It’s Still a “Man’s World” for as Long as Women Allow it to Be – Let’s Change it

  • Published on:
    November 26, 2018
  • Reading time by:
    5 minutes

It’s still a “Man’s World” for as long as Women allow it to be

There are many women out there, doing amazing things and really shattering that glass ceiling. It is extremely inspiring and motivating to see how far we have come since the days where the only careers girls could truly dare to aspire to, were limited to about three or four options – none of which threatened men and their precious little egos and need for power, too much. 

We sure have come a long, long way, but we aren’t done yet, girls. This is still very much a man’s world and we are allowing it to be, through some of the ridiculous things we still say and do or even perhaps believe to be true.  Our highest calling as leaders, is to create more leaders and I believe that it is our job right now, during this crucial tipping point in history, to do more to change the world for the generations who will inherit this space from us. If we are to do this successfully, we have to start with ourselves as individuals and we have to challenge our beliefs, behaviors and language choices. Here’s what I’m talking about: 

Doing anything ‘like a girl’

Have you noticed how it’s always an insult to say to someone “you run like a girl” or you “throw a ball like a girl”? This nasty little throwback is still part of our vocabulary decades after the rise of feminism throughout the world. Men used the ‘like a girl’ phrase as an insult to other men, but it soon became part of our collective global language and everyone continues to use it. Worst is that we not only allow it to be, but we also actually use the term to keep each other playing small or to break down our sons when they show any kind of ‘weakness’ or emotion which doesn’t fit in with society’s idea of what a ‘real man’ should be. 

Of course I run like a girl and throw a ball like a girl and I scream like a girl when I get a fright. I laugh like a girl and I cry like a girl because I AM a girl and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! It doesn’t make me physically weaker or ‘emotional’ or ill-equipped to hold positions of power. 

We need to take our power back and proudly do everything we do, ‘like a girl’, instead of constantly trying to imitate men. 

Using gender-based language 

Walk into a room for a presentation where there are men and women present and chances are at some stage someone will refer to the group collectively as ‘guys’. I catch myself doing this sometimes too – even when I’m talking to a group of women! This is because the gender-based language is so entrenched in our society that we ourselves don’t even realize we are perpetuating the cycle. If we are to change this, we have to be mindful of the terms we use and all the gender-biased words and we need to replace those words with something else. Instead of saying ‘good morning, guys’ when entering a meeting room, try saying ‘good morning, folks’ instead. 

Shame over Sexuality 

When a guy hooks up with a girl at her place, he leaves her place and he’s basically high-fiving hiimself and boasting to his buddies. When a girl does the exact same thing, she is sneaking out of the house in the morning and trying to make sure nobody sees her in the same clothes from last night. It’s called “doing the walk of shame”. Please explain to me how a woman should be ashamed of owning her sexuality and taking charge and having sex on her own terms? How is that ‘shameful’ in any way? And why the hell do we use that term ourselves?! Do you see how deeply programmed we all are, on a global scale? We need to stop buying into that BS, girls! We have to flip the script on this one and we have to stop shaming ourselves and our sisters over owning their sexuality. 

It’s the very same deeply rooted beliefs about sexuality that we have been programmed with through decades of socialization, that leads women to victim shame others who have been assaulted and report it or to call another woman a ‘slut’ for whatever reason. It’s so bad that many women don’t even realize that they are doing it. Earlier this year, I was out for drinks with an all-male project team. We met up with another group, working on the same project and one guy from this other group, decided it was ok to grab my left breast. Guess what the reaction was from my female friends and colleagues when I told them? Some asked me how much we had all had to drink – like having had too much alcohol is somehow a mitigating factor here and makes his behaviour acceptable. Some asked me what I had been wearing at the time – basically victim shaming me and implying that somehow, I must have done something to cause his behaviour. 

Women’s work and Women’s pay

Unfortunately, we haven’t yet won the battle for gender equality and there are many countries where women are prohibited from doing certain work (like driving trains) purely because of their gender. Even in so-called ‘first world economies’ women are being paid less money to do the same work as their male counterparts. This stems not only from men’s fragile egos but from the outdated belief that men are the main breadwinners for their families and should, therefore, be paid more than their female counterparts who likely ‘have a high earning husband’. 

None of the things I have mentioned above, make any logical sense or have any place in our world anymore. We have to stop this madness and we have to continue to fight to effect the changes that we need in order to create a world where girls are truly free to learn anything, become anything and do anything they want.  As women in leadership, we simply have to do more to eliminate these last few barriers to true equality. You can start right now, with yourself. Stop using the language. Start questioning your own beliefs around the role of women in the world. Support other women instead of gossiping about them or calling them names or competing with them for the attention of some guy. We are better than all of that BS! 

 It will continue to be a “man’s world” for as long as we sit back and do nothing about these things.

Deborah Hartung

She has spent almost 20 years advising corporates on matters relating to employee relations, corporate culture and leadership development. Deborah is passionate about people and technology, the human experience in the workplace and the opportunities for the advancement of humanity in the digital age.  

Especially popular with young or first-time leaders, entrepreneurs and women in leadership, Deborah encourages all those she meets to align with their purpose and to be brave enough to be authentic in all their interactions.  She writes about life, love, leadership, workplace culture, the future of work and the importance of making the world a kinder, more tolerant place. 

Deborah lives in Johannesburg, South Africa and is committed to ensuring that her children – daughter, Reagan and son, Owen – have as many adventures and experiences as possible. Amongst her friends she is known as the woman who always needs at least SPF50 sunscreen and someone who can trip and fall whilst barefoot and stone cold sober. A big fan of tequila, craft beer and MCC, Deborah loves entertaining friends and is secretly a rather big fan of baking. 

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