Thursday, November 22, 2012

Love me gender, force me through..

Back to Europe and my favourite subject: how to communicate - and possibly visually - what matters to European citizens. A topic that has come up lately in the news and not only here in Brussels is that of women and work related matters; both in terms of the existing salary gap between men and women and in terms of the under-representation of women in boards of companies. On this last issue, the feisty commissioner Viviane Reding - responsible for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship - has made a controversial proposal for a Directive that sets an objective of a 40% presence of the under-represented sex (better be safe, just in case someone were to find a women-only board and starts complaining!) among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges. The Commission has approved the proposal last week. It remains to be seen whether it will ever make it to through the Council and the Parliament and how watered down it might end up becoming, but nonetheless the idea has sparked a big debate, with men and women on both sides of the argument.

The ECB governing council- spot the woman if you can!
I have always had my doubts on quotas (a friend of mine said she does not like the idea because quotas apply to milk and not to human beings! Maybe it applies also to milk-producing human beings?), not because I don't believe that there should be more women in company board (and mind you, not just the ones listed in the stock exchange - have a look at the lovely family photo of the European Central Bank governing council!) but because I felt that imposing percentages would inevitably create resentment and it could have the perverse effect of proving that women are not as good as men, if some companies were to hire the wrong person for a job only on the grounds of gender.

But then I changed my mind.

I went some time ago to an interesting conference that was called 'The State of the Union - Revitalising the European Dream - a corporate view' and was completely struck - and not only me by the way- by the absence of women, the majority of company representatives at the conference being old-ish men in grey suits. Revitalising the European Dream? Who are we kidding? The shrimps on the buffet tables looked more fit for purpose! Did the organisers simply not care to have a slightly more balanced list of speakers or did they not manage? Then I found a very revealing quote by management guru Richard Pascale: “Adults are more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking than to think their way into a new way of acting.”

Now, my view can be summed up like this: 'I don't like them, but they work!'
And talking of something that works, I found two videos produced by the Commission on women and work issues. Great videos, clear messages, effective delivery and attention to details (look at the way the woman in the gender pay gap one, who gets treated so badly, acts as if it were sad but normal, a really nice touch). So it is possible you see? Another proof that visual communications can be effective while at the same time remaining pretty simple. A bit like...quotas, actually.

Here they are:


Lode said...

I am doing research on what became of my classmates in my fifth year of primary school - at the moment. And what became of our female counterparts ? In the girls' school next door ? Turns out that of the seventy girls there, born in 1965, like me ... only one eventually went to university.

Anonymous said...

Hi Virginia,
nice blog indeed! Well, I'm quite ambivalente regarding the quotas, because as a social psychologist I know they could have really perverse consequences -- such as the reduction in the perceived self-efficacy of those who benefit from them. My ambivalence is well represented by your statement "I don't like them, but they work". BUT, it is absolutely necessary that everyone knows about the under-representation of women in the boards, and acts in favour of a more equal treatment ruled by law.
Thanks also for sharing these videos. Truly hope that your blog will inspirate people to think...and to act!

Virginia said...

Thank you Stefano! Let's hope indeed!

Virginia said...

Let's discuss!!