It takes a era to scale back gender inequality, says researcher
- October 5, 2022
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Sieghart interviewed women leaders in a variety of fields to understand inequality at the top and gathered hundreds of studies to inform her book.
the english journalist Mary Ann Sieghart was a senior editor and political columnist for 20 years at The Times.correspondent of the magazine The Economist and the newspaper Financial Times, in addition to having been a visiting professor at the University of Oxford. Yet often, when a man wanted to hear political analysis during a meeting or conversation, he would turn to one of his less experienced colleagues to ask the questions.
This lack of recognition of women’s authority in their field of work, according to Sieghart, is the starting point for gender inequality in terms of career or even relationships. “If we’re not taken as seriously as men, if we’re not seen as being as competent as men, we’ll get lower pay, we won’t be considered for promotions, for example, or we’re not respected by our peers, who will Google when you say something, even if you’re not sure what you’re talking about,” she says, who used this idea to write “Authority Gap – Why Women Are Not Taken As Seriously as Men and How to Change That which has just been released in Brazil by Benvirá, with a preface by political commentator Gabriela Prioli.
During her period as a scholar at Oxford, Mary Ann Sieghart interviewed important personalities to build the thesis of the book, among them the new British Prime Minister Liz TrussHillary Clinton, Julia Gillard, novelist Bernardine Evaristo and the former UK Secretary of State for Home Affairs Amber Rudd. All of them had some story to tell linked to the authority gap.
Forbes: You say the whole problem of gender inequality in the world of work stems from the fact that women are not respected in their authority. Why did you build the book on top of this thesis?
Mary Ann Sieghart: This authority gap is the mother of the gender inequality problem. Because if we’re not taken as seriously as men, if we’re not seen as being as competent as they are, we’ll get lower salaries, we won’t be considered for promotions…. In other words, the problem of authority also leads to financial inequality. If your partner doesn’t listen to you, doesn’t listen to your decisions or choices, and keeps checking Google every time you say something because he doesn’t think you know what you’re talking about, you’re going to be frustrated in your relationships as well.
F: The last chapter of the book says that this inequality can be reduced in a generation, although you said that you still see boys being very sexist. How can we contribute to this reduction?
MS: I am some examples that can be followed because we all have unconscious biases. A study done in the United States showed that in preschool and elementary school, boys receive eight times more attention than their peers. What we can do, therefore, are simple things, which we can also teach our children. For example, to observe if, when approaching a man and a woman, we address the man first; give women the same consideration we give men; pay attention if we interrupt women more than men… We should not assume that a woman knows less than a man about a subject that is perceived as “masculine”.
F: You cite some passages among other journalists in which, despite you being the expert on the subject present in the room, men used to address their colleagues instead of asking you something. I think a lot of women go through this a few times in their lives. How do you think we should react?
MS: I’ve been doing it in a very open and direct way when that happens, but I’m older, I have more seniority, I have less to lose than a woman just starting out. I think it’s harder for younger women to put themselves like that because they’re likely to be labeled difficult, paranoid, too sensitive. My advice is to try to recruit an ally at this type of meeting or event. Someone who, if you are interrupted, will say, “Wait a minute, I was listening to what she is saying”, in case you are interrupted. Or, if you’ve said something and no one cares, but 10 minutes later a man says the exact same thing and is congratulated, your ally will say, “I’m glad you agree with her idea.” You can even take the issue to the person who called the meeting and bring it to their attention so they can mediate next time.
F: So we’ll have to find a man as a career mentor…
MS: Yes, unfortunately. Sometimes young women want a female mentor because they have more in common, but finding a male mentor will help them move up faster. He is more likely to be heard than a woman. If a man tells another that you are brilliant, he is likely to be heard.while a woman will possibly be called a nepotist.
F: Men apparently feel threatened by the space women are gaining. How do we deal with this by making men our allies?
MS: In fact, women are doing better than men. They have better grades, occupy more places in universities. In the United States, they occupy 57% of master’s degrees and 53% of doctorates. We are still not good enough to have equality in the highest positions, but we are already starting to occupy that space.. And then they resent it, since they once had a lot of privilege, and now they’re seeing it diminish. Slowly, but they are. When someone begins to lose his privilege, he tends to feel not only leveled but demeaned. And by “privilege” I don’t mean wealth or status, but the fact that one is a man, that’s all. Boris Johnson promoted women to his first cabinet, but they only held 8 of the 33 positions. Currently, the top 100 British companies listed on the stock exchange only have 6 female CEOs. Women still have a long way to go up – and men down – and men, before we get close to equality. In the book, I say that the world will be a better place, including for men, if inequality decreases. They will also be happier with more equal relationships.
F: You interviewed trans people for your book, people who have a measure of comparison of what it’s like to be discriminated against just for being a woman. This is almost a scientific experiment…
MS: Trans men I talked to were able to compare. The space and respect they get without having changed anything other than the genre was totally different. It’s a science experiment in itself and proves that it’s not ability that counts, but gender is enough for you to be respected. There’s a story about Ben Barres, a respected MIT-educated scientist, who told how his authority was disrespected when he lived as a woman. One of his professors at MIT even said that his work had been done by his boyfriend when he [na época, ela] was the only person to get a question right on a given test. And he only realized the size of the problem he was experiencing when he started to live like a man and be in the wheel between them.
F: When did you get the idea to write this book?
MS: I’ve written a few columns on this subject throughout my career. I was preparing for a visiting professorship at Oxford University, and as I had spent my life writing about politics, my first idea was to do something in that field, until I took the idea to another fellow and asked his opinion. I said I had this other idea, but it was a little unusual, a little too left-wing. And he told me: “this is what you should do!”. And as soon as I heard it, I knew it was what I wanted with all my heart. My head wanted me to go into politics, but I wanted to write about this gap.