I am a feminist. I am also a male.
Such an admission can be confronting for some people to hear, and yet, I remain unsure why it is, that in 21st century Australia, the concept of a male feminist continues to prove challenging.
I find myself constantly surrounded by strong and ambitious women in all walks of my life. I believe that these women deserve the same opportunity for personal and professional success enjoyed by men like me, by means of the privilege afforded by our gender.
Women account for over half the Australian population (98 males to every 100 females), yet we continue to fail to make tangible progress in achieving true gender equity.
I am a feminist because I believe discrimination against over 50% of the population is neither right nor just.
I recognise the inherent power that is perceived to come with being male, and the very real impact this perception has upon our society. Our CEOs, academic and economic leaders, politicians, and judges are predominantly male.
I feel confident in the knowledge that my gender will not prove a barrier to my potential to achieve professional success. However, I am acutely aware that my female peers will continue to be considered “out of the ordinary” should they excel within their chosen fields, and may face profound challenges, particularly if they seek to venture into male dominated industries, such as mining, management, defence and economics. Gender stereotypes dictate that while I can expect to successfully pursue a career (should I desire), the sad reality is that the woman sitting beside me in class, consistently achieving grades above my own, has a 20% lower chance of securing full-time work.
Gender equity, women and feminism are the topics of now – and it is about time. Our boys and girls deserve better than a growing gender pay-gap, problems with financial literacy, a lack of equity amongst assets, and a lack of real representation and advocacy in government and business.
I want an Australia where gender disparity is discarded in favour of true equality. I do not want to raise my daughter in a world that views her as a second class citizen. Similarly I hope to never see my son labouring under the expectation that his self-worth is irrevocably bound to his ability to provide financially – yet while society normalises and encourages male emotional repression, he will be deemed worthy only to ever be the ‘second-parent.’
I want my children to have choice. Choice in what they want to be, how they get there and who they get there with – not constrained by a rigid gender normative.
Examined from an economic perspective, gender equity makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that our culture does not expect women to excel in the professional world. Australia has very few female Chief Financial Officers, or banking and finance leaders, and until Julie Bishop was appointed the Opposition Treasury Spokesperson there had never been a woman ‘trusted’ with that position. Not in the 100 plus years of our ‘egalitarian’ and ‘opportunistic’ democracy.
Statistically, women have fewer financial resources, not only limiting them personally, but also impacting the potential of our economy. The gender pay gap is above 17% nationally and budging 25% in WA. 26% of women do not have superannuation, compared with 19% of men, and AMP expects men with a bachelor’s degree to earn $1.5M more over the course of their career than their female counterparts. Basic economics suggests that economic gender equity is good for the economy, the more money in the hands of consumers the greater the flow-on.
The OECD has noted the three ‘E’s’ of gender equity: education, employment and entrepreneurship. We’re failing when it comes to educating girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; the gender pay gap is widening – 40% of women identify entrepreneurial ideas, while only 7.8% of women feel confident to act.
Above all else I hope for an Australia where people are appointed by their calibre, irrespective of the demographical boxes they tick. Their virtues and track-record must be allowed to speak for themselves.
The bonds of gender stereotyping often push men to follow a predetermined pathway – that of the financial provider and second parent. I want more than that for both me and Australia. Therefore, men will reap just as many rewards from gender equity as women. Men will benefit from the adoption of flexible work-hour schemes for both men and women. They will benefit when society recognises that it is the right of a couple to decide how they balance work and career aspirations with raising their children. They will benefit when all Australians feel free to pursue their ambitions free of gender stereotypes and the limitations that come with them. Gender equity is about choice and freedom.
I want to see success in our democracy and economy; the sowing of the seeds of the fruit that lie within gender equity. It’s about time.
Conrad Liveris is Left Right’s Chief Policy Officer, overseeing all state operations and policy outcomes. Follow him on Twitter @ConradLiveris.