion of the pay gap that can be attributed to differences in skills, tenure and education between men and women decreases each year, as women continue to close the gap in terms of education and labour participation.

The Womens Leadership Forum was recently held in Kalgoorlie, several hundred women attended to listen to a diverse array of speakers and would have left the venue pumped and inspired, but what happens when they go back to work and are confronted with a situation like one of my experiences above. If this is an issue we are going to tackle as an employment community, and as a society, we need men at the table hearing these types of stories, having input into the strategies for change and taking their knowledge back to their respective workplaces and providing education to the wider organisational group.

We can scream from the top of our lungs as much as we want but if we aren’t taking the guys along for the ride with us then what will change? If the they aren’t there alongside the women calling out unacceptable behaviour and practices in the workplace then what will change? While we need initiatives such as investing in high performers for female leadership opportunities through mentoring and network supports. Little will change until we have male role models in senior management to drive the change in gender stereotypes and norms that continue to hinder women’s access to leadership.

*drops mic*