Mark Freed on Balance for Better, this year’s International Women’s Day theme
Mark.Freed / 19 Feb 2019
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Balance for Better.
This is a great theme! Balance for better recognises that gender diversity isn’t, actually, all about women.
And it really isn’t all about women, women are the ones fighting for and demanding change but we men have benefited. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – thank you for everything you have done and are continuing to do.
But what does Balance for Better mean? What does it mean to you? We want to hear from you.
In the meantime, this is what Balance for Better means to me.
If the equality movement started just over 100 years ago, men have been the silent recipients of its benefits since then. Every generation of men in my family have benefitted from the female fight, your campaigning and demanding.
My great grandfather was in service (a butler) to a Duke. In 1918, he gained the vote for the first time thanks to the Representation of the People Act which gave non-property owning men the vote (along with property owning women).
At about the same time, my grandfather was a pantry boy in a large public school for the children of the upper classes. He was no doubt resigned to his status in society, he knew his place; he had a massive glass ceiling.
However, things were changing, partly driven by women’s rights and equality along with world wars. The pantry boy’s first son, my uncle, was perhaps one of the first beneficiaries of that change: he became a priest and in the 1960’s founded and opened his own school for the sons and daughters of the wealthy. He broke through a gradually thinning glass ceiling, thanks to the changes in society, some of which for which women fought.
My memories of my uncle are of a strong, powerful man who had a very different persona to his brother, my father. I wonder if my uncle had, like so many senior women who are reaching the top today, changed to be more like his peers, adapted to circumstances and his surroundings to succeed. Perhaps, he couldn’t be himself; perhaps he couldn’t take himself to work.
The workplace I entered in the 1970’s is unrecognisable today. The all-female typing pools, and switchboards have gone. The stereotypical all male management team drawn from a narrow socio-economic set is becoming rarer. We are moving, perhaps not quickly enough, to a meritocracy where you reach the top based on merit not your gender, where you were educated or your social background. That benefits a significant number of men as well. You demanded and campaigned for equality and I have benefitted.
Things have changed outside of the workplace as well. My wife and I are true partners – we share our life equally. That has brought me many benefits.
So thank you for everything that you, your mothers and grandmothers have done for me, you have changed my life and made it so much better. Thank you.
That is what gender balance means to me on a personal level. We’d love to hear what it means to you. Please contact Katie with your stories or comment below.
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