Does the focus on supporting young female talent by definition build a culture of exclusivity?

Emma Watson’s speech on gender equality was a message that was close to my heart and one that is the every essence of what the YPWA represents.

She talked about Feminism being a dirty word – ‘synonymous with man hating’, something I related to. When I first started YPWA it was to build a community that focused on supporting young women to be empowered to live a conscious life what ever that may look like.

When I looked around, most of the conversations being had within the gender diversity space at that time related to aggressive language with themes like;

  • A fight for equality

  • A leg-up rather than an equal playing field

  • Progression of women at the expense of men

All I knew then was that if that was feminism I wanted to run a mile the other way. I had no interest in fighting, I wanted to achieve because I was the best suited for the role and not because I was female and not in an environment where a man was more deserving but missed out for my benefit.

There is a growing conversation around gender diversity in organisations that a focus on supporting women will by definition result in a culture of exclusivity for men. I don’t have all the answers on this and I acknowledge that many of the challenges women face in regards to growing and developing their career are also faced by men. I think the important thing is that the conversations and approaches to deal with and progress through these challenges are likely to be different for both women and men and there are advantages to keeping these conversations separate.

Men don’t have the benefits of equality either and this has never been more true than in Australia where we see men of all ages battling to achieve both personal and professional success within the boundaries of gender stereotypes.

  • Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44.

  • Men account for three out of every five deaths by suicide, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for males.

The more time I spend in the space of supporting young professional women in Australia, the more I realize that the challenges and opportunities required for women to progress relate, at the risk of simplifying, to 2 things;

  • Individual empowerment / freedom to make conscious choices about life

  • An organisational culture that makes it possible for those choices to happen.

At Young Professional Women Australia our core focus is to ‘Inspire and Empower Young Female Leaders of Australia’. The conversations about gender diversity in organisations need to evolve beyond the individual to one of organisational culture.

The question – How do we support our people (both women and men) to be empowered to make conscious choices around their lives, and make their lives happen in a way that meets both the organisation and individuals’ needs?

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