Sunday, 31 March 2013

Catherine Fox, 7 Myths about women and work

7 Myths about women and work

Catherine Fox

The outcry over a flurry of misogynistic comments in the last few weeks – from shock jock Alan Jones accusing women of wrecking the joint to former political adviser Graham Morris describing Leigh Sales as a ‘cow’ – is only surprising for one reason.

The derogatory commentary about women, in this country in particular, is constant and normalised. The unusual aspect to this latest outburst is that a bunch of women called it and fought back. This is cause for great optimism.

Just like the reaction to radio host Kyle Sandilands’ comments last year about a woman journalist who dared to criticise him, the women who rallied around to protest these latest outbursts were making it clear. Enough is enough.

This kind of reaction is not only about women registering their protest at such casual sexism. Using social media and its considerable consumer clout, women are hitting where it hurts – at reputations and the bottom line.

Decades of observing and reporting on how women are faring in workplaces has made it clear to me there are some incredibly tenacious assumptions about women and their abilities that are still being recycled. Women leaders are routinely held to account in a way men rarely are and punished for lack of emotion, too much emotion or badly fitting jackets.

The pundits claim protests about the latest abuse are hypocritical but miss the point that this abuse is about generic gender stereotypes. In the workplace, meanwhile, it is still acceptable to overlook women with children for promotion, pay women 17 per cent less and tell them they can’t negotiate or network properly and lack leadership qualities (such as loud voices and height).

Hamstrung by the deficit model which maintains women need to act like men, and the penalties from being perceived as too aggro, no wonder women find their path through workplaces particularly fraught. No wonder 97 per cent of the top 200 company CEOs and 92 per cent of executive managers are men, while women make up the majority of higher education graduates and nearly half the workforce.

It’s time to skewer the myths: workplaces are meritocracies; the gender pay gap is exaggerated; women don’t want the top jobs; women with children don’t want a career; quotas and targets are dangerous and unnecessary; women should act more like men and are their own worst enemies; time will heal all.

Catherine Fox is the author of 7 Myths about Women and Work, published by NewSouth.

Catherine Fox
Deputy Editor, Boss magazine

About Catherine Fox

Catherine is deputy editor of the Financial Review's Boss magazine and writes a weekly column, 'Corporate Woman', for the newspaper. She joined the AFR in 1989 and has held a variety of positions, including marketing and Smart Money editor.
Before joining the AFR she worked in financial services and consulting in Sydney and London. She has worked for a range of large and small organisations, including two of Australia's largest banks, a university and an advertising agency.
Her second book, "The F Word - How we learnt to swear by feminism" (New South) with Jane Caro, was published in 2008. The book she co-authored with Helen Trinca, "Better than Sex: How a Whole Generation Got Hooked on Work'' (Random House) was shortlisted for the 2005 Blake Dawson Business Book of the Year award.
Her journalism has won several awards, and she is a regular speaker at seminars and conferences around the country. Catherine has a BA Communications (UTS) and MA Hons (UNSW) and lives in Sydney with her husband and three daughters.

Contributed Stories


The Myths About Women in Business - Part 2

13 September 2010 | No Comments
Women on Boards, an organisation that champions the advancement of women into leadership and board positions recently held a breakfast at which this subject was the topic of discussion. One of the speakers, Catherine Fox, Deputy Editor of Australian Financial Review's BOSS magazine presented on the 7 Career Myths. Below is Part Two of a [...]
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The Myths About Women in Business

30 August 2010 | No Comments
Women on Boards, an organisation that champions the advancement of women into leadership and board positions recently held a breakfast at which this subject was the topic of discussion. One of the speakers, Catherine Fox, Deputy Editor of Australian Financial Review's BOSS magazine presented on the 7 Career Myths. Below is Part One of a [...]