Jean-Jaques Restaurant, London. November 25th, 2015
Marina Wheeler led a very lively discussion, so lively that the waiters started clearing up around us as the restaurant was closing! Marina admitted to having a resurgence in feminist beliefs, driven by a sudden realisation of how slow progress has been over the last 30 years.
Marina was a wonderful speaker, and left us with 10, and more, things to think about from her excellent talk:
- Women are not being kept out anymore but it’s not all sweetness and light. Only one in five High Court judges are women; and there are fewer women leading FTSE firms than men called John.
- Society’s main preoccupation seems to be how attractive a woman is – and this falls within a narrow definition. eg Hilary Mantel, Mary Beard, Cherie Blair, and Samantha Cameron’s lack of pedicure…
- If appearance is the main currency, it objectifies women and ensures that they will only flourish for a short-lived period of time.
- Women are guilty of objectifying men (albeit to a lesser extent). Just look at the reaction to the new Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau…
- Charlotte Proudman and LinkedIn-gate…one woman’s charm is another woman’s flirting – the two are very open to personal interpretation. Excessive focus on women’s appearance limits our freedom and it should be addressed – but what is a constructive way and forum in which to respond? Is failure to shout out colluding and condoning sexism?
- The media is inconsistent in its portrayal of sexism and related issues. A month before the Charlotte Proudman case, the Telegraph published Britain’s 25 sexist solicitors.
- Women’s choices aren’t as free as we think they are: we face a spectrum of overt discrimination, internal barriers and practical considerations such as the cost of childcare.
- Why do we hold ourselves back? Assertive females may be respected but they’re not liked. Women are brought up to put others first. The Heidi/Howard test shows that success and likeability, concludes Sheryl Sandberg, are positively correlated for men and negatively for women.
- “Kids are the killer to progression.” Sometimes older women are unsympathetic because they want to validate their own choices.
- Gender stereotypes are still going strong. Women end up doing the lion’s share of the housework. Women need to lean in at work; men must lean in at home. Men and women’s happiness benefits from greater flexibility of roles and a breaking down of stereotypes.
- Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism, by Natasha Walter
- Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers, by Lois Frankel
And finally some words of wisdom from Marina’s husband: “Mess it up and move on.”