Feminism debate is ‘not a cat fight’

Debates on women’s issues by women could be deemed cat fights unless men step up and change structures in the workplace, media professionals told “Time to put up or shut the **** up” panel discussion at Mumbrella360.

Television producer Anita Jacoby and Zenith Optimedia CEO Ian Perrin chipped into the debate fired up by *** Peta Southcombe in her article ‘Ladies could we shut the **** up?’, Elly Clough’s retort, “Why ladies shouldn’t shut the **** up”.

Jacoby said she has “lived and breathed gender discrimination” during her career and when she was second in charge on the Today show she said she went up for the top job three times, and each time it was given to a male executive producer. On the third occasion she went to hand in her resignation to the then head of news and current affairs – a man – gave her an associate producer role on 60 minutes.

“I was there with about 15 men and I kept going and saying I’m doing the same role as they are doing I should be a producer and it took me three years to get there,” she said.

“But what I really believe is that if you are any good at your job, whether you are male or female at the end of the day you will actually rise to the occasion.

“Sometimes I think women our own worst enemies, in the way that we perceive our capabilities. Sometimes we have to blame ourselves for not going in hard for a pay rise or fighting for a job, because we are very competent but we are probably not as gung-ho as blokes are.”

Belvoir St Theatre publicist Clough said the challenge of the feminist debate is presenting it in a way that is not defensive.

“I was really concerned when Peta and I first wrote the opposing articles people go ‘yeah, cat fight!’. But when two guys have different opinions, it’s like ‘Oh this is an interesting engaging intellectual exchange of ideas’. This whole women hate each other bullshit that was in Women’s Weekly the other day made me think, for goodness sake women have brains and different opinions and that’s fine.

“We’re not attacking men, or saying that you are bad or that you’re doing the wrong thing. We actually want you to be on our team.

“My advancement is wound up in your advancement. Feminism is about dismantling structures that force men and women into roles they don’t necessarily want or enjoy so we definitely want to get them on board.”

Sue Klose, a partner at Venture Consulting, presented the findings of a study that showed men who have professional women in their family are more likely to support women’s advancement in the workplace.

And Perrin, the only man on the panel, said challenging the status quo should be encouraged and a broader view developed to bring more diversity to the top. He said there were only two female CEOs in the industry ten years ago and there are none now.

“I think there is a general apathy in Australia towards the issue of equality and I think for country that’s come so far there’s a strong undercurrent of sexism and racism,” he said.

“As a progressive society I think it’s up to all of us to keep on pushing the boundaries. All CEOs of media companies were men and all of their EAs were female. So here is this bigger issue in society and we as a media industry should be at the forefront of these issues but something like gender we are massively backward.”

Southcombe suggested the argument may be coming from the wrong angle.

“Men have great opinions about women so maybe its about having them on board so maybe the message is coming from the wrong angle maybe the messenger needs to change,” she said.

Megan Reynolds 


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