Dads and brothers: It's time to step up!

Older businessman working with younger businesswoman

I shouldn't comment on politics, and maybe I and many others will be proven wrong, but it seems very sad that only one woman will be in Tony Abbott's new Federal Cabinet. The contribution made by many women to politics — at both state and federal levels — alone justifies their greater inclusion, beyond the fact that women make up 50% of the population.

Think back a week or two, and we saw Tony Abbott surrounded, supported and perhaps managed by his beautiful, talented daughters, his smart wife, his female chief of staff, his deputy leader, his mum, his “sex appeal” candidate Fiona Scott, his media minders, and many others.

Successful men are so often supported by the women in their lives. How often can we say the reverse: that successful women are supported by the men in their lives?

For some time, I have been saying that dads and brothers need to not only support their own daughters and sisters, but other people’s as well. Yes, maternity leave support (current Liberal policy) is important; but help in getting the job, career advancement and equal pay are even more important.

How dads and brothers can step up to support women

Some years ago, I gave a speech at a father / daughter dinner at a private men's club in Melbourne. I suggested to the dads that their bright, talented daughters would probably be discriminated against, and not be appointed as board members, CEOs,  law firm partners or professors — and that this discrimination would be carried out by men just like them. I suggested that maybe they could change this for their own daughters and someone else's.

How could they make this change?

  • They could sponsor a woman for a new role.
  • They could make sure their HR people paid people with similar skills the same money — not 17% less, as in the case of female law graduates.
  • They could get rid of the bias in selection processes, stop hiring people who look just like them, mandate a percentage of women in the senior management team, target women for the partner track.
  • They might not just take a stand against harassment but actually do something to stop it in their organisation, section or team.
  • They might also recognise that women have babies, perhaps even their grandchildren, and they need support to ensure they can have a baby and continue their careers.

At the end of my speech, a number of people approached me and thanked me for raising the issue. One woman said that she was very pleased someone had finally had a go at her father and his mates for not supporting women. She said she had been coming to these functions for 30 years, and it was the first time this had happened.

In fact, one outcome of this dinner was that a number of fathers present tried to open the club up to female members. Sadly, the move was defeated by a number of the younger members of the club. Some of those courageous dads resigned in protest.

What do you think? Is it time for men with daughters and sisters to step up and start making a difference for all women? Are there courageous men in your life who are making a difference?

Image: SalFalko

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