Unless you’ve been hibernating, you’ll be very aware that 2017 has been a turbulent year for women. Between the entertainment industry’s sexual abuse scandal, the BBC’s pay gap scandal and women’s rights coming into the spotlight (again), it sometimes feels like we’re further than ever from the gender-equal utopia we’ve all been working so hard towards.
However, under the mountainous negativity, it also feels like something is happening that means we’re actually starting to carve out real space and nudge our way to the front and centre.
The Advertising Standards Association got tough on gender stereotyping this year, Wonder Woman became the box office smash of the Summer, coming second only to the feminist remake of Beauty and the Beast for 2017. Tampon adverts now show blood, home-grown initiatives like Gurl Talk and Pants Project are galvanising young women to start their own businesses and to be their own champions. In addition, female led publications such as Bustle, The Pool and Refinery29 are giving many women a platform to discuss and explore who they are outside of society’s construct of them. Even Iceland just elected a feminist environmentalist as its prime minister. I could go on.
But what about the everyday?
The everyday grind of going to work and feeling restricted in your day-to-day role can often feel very far away from the groundswell of change we’re experiencing on social media and TV. It’s true that the arts and the media is where we expect to see revolutions – feminist or otherwise – begin. We expect film, music literature and media to pave the way for progressive ideas, for women to have a platform and a willing and perceptive audience. But how does that manifest itself in everyday life?
Fortunately, many ‘every day’ businesses have also had their own Wonder Women moments this year. Paula Nickolds was announced as the first female CEO in John Lewis’s 153 year history this year and Jo Whitfield was named the CEO of Co-Op – both in a notoriously male dominated sector. And, after its most turbulent year to date, Uber hired Bozoma Saint John as its Chief Brand Officer, who has been vocal about the importance of bringing your full self to work and not stifling your personality and ‘femaleness’; something that I too, am incredibly passionate about.
We are, of course, by no means there yet. You only have to look at the list of the year’s top CEOs to see the glaring absence of diversity – in all of its forms. But I would argue that the spotlight is now firmly on that list. In fact, the disparity is so flagrantly obvious, that it’s starting to feel very uncomfortable. Let’s play to that discomfort to force further action, so that those on the frontline of businesses start to feel tangible changes too.
There are some incredible CEOs, male and female, who are doing great work to try and drip feed these changes throughout their businesses, especially as we move into a new phase for women in 2018. From Thinkbox CEO Lindsey Clay, to David S. Taylor, CEO of P&G (an early supporter of Action for Diversity and Inclusion), it will be these leaders and businesses that not only survive and thrive, but moving forward, might actually help those of you on that daily grind, to survive and thrive too.