Stop Fixing the Women

Author: Robert Franken

We do not need more women in management positions.

Wait… what?! No more women in management positions? But that is exactly what all diversity and equality officers in the organizations preach. And that is precisely what it has been about for years and for years in connection with the advancement of women in corporations and in politics. After all, the proportion of women among German DAX board members is stagnating, and nothing seems to be happening in the rest of the economy without a quota.

But you read right: We do not just need more women in management positions. Because before we demand something like this, we have to look closely at the nature of these management positions. After all, people can only develop their potential when the environment is right. And in this case, the environment doesn’t fit at all.

Fixing the women

We are facing major system upheavals because some developments are cumulating in our present time: Resource scarcity, digitization or the post-growth economy are only the first keywords in this context. Against the backdrop of these fundamental changes, there is little or nothing to gain from making women fit for a system that makes it so difficult for women, especially women, to find their own way and to remain in balance; and which will presumably, therefore, no longer be suitable for overcoming the indicated challenges.

Nevertheless, adaptation remains the strategy of choice. Hardly any company that does not rely on “promoting women”. Mentoring at all levels: reverse, cross or classic. This includes seminars and workshops on presentation techniques, communication or body language. The focus is always the woman – and never the system.

This is based on a basic attitude that is discriminatory: Women are deficient and must be made fit for management tasks. A look at the details shows that this means more than just conveying communicative or professional skills.

“She can’t do it, she doesn’t want to”

Male leadership behaviour is still the norm. Those who do not comply with this standard must be adapted according to the logic described above. Not only do the many female* skills and abilities fall by the wayside, there is also little room for individuality with so much adaptation. Yet: there would so much potential in the complementary capabilities of women and men.

If we were to focus less on differences than on working together, the focus would automatically be on creating the optimal framework conditions for collaboration. But even when women get involved: Today, it is very much a question of who gets engaged and how he or she does it. In the end, men still benefit from status when they bring in new ideas, but women do not.

“The status bump and leader emergence that resulted from speaking up with ideas only happened for men, not for women.”

But it’s even worse: If a woman fails to fulfill her managerial task, then only the woman is to blame: “She can’t do it” is the usual narrative. Thus, the system is self-fulfilling and at the same time ensures that it can continue to rotate around itself.

In order to support the narrative, a second cliché is used. This happens when more and more smart women look behind the system and explicitly refuse to have a classic management career. Then it’s a little patronizingly: “She doesn’t want to.” The withdrawal from the system, in the knowledge of the pressure to adapt, is a sign of far-sightedness much greater than adherence to stupid paradigms.

No female role-models

Incidentally, women should not only give leadership a completely new quality, they are also called upon to pave the way for other women. Empowerment is a kind of new “soft skill” that has to be applied as soon as she has warmed up her executive chair. But for such a willingness to mimic the “role model”, it would require a completely different socialization.

The pressure to adapt is so great that many women who have “made it”, i. e. hold leading positions, are no longer a prime example of “sisterhood”. The way to leaderhip positions is  doing something to these women. They do not always become more supportive. And that is not an accusation, but merely a statement.

System-immanent dissatisfaction

There is a very exciting research project on the life satisfaction of women and men (Brockmann, Hilke et al.:”Why Managerial Women are Less Happy Than Managerial Men”, Springer Science + Business Media, Dordrecht 2017).  In the study based on the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP),”managers” were compared with „non-managers”.

There is a very exciting research project on the life satisfaction of women and men (Brockmann, Hilke et al.:”Why Managerial Women are Less Happy Than Managerial Men”, Springer Science + Business Media, Dordrecht 2017).  The study, based on the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), compared “managers” with “non-managers”. The results are jaw-dropping. When a man goes into a leadership position, his life satisfaction increases significantly. In women, this figure is stagnating or even declining slightly. This means nothing more than counteracting the talk of “We need more women in management positions”.

Not only do women tend to be dissatisfied, they also waste considerable resources. After all, what is the point of filling the pipeline with women if you make them utterly unhappy and, because of this very fact, lose a large number of women again before they reach the top of the company? All the more so as management positions have changed considerably and will continue to do so to an even greater extent. Status no longer attracts talent.

Being a boss is no longer a goal in life

In the past, a leading position was the reward for decades of perseverance. Those who only kept still long enough and did not allow themselves too big mistakes, became boss. For many of these managers, all efforts to do well in the new position ended immediately.

This is changing significantly. When hierarchies dissolve, leadership becomes more and more a fluid concept and bottom-up is the new top-down, the challenges for managers are also fundamentally changing. Cognitive diversity is a coping concept for everything we cannot predict.

However, we will not achieve this diversity of perspectives, skills and approaches as long as we adhere to masculine normativity and accept the fixing of women as a legitimate reflex within this construct.

So let’s put a stop to it.

 

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator

#MeToo – Me, too

Author: Dominic Knight, musician, film maker and writer from Brighton, UK

First of all I would like to start with a disclaimer; at no point in this article do I seek to detract from the experiences of the women who have experienced such behaviour by men. I disagree with such behaviour wholeheartedly and try to stay as active as possible to call out any actions that I am privy to. What I am trying to do is make objective points and understand the problems and where they arise because as we all know, nothing in life is black and white…apart from Laurel and Hardy films.

Let’s start at the beginning. It was me. I did it.

Throughout my life, I have inadvertently been that guy. Even though since, as young as I can remember, I have called out my friends for cat calling, stopped people I know from pressuring our female friends into sex and various other unacceptable behaviours. Indeed, I am no saint though, far from it.

With the advent of the MeToo hashtag, it has got me thinking about how consistent this behaviour is. Though it is not surprising that many of my friends have used the tag, I am sure that each and every woman I know or have known has experienced these feelings and actions of intimidation and assault that it intends to raise awareness for. Many will not want to engage with this online campaign for various reasons, but it does not mean their voices and opinions are any less important, their experiences are there, whether you trend it on twitter or not.

