As Frances McDormand collected her Oscar for Best Actress on Sunday night, she used her speech to celebrate the contributions of women to the industry, calling on every female nominee in every category to stand for applause, and calling for their stories to be heard and their projects to be financed. She signed off by saying, “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: ‘inclusion rider’.”
The inclusion rider – a clause which can be included in contracts that requires cast and crew on a project to meet a certain level of diversity – has been explored in great detail by Stacy Smith, the founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, in a Ted Talk titled, “The Data Behind Hollywood’s Sexism”, and in invoking the concept in her speech, McDormand placed the ball firmly in the court of the people who can make a difference. The message was that those with power must contribute to cultural change.
Hollywood is clearly a space of exception when it comes to hiring decisions and pay – and one in which many of the most powerful individuals, be they lead actors or directors, do not make hiring decisions. In more common business environments, power and hierarchical structure are more strongly correlated and domestically, there is plenty of evidence of disparities in perceived and real pay equality.
Data released by the Law Society of England and Wales in conjunction with International Women’s Day this week, shows a troubling discrepancy in the perception of progress toward gender equality within the legal profession in the last five years.
The survey – conducted globally with over 7,781 lawyers participating; 5,758 women, 554 men, 1,449 unknown and 20 who identify as other – showed that while 74% of male lawyers believe that there has been progress toward gender equality in the last five years, the figure falls to 48% among female lawyers. 52% of respondents felt that unconscious bias was the main barrier preventing women from reaching senior positions, however just 11% reported that unconscious bias training was being taught consistently across their organisation.
With unconscious bias seen as a barrier to progress by a majority of a global survey of almost 8,000 lawyers, and with such disparity between men’s and women’s perception of progress, its relevant to question whether those with the power to take action are sensitive to the realities for groups that are currently disadvantaged by existing organisational cultures and structures.
Many businesses in recent times have made significant missteps when it comes to trying to show a more inclusive face, or in trying to produce products targeted at specific groups – or perhaps, more cynically – for PR purposes. While BIC’s ‘Pens For Her’ might just about have gotten away with being the product of a focus group, Brewdog’s history of controversy-courting means that their release this week of ‘Pink IPA’, a “beer for girls” has had a mixed reception.
The campaign is relatively self-aware – making fun of the products that have been targeted at women in the past – but it has been met with cynicism; people do not want marketing campaigns, they want change.
On the 4th of April, all companies in the UK with over 250 employees are due to report the extent of their gender pay gap. In launching Pink IPA, Brewdog also announced their global pay gap – a 2.8% median pay gap in favour of men – with the company’s head of marketing saying, “The fact that the gender pay gap is still an issue in 2018 shows that a lot of lip service is being paid, but not enough action is being taken to tackle inequality.”
At 2.8%, Brewdog’s global pay gap is relatively low – Ernst & Young has published a median figure of 38.1% – but if their national pay figures are not received positively, no marketing gimmick will be enough to quell the criticism. The time for talk has passed, and the time for action – both in increased diversity and gender participation & pay – has arrived.