Prompted by WE’s #NoSizeFitsAll campaign, I spent a few hours this morning reading into the fashion and movie industries’ conversation around women’s bodies – and therefore their lives.
It’s a depressing read, with young women and girls doing the most awful things to conform to an ideal that doesn’t exist. Thandie Newton talked about the film industry as “another organisation that is concealing an industry of sexual abuse, where there’s more infrastructure to cover up than there is to protect”. She was made to feel that “this is all part of what it means to be in show business, the kind of thing you have to tolerate in this industry”.
It made me think about my own industry and the compromises many of us make to pursue a career in property and development. About all-male panels, again and again. About the growing pay gap (parent tax anyone?). About the predominantly male boardrooms – so many business leaders whose wives stayed home so that their husbands could work late and go to drinks after work. About the elitism of our professionals, in their bubble of white, middle class, middle-aged people – oblivious to the fact that a quarter of women experience domestic violence and that one in five women will be raped in their lifetimes, yet only 15% report it. These are the women we sit next to in the office or on the tram; the women in our teams and our networks. Take a look around you and think about it for a minute.
Really – take a minute and think about it.
As the autumn networking season kicks off and I start working towards MIPIM with my clients, misogyny casts a shadow over the decisions I have to make in the next few weeks. Which events should I go to? Can I bear to go to MIPIM again? What environments can I safely take younger men and women into? Whilst most people are great, decent and well-mannered, there are always a few who grope, leer and use inappropriate language. And more who still see employing women as a business risk.
How important is it to my business that I walk into environments where I’m likely to be touched in ways I don’t want to be touched and talked to in ways I don’t want to be talked to? Why am I still asking these questions in 2016?
Possibly more important, could this be why you’re struggling to recruit or retain talent? Why you’re not landing the great projects or invited to join the best teams? Have you ever considered the damage your misogyny could be doing to your business?
And if someone who looks like me is thinking this, what are the younger, slimmer, more attractive women thinking? Is this really what professional women have to tolerate to work in this industry? It’s not nice, it’s not clever and it’s bad for business.
Come on property industry – you can do better.