It crossed my mind to voice my own experiences on social media. As a man, I feel I have the right to use this hashtag as I have experienced sexual abuse and intimidation. What stopped me however is not wanting to do the classic privileged patriarchal action of taking something of importance from someone else and changing it’s point.

Now I am aware that this is not actually the case. I’m sure most people would be behind anyone that stands up and says, “Hey, I have been sexually abused too.” It would defeat the point of equality if we couldn’t, but I am voicing my own very real insecurity about my masculinity; that however is sort of a different conversation. What I want to talk about is why and how we as men fall into this role.

I did it. We did it. I may be a cynic by saying this, but I believe that one would be hard pressed to find a man that has gone through his life without inadvertently or indeed deliberately sexually abusing another person. I say this from my own personal experience and have no statistics or factual evidence to back this up, but I feel I have a good grounding for my thoughts.

Here is where it gets tricky and I would like to refer back to my disclaimer, I am not trying to undermine anyone’s experiences at the hands of predatory men.

I do not think that every interaction a young boy or man has with a woman is conscious or thought about. That is not to say that ignorance is acceptable, but at a young age, how do you know that the way you are interacting is actually unacceptable and you are in fact pressuring a girl or young woman into an intimacy she is perhaps not ready for?

I was brought up open minded, liberal and more often than not, naked. I saw my parents have sex around the age of two (they may or may not know that), I had my first sexual feelings at the age of three and at five I stumbled across a pornographic video that was playing on a television. I sat there and watched, not understanding why the man was ‘weeing’ into the woman’s mouth or why his moustache was so big.

I have had various different interactions with girls around my own age that were explorative from about the age of six, and in my memory, it was all ‘consensual’, if you can have such a thing at a young age.

Herein lies the first problem, even though I knew that I should respect women and that rape was wrong, I did not fully know up until my mid twenties that there was a whole world of subtleties outside of obvious sexual abuse, in fact I am still learning about it today – a year and a bit shy of my thirtieth birthday.

The thought that I may have at some point in my early youth, pressured a girl into kissing me or exposed myself, either out of normality on my part or a proud “look at this weird thing I have that you don’t”, fills me with a zealous guilt. In my defence, I did not know any better at the time but that does not take away from the experience of the person on the other end.

The other side of this is that a girl in school once kicked me in the testicles because I wouldn’t kiss her…what reaction does this give you dear reader? Should she look back on her actions in the same way I am now?

As I got older, my confidence with women decreased rapidly and I didn’t really have any interactions until my late teens, eighteen to be precise -I wasn’t as interested in sex as my peers, but maybe I was just lying to myself and hid it behind a love for skateboarding and A&E, but that could have been the morphine and plaster casts.

Throughout the loss of my proverbial cherry and my long term relationship with my girlfriend at the time, I can remember pressuring her, not forcibly or violently but verbally into having sex when we both weren’t feeling the same way. I was not aware that by asking her again after she had said she wasn’t in the mood was the wrong thing to do. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand no, there were plenty of times where no was said and respected, but if I was feeling exceptionally virile my brain would bypass that respect and understanding; even then it didn’t always amount to anything other than a quiet frustration on my part and a wank in the bathroom. But to this day I feel shame for the times I pressured her into something she wasn’t 100% up for, or made her feel bad for not ‘putting out’, as they say in American high school films.

From the opposite side of the coin there were plenty of occasions where we had sex and I did not want to but felt I was obliged as that’s ‘what men want all the time’, so it would be have been untoward for me to say no. Whether or not that was an insecurity at the time or became one, I simply did not know I had the power to say no.

Possibly the point I am trying to make is that as men we are probably not as innocent as we think we are.

Even though we spend most of our lives being kind to strangers, being courteous to our partners and treating our daughters with love and respect, there is still that element wherein we lack a great degree of knowledge of the subtle things we may do that can cause women to feel degraded.

In a way it is not our fault; I remember feeling terrible about myself due to films, advertising and my lack of sexual experience. We are bombarded with information relating to what it means to ‘be a man’ on an hourly basis, unless we’re in the woods chopping down trees with our manly arms and murdering animals for sport. And it cannot be ignored that we live in a society that promotes sex from every imaginable angle. Even with the privilege of being male, white and liberal I still need to read and listen every day in order to break away from being a patriarchal oppressor, whether I mean to or not.

The fact that these conversations or memes or whatever the hell else you call this new technofaddy age pop up in increasing numbers means that it makes people think about it more. I did not know what I know now about women’s rights when I was a teenager, or even in my early teens because it was rarely spoken about; therefore I rarely thought about it. In my head I never struck, I never abused and I never assaulted a woman, so I thought I was a good guy.

To clarify I do not think that every act of misogyny is accidental or unintended, but there is an element where we need to look past the obvious forces of negativity in men and try and tackle the root cause, stemming the problem in the youth before it affects teenagers going through the hell that is hormones.

I want to apologise to every girl and every woman that I may have ever intimidated, pressured or made to feel bad about themselves without my knowing, understanding or intent. It does not excuse anything I may have done, but I hope my actions of the present and the future may help make up for it.

As men it is our constant and eternal duty to be aware of our actions, our privileges and our peers, we need to educate each other and ourselves and not be afraid to stand up and take responsibility for our feelings and actions, as well as listening to and appreciating those who have been affected by our actions. Only through connectivity can we break down the barriers and create a world in which equality is not spoken about because we have surpassed it.

WE CAN’T TAKE ANY MORE OF THIS! How to Make the Music Scene into One Big Safe(r) Space

This article by Robert Franken has initially been published in issue #3 of the Reeperbahn Festival Conference Mag.

