It’s been an unusually busy this week. Not sure why. I’ll blame the rain. And with all day out at a school excursion tomorrow (!!!), it was now or never for this response to Senator Eric Abetz’s response to my post about his facebook post on International Women’s Day. Phew. You still with me?
To be clear, I know that my lone voice won’t make any difference to the way our country is governed. It won’t magically right the wrongs that many Australians experience in their workplace on a day to day basis. And still I had to do something. To say something.
So… write I will.
And though I’m not suggesting Mr Abetz has ever personally or deliberately done any of the things that I mention, I share these real experiences and personal observations to give just a little explanation of why women – and some men too – have had enough with the suggestion we are being “artificially promoted because of our sex”. We’ve just. Had. Enough.
That’s all I wanted to say. And my response to Mr Abetz’s response is below.
Dear Mr Abetz
Thankyou for your e-mail of Tuesday 14th March. I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my concerns.
In relation to your suggestion that I had not re-read your Facebook post, I would like to clarify I did indeed read and re-read your post several times before making contact with you. Perhaps the challenge is that a brief post like yours can lend itself to interpretation by the reader; and since we have very different perceptions and responses it is likely that this is the case.
Having reflected on your email in response, I accept that you meant no ill will. Indeed it would seem we are in violent agreement in several aspects. Please allow me to elaborate.
Firstly, I agree with your observation that Queen Elizabeth II has devoted her life to hard work and service for her people. She has indeed served capably in the capacity of monarch and I mean her no disrespect. I also note that she is very handsomely remunerated, that she has a very large and capable team to support her work, and that she inherited her job title so didn’t face the issues of bias and false claims of meritocracy you reference in your closing paragraph. She never had to apply for the job, sit through interviews, or justify her suitability for the role. She also had the luxury of unlimited access to fully funded high-quality childcare throughout her career, something other working mothers can only dream of.
Secondly, regarding your assertion that “the issue that seems to have got some people excited is the comment about some people being artificially promoted simply because of their sex”, I appreciate now that you were referring to quotas. And in relation to meritocracy, I couldn’t agree more.
As a taxpayer working in corporate Australia and in small business, I’ve had enough of people being artificially promoted because of their sex. Indeed, it infuriates me.
It infuriates me because I’ve been in meetings where men have talked right over the top of their female counterparts, where they’ve ignored suggestions put forward by women, and where they’ve then repackaged such input from their female counterparts as their own shiny bright idea to great accolades of their male peers.
It infuriates me because I’ve sat in interviews where I was asked whether or not I was married, whether or not I planned to have children, and whether or not I would return to the workforce after I did. Fortunately, I was never the successful candidate in any of those roles because – well – if they hold those sorts of archaic views about their employees then imagine how outdated their strategies must be?
It infuriates me because I have seen men all around me promoted through the ranks, simply because of their sex. Men who for years received lesser performance reviews, and lesser customer feedback, and were simply less productive, yet they were promoted. Because they didn’t need to take extended parental breaks from the workplace and the uninterrupted career still trumps a brilliant one.
It infuriates me because I’ve seen women with multiple degrees and higher earning power than their partners leave the workforce because, well, their husbands can’t carry their babies in utero and they can’t breast feed. And because there are still plenty of workplaces in this great country that refuse to install basic amenities for women such as breastfeeding rooms and parenting rooms. And because they can’t find quality affordable childcare. And because our Government is looking at reducing paid parental leave for women.
And this in turn infuriates me because many men I know would like to take parental leave to nurture and foster more constructive relationships with their offspring than they enjoyed with their own fathers, but they are afraid to do so for the career repercussions.
It infuriates me because for most of my career I’ve been better educated (thanks to Australia’s fabulous public schools and universities) and better qualified than my male colleagues, yet as a woman I will earn only 72 cents for every dollar those men in similar roles to me will earn. On so many levels this is unfair.
It infuriates me when I see men branded more suitably for leadership opportunities than their female counterparts. Why are men still described as assertive, confident and empathetic while women are labelled bossy, over-reaching and emotional?
It infuriated me when a colleague described a divisional performance overview meeting in her workplace – the kind of meeting where the bonus pool for the division is cut amongst the star performers – where a woman was described by her physical attributes including her hair colour (blonde), physique (buxom) and appearance (a good sort) whereas their male colleagues were described by the projects they completed, the business they won and the stakeholders they supported.
And it especially infuriated me when a Prime Minister of this country described an intelligent, hardworking political candidate as having “sex appeal”, something that would never happen to a male and something that should never have happened to Fiona Scott. They were on the same team for goodness sakes!
Now I should acknowledge at this point that I am not suggesting that you have ever personally done any of these things. I simply use these real personal experiences and observations to explain why women have really had enough with the suggestion we are being “artificially promoted because of our sex”. We’ve just. Had. Enough.
Perhaps I should have clarified in earlier my correspondence that my frustration stems from an absolute commitment to the opportunity that employment presents to women, if they can just get equal access to it and derive equal benefits from it. Having grown up in a staunch Liberal household, I watched my parents claw their way up and out of poverty through sheer hard work and perseverance, working multiple jobs and juggling multiple kids. They worked harder than I’ve ever had to, all in the hope of seeing their children well educated and living in a safe and stable environment, something they could only dream of in their own childhood. I want to see other women and men have equal opportunities to do the same, and I believe that requires change.
I absolutely believe in the power of hard work to change fortunes, and for most of my life I never considered voting anything but Liberal. But, like the Monarchy, the Coalition is standing at a cross-road with choices to be made: embrace the changing sentiment of the world to find a new relevance, or watch the empire slowly crumble.
Jen Dalitz MBA CPA BA(Acc) GAICD