JAMES HERBERTSON, DIRECTOR
LONDON NEST | LONDON
Brilliant. The ‘feminist’ web TV show Good Girls Revolt is set to make a comeback. I watched the first series and got hooked. But I’m even more gripped by the significance of its revival and the big, in-your-face message the show carries about gender inequality.
If you don’t know it, Good Girls Revolt is a fictional newsroom drama set in 1969 and based on real events. It follows a team of talented female researchers who, because of the overt sexism of that time, are barred from becoming news reporters. As their boss explains, those are just “the rules”. But these women rebel and end up suing their employers, demanding equal rights. They had me literally screaming at the TV screen, rooting for them from my sofa.
Then the show was axed. It turns out that the head honcho who pulled the plug, despite its popularity, was later fired - for sexual harassing women. Now read between the lines of that one.
Scandals like this, peaking with the Harvey Weinstein story, are lighting the fire of discussion on the mistreatment of women across all industries. Watching Good Girls Revolt, it’s shocking to see what was going on 50 years ago. Sadly, it hasn’t changed that much since. Women are still paid less, don’t get to do the same jobs as men and sexual harassment still happens. But we can celebrate that organisations like Lead5050 exist. It has shone a much needed light on gender inequality in international education – an issue many people in our industry are in denial of. People say: “Well, I pay men and women equally, I treat them the same”, but the figures don’t lie. Many more men than women reach the top of this profession.
Our business is education, where a core principle is giving all students an opportunity to progress. It’s a shame that we are lagging behind when we should be leading the way.
Last month’s WIE awards recognised the achievements of both sexes in supporting the careers of women and inspiring other women to succeed in the industry, but change is not happening quickly enough. A lot more needs to be done and part of that is understanding the invisible glass ceiling and taking action to remove it.
We need a code of conduct on how to treat each other with mutual respect - whether man to woman, woman to man, man to man or woman to woman. General guidance to men includes “don’t talk over women” but it should be “don’t talk over anybody”. If you’re asked to join a panel or a team and see it’s all men, say something to encourage more women to have a voice. If you learn that your customers are evenly split between men and women, it’s madness not to reflect that at board level in the ratio of women to men.
So what needs to change? Women must take charge of their careers and move forward not by accident but by design. By attending events such as the Lead5050 forums they can band together in a sympathetic group and drive themselves on. Men need to be part of the change, recognise there is a problem and ask ourselves honestly: are we treating everyone equally? We can also be proactive by helping women develop into more senior roles from inside the company.
It would be a good start if men admitted where they could have done better in the past. I know I’ve not been perfect by any means. I’ve joined in with or been party to locker room talk at trade events. When I was an agent, a school salesperson once asked me to name my “top three”. I listed them off: “Malvern House, Tti, Central School”. He had other ideas. “No, not your top three schools,” he said, “who’s your top three ICEF totty?”. Attitudes may change, but just because you could get away with something before does not mean it was ever acceptable. Men need to acknowledge this and move on.
On Wednesday 29 November London Nest is delighted to be sponsoring another Coaching and Cava session at David Game College in Aldgate. Hannah Alexander-Wright will lead us through the topics: finding your confident voice, handling unwanted or harassing behaviour, asking for more money or responsibility, and dealing with conflict.
To sign up, please contact Ola Gasza at firstname.lastname@example.org or tel. 020 7221 6665. Registration is from 18:30 and the coaching will start at 19:00. We look forward to seeing you there.