Within the music industry, various programs, initiatives and public pronouncements are calling for more diversity, female rights and an end to the tradition of male dominance. Meanwhile, hardly a week goes by without shocking reports of sexual assaults against women at festivals and other events. Digital & Diversity Consultant and self-declared feminist Robert Franken has something to say about this – and he doesn’t mince his words.

It seems we can no longer just look to the Nordic countries to find shining examples of equality and solidarity in society and business. At least not when it comes to the music industry. And most definitely not when it comes to festivals.

After multiple rapes and sexual assaults at this year’s Bråvalla Festival in Sweden, the organizers called the festival off for 2018 (some people are planning to make it into an all-female event instead). Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven told the Swedish daily Expressen: “This must stop.” And yes, it must.

But obviously it doesn’t just stop. Festival season is bringing out the most disgusting display of the often quoted phenomenon of toxic masculinity. And toxic it is, if female festivalgoers have to fear for their lives and their safety when all they want to do is enjoy a couple of days with their favorite bands and their friends.

Some festival organizers are trying to make a difference. When 27-year-old Laura Whitehurst from Manchester was assaulted by two male friends, she wanted to cancel her visit to the Glastonbury festival. But the festival makers made sure she could enjoy her stay by implementing a whole variety of safety measures, including a security letter and special access tickets.

But how can events like music festivals become safer spaces for everyone? Certainly one key part of the answer is: awareness. Everybody, and especially men, need to realize that they have to become part of the solution – otherwise they will forever remain part of the problem. The United Nations campaign #HeForShe could be a leading example of how to involve men in the quest for gender equality. Making festivals into safer spaces for everyone would be one essential and common goal.

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) offers three key messages to festivalgoers in order to support the idea of #saferspacesatfestivals:

1. Zero Tolerance to Sexual Assault
2. Hands Off Unless Consent
3. Don’t Be a Bystander

This is most definitely a good start, but we cannot close our eyes to the fact that there is a pattern. From New Year’s Eve in Cologne to Glastonbury 2017, from Roskilde to Bråvalla, it sounds all too familiar: Large groups of men, alcohol and other drugs, and a weekend away from the drudgery of everyday life seem to form a very dangerous combination.

So let’s start talking about cause and effect. Horrible crimes like rape and sexual assault are symptoms of a society that hasn’t come to terms with what masculinity is about – or should be about. This is why those men who have taken the right step in the right direction should become catalysts for change. They can influence a new norm: a norm of tolerance, respect and equality. We must start today. And we must embrace new concepts to trigger change. The whole music industry thus needs to reboot its parameters of success. Let’s replace toughness with empathy, for example. Instead of incredibly long working hours, we should consider job sharing models as an alternative. It’s also high time to support gender equality on and off stage. And finally: diversity is key. The more we bring different backgrounds and perspectives together, the better the outcomes will be.

ARE WE READY FOR THIS?

(This article by Robert Franken has initially been published in issue #3 of the Reeperbahn Festival Conference Mag.)

Being a male feminist as a matter of survival

 

Author: Jo von Beust (writer, translator, activist) from Munich, Germany

Becoming a male feminist is the latest facet I have been adding to the many ideas, concepts, analogies I have embedded over the time of my life into my expanding view of what it means to be human. Becoming a feminist is also a tribute to my daughter, born 2013, who I would like to see grow up in a world where she can travel to any place on earth and dive into any culture humans have created on the planet and not be subject to discrimination, sexism but rather be recognised, respected, treated as equal, as a full human being.

Apart from this “personal” motivation – why should we be or become male supporters of the “new” empathic feminist movement we witness today? Good question.

First thing for me was to realise the new quality, dimension and tone of today’s local and global women’s initiatives.

During the 1980s and 1990s, I had been a sympathizing bystander, but regarded women’s emancipation and participation as one issue of the many political and social topics we were dealing with at the time. And, somehow this women’s issue had nothing to do with my own private life, with the woman I was married to at the time or the son we were raising. However, I had a brief encounter with men taking first steps to liberate themselves from what they vaguely felt was cutting them off from what life might mean, embarking, inspired by Robert Bly’s Iron John, on a journey that led to, as I see it today, … nowhere. Because, the search for “real” manhood failed to ask that one essential question: what about the women?

Ironically, in the many initiatives, groups and seminars I visited in the last decade, dealing with “new” concepts about life, forms of communication, spirituality, music, healing, personal growth and such things, I noticed a strange absence of men, and the women there, outnumbering us few men by far, did ask me the counter question: what about the men?

It seemed that men and women were living in different worlds, in different timelines, with women searching, longing and men rejecting, persisting.

At one point, I was driven or drawn deeper into the women’s issue.

First, I was particularly impressed by the feminine movements that expand the theme of women’s or gender equality, or gender issues in general, to evolve to “real transgender” topics or social/political action, as it were. Here, Liberian peace activist, social worker, women’s rights advocate and 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee set the pace with leading a nonviolent movement that brought together Christian and Muslim women to play a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s devastating, fourteen-year civil war in 2003.

Inspiringly, the main Gandhian-like form of action of these women was a strike calling up for “no sex, no cooking” 🙂 ! That really made men start thinking and reach out to each other beyond religious dogmatism – a favourite geegaw of men all over the planet, apart from football, of course! At one point, these women surrounded the Liberian parliament by the thousands and made it clear that they wouldn’t go away, until the men inside would have signed the peace treaty.

More recently, in October 2016 Israeli singer and activist Yael Deckelbaum co-organized a march called “Women Wage Peace” across the holy land, culminating in a common prayer of peace of 4,000 Palestinian and Israeli women on the shores of the Red Sea.

