Feminism in the Boardroom

So last night, I was watching Assassin’s Creed videos with Jer on YouTube, because that’s what we do on a Wednesday night. Before one of the videos, an advertisement came on that caught my attention. It was an advertisement from Pantene in the Philippines, but it resonated strongly with me.

I wrote a blog post about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, and it looks like Pantene is getting in on the action. The ad shows men and women in business environments and the way each gender is perceived in that role. It shows that women and men in the workplace exhibit the same behaviors, but are labeled different things because of their gender. The caption on the video states that the Philippines are ranked 5th in the world for gender equality in the workplace, yet when they polled the citizens, a gender bias still evidently exists.

This video is a prime example of why I am a “feminist”. That word is used so broadly, and it is used to describe a vast variety of extremes, but for me, feminism is not asking for special treatment, but rather, is asking for a fair and unbiased view of women, acknowledging their strengths and weaknesses, and treating them like a human, not like a woman.

When I started working on my MBA, I was shocked at the business world. In education, women were the norm, but male teachers weren’t looked at any differently than female teachers (In high school, anyway. I know there is some gender bias in elementary schools against male teachers.) Coming from that environment to a business environment where women are treated so vastly different than their male counterparts astonished me. The statistics are scary, y’all. Women face many uphill battles in their career, simply because stereotypes like the ones in the video exist. (And don’t even get me started on what happens if you want to have kids AND a successful corporate career.)

Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead talks about women’s stereotypes in the corporate workplace, but in the context that women place these labels on themselves, which is hugely controversial. Of course, women are trained from birth that if they act a certain way, like being assertive in a boardroom, then they are overbearing and not “lady like”. I think that this video did a great job of pointing out the hypocritical nature of these labels, and if women and men are more aware of the stereotypes we place on women, maybe we can overcome them and change the conversation.

Instead of saying that we need more women in the boardrooms, we need to be focusing on getting the RIGHT people in the boardrooms, whether they are male or female. Looking at what that person has to offer, regardless of gender, should really be the focus of feminism in the workforce.

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