Women’s empowerment is a topic we hear a lot about lately, especially in the context of gender equality within the workplace. It’s actually quite disheartening that even as we near the year 2020, there is still such a vast chasm within many industries in relation to equal opportunities for all employees—regardless of their gender. Although it’s true that we have come a long way with regard to equality, there is still much for us to do as strong Australian women determined to pave the way for future generations.
The entertainment industry has been at the forefront of this topic over the last several years in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the emergence of the #MeToo movement . Women are speaking out and using their influence to instigate proactive steps towards seeking significant change. Margot Robbie, boasting Australian roots, is one of those women setting an example for change.
The double standard
As women, we’ve all experienced it at one time or another: the double standard between men and women when it comes to what’s expected of us or how we project our opinions or convictions about a work-related issue. Where men are perceived as passionate or driven, women are viewed as difficult and overbearing.
In a recent interview with The Guardian , Robbie shares an epiphany she had during a conference call about a film she had in development. She and her friend, a screenwriter, were the only two women on the phone call. She explains, “We’d really had to stand our ground, to fight for something specific on this project. Afterwards we messaged each other, to ask: ‘Hey, was I a bit too pushy there? Did I sound like a bitch just then?’ We sent each other pretty much the exact same message, at the exact same time … do you think any of the men on that phone call texted each other, after, to ask if they sounded like a bitch? For putting an opinion forward? No. None of them would have thought twice about any of the things they said. You have those epiphany moments and this was one. And that’s not just our industry. That’s every industry.”
And this isn’t the only area where women experience a shift in expectations. In a recent survey about gender workplace experiences conducted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), several gender discrepancies were mentioned:
- The proverbial “boys’ club”: Women stated that the “boys’ club” culture was holding them back from networking opportunities, excluding them from promotions, and contributing to inequality of opportunity.
- Outright discrimination: During interviews, females were often asked if they intended to start a family, and as employees, they noticed a distinct change of behaviour when they announced a pregnancy.
- Workplace bullying: Women experienced harassment, bullying, and various forms of intimidation by men who were typically unaware of their inappropriate behaviour. There were also numerous mentions of sexual harassment.
This is just a sampling of the points listed, but a common theme among many of the comments involved the double standard when it came to children and family. Robbie addresses this specific issue during an interview with Radio Times stating, “I got married, and the first question in almost every interview is, ‘Babies? When are you having one?’ I’m so angry that there’s this social contract, you’re married, now have a baby. Don’t presume. I’ll do what I’m going to do.”
Rejecting the stereotypes
In 2014, Robbie founded her own production company, LuckyChap Entertainment, in order to have the creative freedom to produce more female-driven projects. She has become known for being quite adamant about her plans to create more roles and work for women in Hollywood , outside of the stereotypes and one-dimensional roles they’ve been forced into for so long in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
In an interview with Elle magazine, Robbie shares, “I never thought I’d want to be a producer. I’d always wanted to direct and write, but I got to a point as an actress where I felt like I was everyone’s puppet. I thought, Why don’t I get a say in the art I’m making?”
Recently, UN Women and the UN Global Compact joined together to create the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), a set of seven principles that offer guidance for businesses based on best practices from around the world. Although there have been many empirical studies that demonstrate the business case for gender equality, there are still many Australian companies that have yet to include gender diversity within their top strategic priorities.
By signing the Women’s Empowerment Principles, organisations have the opportunity to take the first step in transforming their workplace. The cultural change that results will not only improve the reputation of the organisation, but it will also improve their bottom-line performance and facilitate the realisation of women’s potential within Australia.
The future of women’s empowerment
There are many changes being made to cultivate a common respect and a balanced playing field within the workforce. As women, we can take steps within our own realm of influence to begin promoting a cultural shift and new expectations. It’s time to change the status quo.
During the onset of the #MeToo movement, Robbie wrote an open letter to Hollywood in an effort to address the gravity of the issue, writing, “So thinking about being a woman in Hollywood reminded me that when you take away Hollywood, we are all just women, all facing the inequalities that being a woman brings with it. And, what I’ve come to understand is that, though we are unique and powerful as individuals, we are invincible when we come together … these difficulties we face are to share the same spirit of those faced by countless women all over the world who struggle for the right to earn a living, the right to be heard, and even the right to be safe from harm.”
As women of this present generation, we are privileged to be surrounded and inspired by strong females , like Robbie, refusing to back down and using their platforms to encourage unity among women across the globe—within every industry and amidst all walks of life. Empowerment is more than just a catchy word to evoke emotion; it’s a process through which your mindset transforms from “I can’t” to “I can.”