This year’s IWD theme is ‘Challenge’, so today I thought I’d say hi and share a little of what I’m currently challenging as a woman and a feminist, and how at TDP we’re challenging patriarchy through culture and policy designed to uplift our women.
What is patriarchy?
Patriarchy exists on individual, institutional and cultural levels, and is, in effect, a system that supports and protects male dominance – in workplaces, in leadership and in positions of significance at a cultural and systemic level. Patriarchy aims to maintain the status quo and keep men at the top of the social power dynamic.
Patriarchy subscribes to a gender binary that places men and women in opposition to each other [and excludes trans and non-binary people, um, F*** NO] and can manifest in lots of different ways, from the subtle and insidious to the really obvious. Here are some examples of how patriarchy can manifest in a workplace or other institutional setting:
- Men’s voices being heard more frequently in meetings, or men talking over women
- Using language that equates femininity with weakness
- Women feeling the need to wear masculine or nondescript clothing to avoid harassment
- Projecting heteronormativity and gender roles onto children
- The mental and practical load of households and running children falling to women, even in households where the woman earns an equal or greater share of the family income
- Industries primarily staffed by women are underpaid and undervalued, and even within these industries, the senior positions are more likely to be held by men
- Gender-specific dress code policies that prioritise the comfort of men and boys over that of girls and women
Patriarchy harms women* in thousands of ways, many of which intersect with each other. Societally, a culture that teaches men that they are entitled to be in control is not only oppressive to women, it’s dangerous.
What is TDP doing about it?
Because we are a business where the majority of the team – including the whole leadership team – are women, we don’t experience the more obvious forms of patriarchal oppression in the workplace. And that’s great!
But because the roots of patriarchy run so deep it’s impossible to avoid it infiltrating in some ways. That’s where the conscious decision to challenge it where it does exist, at a cultural rather than organisational level, is so important. It’s also really important to acknowledge the intersections of our individual privilege, and conversely to recognise the intersections of oppression that exist, in particular for women of colour, disabled women, and LGBTQIA+ women [and men!] It’s important to us to create and implement systems that support equity in the workplace and set an example for broader cultural change.
Here are some of the things we’re doing to support women in the workplace at TDP.
Flexibility as a natural state
If you need to leave for an appointment, take it. If you’re having a brain-fluffy afternoon and need an hour to walk in the sunshine, take it. If you prefer to start early and finish early, or start late and finish late, take it. Can’t get afterschool care because you forgot to book it? Do what you need to do. The flexibility to best service the job we’re paid for is a no-brainer at TDP. Trust is implicit in our workplace. Our management team trust us to do the job. We trust them to let us.
Chucking pink-collar wages in the bin where they belong
Industries primarily staffed by women have a tendency to be undervalued and underpaid. At TDP, our salary bands are well above industry average. Women’s work is valued. Period.
Closing the super gap
One of the most stark realities of a patriarchal society is that it leaves women with less superannuation than men. Women with children in particular retire with significantly less super, due to the lack of accrual during the time taken away from the workplace raising children.
TDP is making additional lump sum superannuation payments to every female employee to close the super gap, with additional provisions for working mothers.
A deep commitment to professional growth
We are ALWAYS encouraged to develop our skills here at TDP. We have regular, structured catch ups with our leadership teams to talk about the opportunities we’d like to take advantage of, or skills we’d like to build on. If it can be done, it’s done. Being encouraged to prioritise upskilling is great for the business in the long term, but also adds security in the form of greater long term employability.
Maternity leave policy
TDP values its mothers, and that’s supported by a Mat leave policy that’s generous in lots of ways – from paid leave and paid contact days [if desired] to that all important flexibility. Babies are welcomed and celebrated in our workplace, and so are their mums.
I’m proud to work for a business that is committed to setting an example for systemic change. It’s a long road ahead, but as we begin to recognise how patriarchy impacts our lives and those of our sisters and daughters, our motivations for change will also burn brighter.
Maintain the rage.
*It’s important to note that patriarchy and the expectations it upholds aren’t great for men either. Our conversation today is about women, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge the extent to which patriarchy also harms men and boys. There are studies that show a direct and positive correlation between the state of a nation’s gender equality and the happiness and health of its men.