With the heading “Prayer of the Mothers”, this women’s march infused another dimension to the Liberian prototype: the mother archetype, the symbol of life giving, of creation, of life unfolding. To this already powerful mix Yael then went on to “add some music” – do you remember that old Beach Boys’ song? – to create a wonderful, moving and inspiring four-fold formula, where music or the community created by singing together brought to life the promise Yehudi Menuhin once made: “One person singing, can heal her/himself, people singing together can heal the world.” Deckelbaum’s musical video “Prayer of the Mothers” about this 2016 march passed 3.5 million views on Youtube by mid July 2017, a monthly plus of some 100,000, and it doesn’t stop there. A new, larger, more powerful Women Wage Peace march is coming up end of September 2017 in Israel/Palestine. The women there are hanging in.

Co-organising together with five women a similar Prayer of the Mother – Wo/men’s March in June 2017 in Munich, with Yael Deckelbaum joining in from Israel, not only proved to be very demanding on my male self, but opened a new perspective on our (gender) issue. Public Bavarian Broadcasting BR aired a feature on this event which can be watched here.

In Munich, we as organizers, added a slash to make it a “Wo/men’s March” and to emphasize that the state of womanhood on our planet is an issue that is intrinsically of concern for men, too.

Because, I believe now, it is not just a question of women’s “emancipation” or “rights” or “opportunities” anymore, rather fundamentally now, women’s participation or even leadership has become a matter of survival for the human species itself. It may be worth pointing out, that the term “women” in this context is used as a term of inclusion – as a placeholder for all those who are – more or less – excluded from shaping our economic and political processes. It is not as an expression of (another) separation. Of course, discussing more in depth the issue of gender – which is inseparable from our male feminist discourse –would need to include LGBT or gender fluidity aspects, however this would lead me away from the – quite radical – point I wish to make here.

By suppressing and cutting away the female element in our cultures, human civilisation on this planet has evolved to become a self-destructive monster. Male domination over the past 10,000 years or so has produced cultures, civilisations and religious belief systems based and thriving on oppression, exclusion, separation, and, to put it blantly, hate.

Our world civilisation today is deeply rooted in materialism and has developed a weird mechanistic and rationalistic approach to what it means to be human and to what life may be about. So is the set-up of our social and political systems leavened by patriarchal concepts.

Nature is perceived to be some kind of machine that doesn’t run properly, is essentially faulty and has to be improved wherever humans can’t face the fact that they themselves are products of nature. In the search for the meaning of the whole, Western, and now world civilisation has been on the search for the smallest of items to give the answers about the whole, deconstructing the whole to reconstruct it with reasoning and scientific methods to create a ramshackle inhumane construction under the control of economic interest.

The latest advancements of technology, algorithms and AI are assuming the nightmarish dimension of an extinction of humankind – a notion that not only shared by fringe thinkers and scientists but also, of all people, by technology gurus like Elon Musk who is voicing serious concerns in this respect.

Our patriarchal religious and political systems, led by ridiculous psychopaths like Trump, Putin, Erdogan, Netanyahu, Abbas, Kim Jong-Un, Orban – to name just a few – hold the world in ransom with their queer and crude concepts of “first”, “territory”, “borders”, “order”, “security”, “nation” or whatever. And, they are willing to make suffer and kill millions of humans to satisfy the ego that is whispering and rattles on about “the others” in their head when they’re alone – or not – in their bed at night.

It is not without reason why one of the main demands the peace women in Israel are putting forth, is to include women into the Israel-Palestine peace process.

So, what has that to do with becoming a male supporter of feminism?

Because the new empathic feminism is about ending the separation, is about connecting, is about love, is about joy, music, passion, good living, is about life itself, because it is about realizing that we are living beings that are rooted in culture and nature. Wonderful Tunesian born Kaouthar Darmoni hits the nail on its head when she states that to be fully human, women need to be able to be fully woman.

And, if women can return to be fully female, this return of freed femininity into our world – which is a return of half of humanity to take part in all aspects of our civilization – would liberate also us men from the slavery of the self-destructive, economistic, mechanistic and egotistic patriarchal paradigm we have caged ourselves in. We would be freed from self-inflicted musts and don’ts, rediscover playfulness, rediscover how it feels like to be deeply connected, flushed with love (and not just sex).

Together with women we could build a world where our ingenuity, thinking and savoir-faire would, while making life easier, be directed towards preserving and protecting the whole. And last not least: under the veils and encasements, whether made from cloth or social and cultural fabric, we have hidden women for so long, we may discover a wonderful enrichment of our lives, of all life, we never ever thought possible.

What men can do to understand what women experience in everyday life

Author: David Müller, peacebuilding practitioner and writer from Freiburg, Germany, focusing on mediation and dialogue support as well as gender and conflict; currently working at Yangon, Myanmar.

The realities of women and men are fundamentally different. Women regularly face discrimination and violence of which men are often ignorant. Our author David seeks to understand why many men are often not aware of what women experience and what can be done to overcome this gap.

The gulf between two worlds

“If I were alone now, I would not dare walk down this alley” says my girlfriend and squeezes my hand a bit tighter. We continue onwards in the dark. To our right, a group of men occupy a bench, smoking and drinking. The men eye up my girlfriend as we pass by. Around the corner and out of reach, we enter the staircase and take the first few steps inside. Visibly relieved, my girlfriend goes ahead.

For me, this was a normal way home. There was nothing strange about it and certainly no cause for fear. For my girlfriend, however, this was yet another situation in which she could have faced male aggression – a fear rooted deeply in previous experiences. This event exemplifies a simple fact which I unfortunately became aware of only recently: women live in a substantially different reality than men. They are almost never treated as respectfully as we are accustomed to. This gulf between our two worlds manifests itself only sporadically, and rarely do we men acknowledge the existence of it, or make a commitment to overcome it.

Violence has a gender

Worldwide, women are victims and survivors of oppression, sexism and violence. This holds true in the private and public space, in relationships, in the digital world, at work, and while traveling – in virtually all areas of their lives. Globally, the vast majority of these violent acts are committed by men. Just to clarify: This does not mean that all men are violent and culprits or that all women are peaceful and victims – this gendered idea in itself is often enough problematic. Men also suffer from violence; women, too, inflict violence upon others. It is, however, important to highlight certain structures and patterns, because as Rebecca Solnit writes in her book Men Explain Things to Me: “Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, religion or a nationality, but it does have a gender.” This gender-based violence is manifold in nature. It ranges from verbal abuse in the digital world to worst forms of physical and sexual violence, inflicted by partners or complete strangers.

