What’s Missing from the Story on Gender Equality?

Telling the Story of Gender Inequality: A Blog Series by Tanya Fruehe

The recent celebration of International Women’s day on March 8th has brought a remarkable amount of awareness to the state of women and equality. Numerous business and government leaders, celebrities, and activists have made speeches, created campaigns, and published writing on the topic.

One common thread in all of these efforts is that they set out to tell a story of gender inequality. Specifically, these stories covered unequal pay in the workplace and awareness of where women have been, how far they have come but also how far they have left to go. What’s missing is what it will take to get there.

Recently, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and a strong proponent of gender equality, identified the importance of the issue. She and Adam Grant, author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, set out to write a four part series in the New York Times called Women at Work. In their first article, “When Talking about Bias Backfires,” they wrote:

 To break down the barriers that hold women back, it’s not enough to spread awareness. If we don’t reinforce that people need – and want – to overcome their biases, we end up silently conditioning condoning the status quo. So let’s be clear; we want to see these biases vanish and we know you do, too.”

Yes, we all want to see these biases vanish, but what has to be done?

Sandberg and Grant went on to add. “By reinforcing the idea that people want to conquer their biases and that there are benefits to doing so, we send a more effective message: Most people don’t want to discriminate, and you shouldn’t either.”

They argue that to be effective, we must condemn the existence of this bias and reinforce the need –and want –for more female leaders. The message is clear that everyone both men and women will reap benefits if we achieve this change. However; Sandberg and Grant need to take step even further and identify the benefits of overcoming gender bias and explain what actions need to be taken to get there.

In order for any story, to be told successfully, the presenter or writer must send a clear, succinct and compelling message to their audience. In the gender inequality story, we must learn to include the whole story: debunk existing stereotypes by educating the audience of how far women have come. Denounce the stereotypes that still exist, but shed light onto the evidence as to why we’re not there yet and why it will benefit not only women but everyone. Lastly and even more importantly the message must advocate for change and explain the clear steps we (women and men) must all take to get there.

The story on gender inequality must include an inspiring call to action that must be heard by millions actively seeking to change the world stance, accepting nothing less than a state of gender equality.

If the Women’s movement can get even more business and government leaders, academics, journalists, celebrities, and everyday people to successfully tell their audience how to achieve gender equality, the world might just become a more equal place in terms of gender.

The next blog in this series will look at some existing stories on gender inequality and what has made them so successful.