For women to bridge the pay gap in the workplace and to find their way into boardrooms and senior leadership positions they’re going to need men’s assistance. This is not to patronise women, but simply a statement of the reality of who currently wields the power. What women need least is men who say one thing, but do another – men who talk about this issue using all the right words, but who’s actions don’t quite stack up. Women need more than words – they need real action.
There would be many men I could point to in order to make my point – both good and bad examples. But I shall pick on Governor Mitt Romney, presidential candidate for the United States this year. It’s not a good example, regardless of what he would have us believe.
In yesterday’s US Presidential debate, Governor Romney was asked about how he would deal with the issue of women’s pay inequality and under representation in the workplace. He eloquently responded that he had an excellent record as Governor of Massachusetts. Indeed, he did. But the reality is not quite as he portrayed it.
He explained that on becoming governor, he had been disappointed that all the people being considered for senior positions in his administration were men. He went on to say that he had requested his staff to find women applicants. They had come back with “binders full of women”. Besides a statement that has produced a bit of mirth (and a wonderful new set of parody pictures), this is just wrong. The history in his State is that well before he became Governor, a bipartisan woman’s group had been developed a portfolio (or binder, if you wish) of female candidates, and they presented these to Governor Romney when he took office. This was a concerted campaign, putting pressure on him and his administration to appoint women.
He deserves credit for doing so. But the reality is that his own network had only male candidates in it. And it took a concerted external effort to get him to appoint women. At Bain Capital, he had an entirely men only leadership team. There were no women partners at Bain during his tenure. Read the details, with supporting links here.
It’s interesting to note that Romney (and his campaign later) also refused to say whether he supports the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
So, Governor Romney did some good in his State, under pressure and together with a well organised campaign. He should take some credit for this. But, not what he did last night. And saying that his chief of staff was allowed to leave at 5pm so she could “go home and cook supper for her family” and that he got “binders full of women” might not have helped him in appearing liberated and female-friendly.
I don’t hide the fact that I am not a fan of the current crop of Republican ideologues, nor a fan of candidate Romney’s subservience to their agenda, so I am sure there is some bias in my choice of example. But I still think it’s a decent example of the type of men and male thinking that does NOT help women in the workplace.
This is a tough issue. But it can be dealt with. It just needs REAL men: men who will walk their talk, and men who will partner with women to help them achieve the equality they deserve and from which the workplace will benefit.