A lack of awareness

Violence against women, which is so deeply embedded in our societies, silences women and girls and restricts their freedom of movement and development. As a result, in many circumstances, women experience a more constricted reality than men. When I travel, I care little about how I dress or at what time of the day I am on the move. In the digital world, I move freely and untroubled, without the fear of bullying or harassment. At work, I do not have to put up with unsolicited sexist commentary or physical assault. In a partnership, I will most likely not be hit or abused. Generally, I am perceived and appreciated as a person rather than an object.

Although women are frequently restricted in their self-determination, men too often lack awareness of this reality. Rarely do we talk about male privilege or think about what we can do to address our own wrongdoings and to express solidarity, or understand that the discrimination and the violent repression of half of the world’s population promotes and underpins our own lack of freedom.

Why is that?

A few thoughts come to mind when thinking about this question: A first piece of explanation may be that we have never made comparable experiences. It is often difficult for me to understand a reality that I have never experienced. Having said that, this explanation can never serve as an excuse or justification because: as members of the male sex we do bear responsibility for action, even if we do not actively discriminate against or inflict violence upon others. In a way, if we remain silent, we take sides with an unjust cause.

In addition, it is still the exception rather than the rule that the suppression of women is actively taken up as part of broader social discourses. Despite broader awareness and acceptance of feminist thought, gender equality and violence against women are topics that are still barely discussed at the kitchen table, or mainstreamed into teaching curricula at schools, vocational training institutes or university studies.

Moreover, although violence against women is a daily occurrence, this pattern is barely acknowledged or pinpointed. There is still a strong tendency to explain violence against women on a case-by-case basis without taking into account the bigger picture. Often the victim herself is blamed – she should not have dressed so “provocatively” or gone down that dark street all on her own. Using the words of Solnit: “The pandemic of violence against women gets explained as anything but gender.”

At the end of the day, it is perhaps simply a question of men getting real: if we were to truly acknowledge that violence against women is first and foremost our problem, we would need to take a closer look at where this this is actually coming from. As a consequence, we would have to question the very system that provides us with many privileges – but this would be extremely uncomfortable, wouldn’t it?

So what can we, as men, do?

When I think about this question, three thoughts come to my mind:

1) Educate ourselves, ask and listen: It is not for women to explain to us what is problematic about a patriarchal society. We have the responsibility to educate ourselves and to unpack the dynamics of power and dominance between the sexes – particularly from an intersectional point of view. This also includes asking questions and to really listen when women tell us about the world they live.

2) Acknowledge: This may sound trivial, but I don’t think it is. I truly believe that if we recognize more often, more openly and more publicly that oppression and violence against women is first and foremost a male problem, much would be gained already. Acknowledgement and insight are a basic prerequisite for behavioural change.

3) Develop new ideals of what it means to be a man: Some part of how we understand masculinity nourishes an often aggressive and violent behaviour towards other people, particularly women. I think that we must develop and spread new ideals of what it means to be a man – ideals which are characterized by, for example, respect, empathy or non-violence. Only a new understanding of what we consider to be masculine can change our behaviour in the long term.

Someday…

Then, someday, a woman walks alone in the dark in the backyard. To her right is a group of men who, smoking and drinking, occupy a bench. Indifferently, the men look at the women as she passes by. Around the corner, she enters the staircase and takes the first steps. Just a normal way home. Nothing about it and nothing to fear.

(This article has originally been published in German at EditionF on July 5th 2017.)

Of course I’m a feminist

Author: Diogo Queiroz de Andrade (Deputy Executive Editor at Público

It is so simple, and so obvious. To be a feminist is to advocate strict equality between men and women in every matter. It is to promote freedom of choice for both women and men.

And yes, it is worrying that an editorial in defense of feminism is still needed in a newspaper, in 2017. However, everyday active public demonstrations of machismo are still happening, behaviors that should shame us and are still tolerated.

Machismo is the main root of domestic violence, and is still one of the most regretful statistics we have to show for. Machismo is also what fosters the recommendation of certain toys for girls, what determines why women earn less than men for doing the exact same job, what prevents women from getting certain jobs and what feeds the analysis of women on solely sexual and sensual grounds.

We can, and should, discuss every way possible to tackle the issue at hand. It is legitimate to discuss quotas, it is reasonable to question if catcalling should or should not be punishable. But the time to discuss the root of the problem should have ended long ago. It is simply not wise to discuss whether or not we should be feminists.

We only need to look around us to grasp what needs to be done. Women are further and further away from school. They have less access to the job market and when they do get there, earn less and are more precarious. The numbers do not lie: most illiterates in the world are female; there are still 18 countries in which husbands can forbid their wives from working, and only 67 nations have laws against gender discrimination in recruitments; over half of women in the EU has suffered from some kind of sexual abuse; merely 28% of working women are entitled to some kind of protection regarding maternity leave.

And, if the numbers do not lie, neither does perception. When the world’s most powerful president stands for the objectification of women and manages to win the elections, there is motive to worry about the public debate status. When the comments’ sections on most newspapers or Facebook discussions about Emma Watson become crammed with savage comments, we realize how far we are from living in a civilized society. This is why we should be redundant in a newspaper and say the obvious: I’m a feminist.

 

This op-ed has been published in Portuguese newspaper Público on March 8, 2017. Here ist the original version (in Portuguese).

Diversity in the Music Industry and the 30 Under 30 List

Author: Andy Edwards poses some questions to consider in the wake of the 30 Under 30 diversity discussionIf it’s not the Oscars it’s the BRITS, if it’s not the Billboard Power 100 it’s Music Week’s 30 Under 30, the question of diversity within the music industry has boiled to the surface this year. In 2016 this is deeply troubling.Music Week’s front cover featuring 30 people under 30, initially nominated by readers, and then finally selected by MW, was the latest lightning rod for this topic. If the next generation of executives cannot be truly diverse, what hope is there?

One criticism leveled at Music Week is that editorial judgment should have been exercised and a broader list of names proactively sought. Instead, Music Week reported on the candidates whose names had been put forward. Judging by the list of 108 names that did not make the final 30, the total list put forward was overwhelmingly white.

Perhaps any attempt to disproportionately select candidates of colour would have masked the real story and a much broader underlying problem? Music Week did report the facts whether we like those facts or not.

The counter list put forth by DJ Semtex is incredibly powerful. One person came up with 30 alternative names in a matter of hours, a list that was overwhelming colourful and brimming with talent. A further list from Complex made a similar point.

What interests me most of all right now is to understand what is going on and why. In very broad terms, it strikes me the Music Week list is made up largely of what we would consider to be the “traditional” music business, whether that is corporates or established PR and management companies.

In contrast, Semtex’s list – while containing quite a few major label people – skewed much more heavily to the self-starters, the entrepreneurs, those with portfolio careers and the emerging music businesses – the blogs, the YouTube channels, the club nights, and so on. The same was broadly true of the Complex list.

Compilers of such lists have to consider a much broader range of job roles than ever before and a much broader range of organizations and career paths. What constitutes the “music industry” itself can be debated at length.

If the music industry is to reflect the wider world, what is that wider world? The last UK census in 2011 revealed that 13% of the UK population is non-white, but in London that percentage rises to 40%. Undeniably the industry is still overwhelmingly London-centric, but should we be looking at percentages at all? What should our reference points be?

And what of the challenges of a London-centric industry? Moving to London was part of the attraction of being in the music industry, but with rents and property prices at an all-time high, does that also stifle diversity of a different kind? Factor in ever increasing levels of student debt and the problem multiplies. Some have said only the posh Home Counties middle class need apply – probably a blog post in itself!

So we as an industry need to ask ourselves some questions.

The Who and What Questions:

  • Who does the industry employ? What are the numbers by ethnicity?
  • What is the break down across sectors of the industry?
  • What are the emerging sectors that should form part of the music industry?
  • What are the ethnicity numbers by job role? Creative vs Business roles?
  • Does music genre play a role in determining the spread of diversity?
  • What are the conventions and processes that are restraining diversity?

The Why Questions:

  • Why do some jobs attract a more diverse range of applicants than others?
  • Why do people from certain backgrounds want to work in music?
  • Why do people from certain backgrounds not want to work in music?
  • Is the music industry attracting the right mix of people? What is the right mix?
  • Why do employers recruit in the way that they do?

There is a lot of soul searching to be done. Perhaps we all have to ask questions about our own journeys, experiences and motivations in order to make those connections with others. We should constantly question and challenge ourselves.

I grew up in a small town in the north of England. I remember a kid in the playground calling me “Jew Boy” because I had curly hair, a big nose and my Dad worked for a bank. I didn’t know any Jewish people at the time, but I did know what it felt like to be different and I have always been appreciative and inquisitive of people’s differences.

Working in the music business was an opportunity to do something different. I like being around crazy people, but really I’m the commercially focused sensible one. At Sony Music in the ‘90s, I was a Marketing Analyst. No one knew what I did and I always had to explain. So a part of me jumped for joy that the first name on the Music Week 30 under 30 list was an Analyst from Sony Music.

As an indie kid from up north, Sony was also an opportunity to expand my knowledge of black music. With colleagues such as Semtex, Matthew Ross, Adam Sieff and others I filled up on hip hop, soul and jazz. I was clueless but I learned.

Moving around the industry, one learns about the differing professions and tribes. You listen, learn and absorb. As the industry grows more complex a broader range of skills are required. It also means opening one’s eyes and ears to those with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.

But this runs counter to the way in which the industry has traditionally organized itself. The “its who you know” mantra is self-selecting. A female colleague describing an iconic label she worked at recalled, “there was a certain type of person and you either fitted in or you didn’t”. Like attracts like.

On another occasion, when interviewing for an assistant role for a colleague, one candidate spoke enthusiastically about some work they had done for their local church. Afterwards, my colleague remarked “hummm, bible basher”, completely misunderstanding the background and culture of the candidate. Clue: 48% of London’s church-goers are black.

Some organisations deploy more sophisticated recruitment techniques such as competency based interviews or algorithms yet many tech companies have diversity challenges also. These techniques can also be self-selecting and if candidates are not attracted to certain industry sectors or roles, one has to ask “why?

This is not an easy process, whether that is on a macro level or a mirco level. Relaying back to personal experience, the best and most productive working relationships have always been those where I have worked with someone who is the polar opposite to myself. That might not necessarily make for an easy experience but it is always exciting, challenging and most of all delivers exceptional results.

The music industry has to grapple with a much bigger picture on a macro level. It is not just music; other creative sectors such as film, TV and publishing are facing similar issues. It seems no one is handling this well.

This is a topic that is already being hotly debated at UK Music board level for some time. The senior figures within our industry are already deeply concerned and are seeking to understand the issues and challenges, including some of the questions I have raised above.

There will be outreach, through UK Music and its members: the BPI, AIM, MPA, PRS, MMF and so on are all intending on surveying their memberships. Ged Doherty and Keith Harris are looking at this issue specifically. I would ask anyone reading this article to engage and retweet and spread the word. There will be more announcements to come. Watch this space and get involved.

 

This article first appeared in the Record of the Day weekly magazine. Subscribers can access the archive here.

Diversity vs Patriarchy – Let’s catch the next Wave!

Author: Karsten Jahn (coach & consultant) 

Recently I attended a conference, dealing with organizational change. One of the sessions there was about human resources (HR). This is the department of an organization that is supposed to support individuals within the organization. Here people were talking about how to evaluate the skills of employees, how to train them and the role of leadership in all this. At one point during this session a young woman from the audience got up and confronted a high-ranked HR manager from a large German energy provider, also female, with an interesting subject.

The young woman said that she was at the very beginning of her career. She recently read that a study, which shows that the careers of women are often hindered by other women, not so much by men. This sounded counter intuitive to her, as she thought women would support each other.

The HR lady responded that she has never been hindered by other women or experienced a lack of support for that matter. She continued pointing out this would not happen in her company. All that in a tone, close to scolding. Which in my opinion shows a major lack of sympathy and basically already proves the point of the study. But she continued talking, and not without pride in her voice (paraphrased):

“At our company we do not have a lot of female managers, especially in HR, even though a majority of the people in this division are women. But it’s not that they wouldn’t be able to, they do not want to go for a management career. Many young, skilled, intelligent women tell me that they rather not aim for higher management, the personal investment is way too high. So it’s a matter of choice, not of sexism.”

Instead of thinking critically about what the young woman said and discussing the very serious matter, she basically responds with disrespect and rejects the topic. That made me really mad. And I’m a white male, much further in my career. I can only imagine how the women that asked the question must have felt. Probably not encouraged, inspired or taken seriously, which is a shame, because exactly that is what HR should do. Encourage people, inspire them and take them seriously.

The question behind all this is, why do women not want to go for higher management and why do we want them to do that though. The answer is simple. Because we lack diversity. That’s also the reason why this question is not obvious to all of us. And sadly enough not even to the female HR manager…

Diversity is Valuable

We all want to learn, we all want to develop, it’s in our nature. And nothing supports this more than embracing the huge potential in the differences between and around us. People with different backgrounds add different perspectives, which help us reflect on what we do and what we think we know. That’s how we learn. Your sense of taste won’t develop if you always eat the same things, no successful musician only listens to the same type of music, no athlete just keeps repeating the same exercise. Variety is important.

When it comes to people, diversity relates to everything we can be different in: Gender, culture, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disabilities, etc. Even mixing cat and dog people is valuable.

comfortzoneBut instead of mixing we often group with those that are similar. Psychologists explain this by the way our brain is set up. We feel more secure with those that are similar to ourselves, trust them easier. That’s why expats always stick to one another. And within each expat community you’ll find subgroups sorted by nationality. Or maybe by religion or language. And of course all of which are gossiping against each the other groups and all together against the host nation. It’s easier, it’s our comfort zone.

We say that birds of a feather flock together. And it’s true, it’s deeply rooted in our brains. That’s probably how we ended up with racism and sexism to begin with. But humans became very smart. And we found out that those who dare to leave their comfort zone, can achieve higher results. Our history books are full of examples for this. Embrace differences is leaving the personal comfort zone. Which is never easy. For no one. But it might be worth it.

Research shows that teams of knowledge workers, who have to operate creatively, are better equipped when they are staffed heterogeneously. Diverse teams achieve more. Designers collaborating with engineers, technicians with business people, senior with junior. Major synergies spark, when the mix works. But everyone has an experience, where it did not. It was probably build to fail and then served as a reasoning for people to not try again. So now we usually have homogeneous teams, everyone is similar.

Adding new perspectives would be hugely beneficial, though. But we have to want it ourselves, else it will just fail again. So we need to support minorities (i.e. underrepresented genders, age groups, cultures, whatever). And it’s not the minority as such, but it’s about looking at every person’s individual skills and needs, which emerge from their culture, their gender and so on.

If we just give them a desk and tell them our schedules, it will fail again. If we don’t adapt our styles so it comforts others, we will only get those that “convert” to our style. That is not really what we want. No one should have to change who they are in order to be successful. Only if we’re free to be ourselves, we can be truly creative. It’s time to fire the next stage…

Waves of Feminism

Feminism, as in the fight for women’s rights, is being classified in different waves. The first one was about acknowledgment and ended around 100 years ago in the western world (whatever that is). In focus were basic legal issues and to understand that women are people, too, who deserve the right to vote, to drive a car and such.

The second wave of feminism was then about extending the legal equality and had its peak in the 1960s and 1970s in large parts of the western world. Women are able do the same things as men and they have to be allowed to do that, too. Families, education, jobs… we had to adjust our laws so that women had the same options as men and that domestic violence became illegal. It was forbidden for women in Germany to play football until 1970, by the German football association.

Both waves of feminist activity were a revolution mostly dedicated to white middleclass women. According to the norms of the white male. The result, our current reality in large parts of the western world, is that we actually get to meet women in higher management positions. Very few ones, though. And most of those are “masculinized”. They appear in a business look, which is a merely female version of the men’s suit. They have to follow the lifestyle of business men. They have to play according to the rules of patriarchy. Again, not exactly what we have in mind, when we’re thinking about equality. Patriarchy is still up and running.

The third wave of feminism is addressing exactly that, taking care of the individual and their needs. It’s not just about women anymore, it’s about individuals. No privileges due to gender, sexual orientation, culture, ethnicity, etc. We don’t really know how true equality would look like, but let’s go for it, because more people will be able to live and work the way they want. And happy people are more efficient workers, resulting in products and organizations of higher quality.

What we need to do…

This brings us back to the HR lady from the conference, who said that many women at her company don’t want to go for higher management career, as the demand does not fit their lifestyle. Those are intelligent women that deny being squeezed into a structure that was created for someone else. And so they should!

We have to understand that it’s not their loss, if they don’t want to aim for a career like this, but ours. We need diversity in our societies and organizations. But we are not prepared for that. Expecting others to adopt to our system, which does not work for and barely accepts minorities, is obviously ridiculous. Yet, that is what we keep doing. We’re still stuck in wave 2.

I would expect that HR managers are aware of this. And I would expect that women in management are aware of this. A higher ranked female HR manager that is proud that their management level lacks women, because they use their freedom of choice, is mind-boggling and makes me really mad.

Our business world has been created by white men, to suit their own lives. That is a fact. We might not necessarily see it straight away, but that’s the problem with privileges. They are invisible to those, who have them (Michael Kimmel). We have to find solutions so that people can have a management career and a family at the same time. We have to find solutions so that people of different cultures can collaborate without having to abandon their own background.

Diversity is not necessarily comfortable. But it’s worth it. Let’s get out of our comfort zones. Let’s get rid of patriarchy. Let’s get rid of privileges for majorities, so that we can get rid of majorities. All that hinders diversity, which we need to be better, smarter, more creative and flexible. As a society as well as an organization.

Let’s empower minorities and listen to their needs.

Hi, my name is Karsten and I’m a feminist.

 

(This blogpost has originally been published here.)

Leadership and Living Your Life

Author: Wolfgang Lünenbürger (feminist, theologist, agency CEO)

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There is an ongoing discussion in Germany about the question whether leadership and the role of a manager are possible if you are working part time. The last round was sparked by an editor-in-chief that wanted to stay in her role after she gave birth and come back in part time for a year or so.

And as I learned just one week ago that there is a well-known agency in my city that explicitly refuses a career in part time (what is in my not so humble opinion the dumbest thing I heard for a long time), I feel the urge to share my experience and beliefs.

Everything is Possible to Do in Part Time

Back in the 90s, when I was elected member of my church’s Parliament, I was part of a groups of feminists that tried to implement a leadership tandem. We tried to find two women to share this job and indeed found a hole in the laws we had in our church. Since this day, and it was even before I started my own career, I’m convinced every task can be done by job sharing. Or in part time.

Since I reached a position that allows me to have some influence on the way we organize work and leadership, I try to show that this is true. And to be honest, I learned two things so far: (1) Yes, it’s true principally. (2) It’s hard anyway and we all are blown hot and cold between ambition, reality and all the responsibilities we have and take in our lives.

Plans and Chances

But it’s not by accident that on one of my jobs the only leader in that firm that came back into her exact position after maternity leave was one of the leaders of my team. We not only planned it carefullly, but asked as well the important questions my friend Robert Franken put up in his (german) blog post:

How do you, employer, make sure I’m able to do my job while I have a baby in a way that my needs are as important as your needs?

Back then we designed here tasks to fit into the ten hours work week she choose to have during maternity leave. And we put more and more hours back on her job, following the possibilities of her family situation. The only thing that did not change at all: she remained boss of her team, even when she was not exactly in office for many hours. It worked. And it worked nearly perfectly by the way.

Taking Leadership in Part Time

Now I’m running Cohn & Wolfe’s Germany operations as Managing Director. And my leadership team is built out of five directors and myself. Two of them work full time; one has different tasks in several firms of our group, so we as Cohn & Wolfe Germany have her part time; and two work part time, with different hours to be in the office. Both of them have made their career working part time. And for their last promotion (that includes responsibilities for clients, budgets, profits and people) they stayed with their part time.

It wouldn’t be true to say all is optimal. And it wouldn’t be true to say they are working only the hours they get payed for (what is, as everyone knows who works in an agency, true for all of us that take leadership in any agency). But what works, is, that we are able to help finding a good balance between the different roles that leaders (and not only leaders) have in their lives.

Organizing Success

I’m fully convinced that the recent success and momentum of my agency in Germany — we did triple both fees and headcount and have a very scary pitch-win-ratio — that this success has its roots in the fact that we do just this. That we put great talent exactly in the positions where they are best, regardless of their working hours. That we learned to organize ourselves and put responsibilities where they belong to be able to make quick decisions. That we strengthen the self-organizational skills of our teams by implementing scrum methods.

And that we ask ourselves

How do we as employers make sure you are able to do our job while having kids in a way that your needs are as important as our needs?

Nämlich.

(This post has originally been published on Medium.com.)

Can Men Be Feminists?  A Male Point of View

Author: “Herrmann Mann” (meaning no harm)

As a man, which I most definitely am, feminism is a tricky topic. Of course in the overall societal sense my opinion is valued statistically higher than the opinion of women (which truly is a shame, because I know many smart women). By being male (which happens to be my gender), I benefit from various mechanisms that make it easier for me to speak out; mechanisms that also create an atmosphere in which women feel like they have to find other outlets and platforms for themselves to do their own thing. A lot of women have made the experience of being widely discouraged from joining certain groups, clubs or even take certain jobs – and they really don’t like it. It makes them angry.

That’s why feminism a tricky topic: I know my opinion has a higher “market value” in society but very often I am told that it is not welcome. How can I, as a well-meaning man, deal with this conundrum (for those who do not know what this is, google provides a good explanation)?

There may be some feminists who would argue that providing a platform that specifically excludes women, as well-meaning as it is, is a step in the wrong direction because what we need is more dialogue, more openness, more exchange to ultimately normalize the fact that women have voices and opinions. But to those feminists I say: What about all the men who are afraid of them? Men can be shy and some feel intimidated by women who think they might know a little more about the struggles that they face in everyday life.

Men, however, face struggles, too. This has nothing to do with mansplaining, because I do not believe that it does. This is a real problem: As the man that I am, I want to take a stand but when I speak about the issues that women face, it always comes out like I am explaining it to them (even though I’m trying to explain it to other men). And when I try to explain that it is hard for me, as a man, to speak about issues of gender equality, it sounds like I am making it about myself, but saying that I don’t intend to make it about me makes it all about me again. It’s a bummer. Some may argue that the issue lies in the fact that I am not talking to them, but about them, but I don’t believe that’s it.

I’m a man. Really. I have a penis and everything.