Opinion

Shifting our attitudes towards gender is the key to true ‘disruption’

Amongst the sea of creatives brandishing words like 'disruptor' around, there's one simple way to innovate that Australian businesses appear to be missing: shifting their perception of gender. Bec Brideson explains.

I just finished reading (and watching) Mark Ritson’s dissection of digital metrics and what can I say? He hits the nail on the head several times. This dispute is big, huge; it’s freaking massive. I am shocked and in awe at of the sheer size of it.


Recently at a conference he titillated his audience about measuring the width and girth of his penis using excruciating detail – stroke by stroke – if you’ll excuse my own cheap innuendo.

Business in Australia is obviously interested in how Ritson measures his appendage and also in how he unloads his seemingly frustrated argument all over the digital folk with marketing mastery.

His immaculate dissemination of the issues around digital measurement is a much-needed exposé on the complexities, inefficiencies, inaccuracies and non-accountabilities – and the industry is left in a lather asking for more.

An entertaining metaphor for explaining the nuances of accuracies –  I’d like to take this opportunity to politely point out – this kind of unconscious bias in language and business can immediately exclude women from participating in the conversation.

To my knowledge Louise Barrett, also on stage with Ritson, made some great points agreeing with Ritson’s theories and did not need to use any metaphor about measuring her lady bits.

Louise Barrett: Not a hint of cockiness

Had she done this I do wonder if it would have made it to the headlines as her colleague’s penis did, given the word labia is not oft-quoted in business jargon (a majora shame really).

That said, lets “play the ball not the man” given businesses are welcoming the enlightenment and cheering Ritson on because someone finally has the cockiness to say what others won’t in fear of Google and Facebook’s mighty presence.

The other massive disruptor is side-lined

There has been dialogue and disagreement on the subject of ‘digital disruption’ and its transformational effectiveness in business.

Nevertheless, in the midst of all this a much bigger, more important opportunity ‘to disrupt’ obviously remains in the too-hard basket – given the inertia in corporate Australia.

So it’s time we put our collective dicks, ovaries and any other attention-grabbing reproductive organs on the table.  

Yes, let’s talk about gender.  

I have been known to have multiple discourses over the many complex facets of gender; but trust me, I’m not raising the subject as business foreplay or for funsies, nor because I’m a pissed-off feminist.

I’m championing this because it’s important to our financial future. For those who need to get schooled – economist Saul Eslake details why here.

To relegate gender to an “HR issue” is to the detriment of your business.

Yes the word gender is mistakenly fuelled with all sorts of misconceptions rather than seen for what it is – an imminent area of growth full of revenue for  business. It would appear we keep ignoring the prospect, overlooking the needs of our female consumer market and the power of female brand cultures. Our own female talent pools are wasted – and we look anything but disruptive and innovative.

Still don’t believe me?

What do you think has brought Uber into crisis?

It was a poor culture and business model that disrespected the needs of female customers and basic rights of its workforce, including its women.

The result? New competitors have popped up like Shebah, incredible female talent have jumped ship, and they’re suffering the worst PR domino effect since the Trump administration. Not to mention that their old competitors have used it as a point of differentiation to their benefit.

And if you don’t think that the way a business treats its women is a real gender problem, just look at how the sexism in Silicon Valley is playing out. If business can’t get the internal culture right with women – how can they possibly understand external culture/customer?

The word on Wall St is that business is cognisant of the fact that more women on boards, and equally represented in leadership equals greater returns. Think State Street’s “Fearless Girl” if you want proof of product.

Despite all of the discussion and evidence we are still found lacking on the actions that beget change. Too little action follows the already statistically proven and accepted results of gender studies from McKinsey, Catalyst and just about every other consultancy firm. It’s time for a rethink, like Deloitte’s indicating top-level execs must get involved.

Digital and technological innovation must happen in concert with gender. The addition of a female-lens is the perfect trinity for bottom line brilliance.

The latest CEO report rom KPMG put digital and technological progress well above gender. Could this be because the clear majority of CEOs are still male (94% of Australian CEOs against 97% global) and they are more comfortable dealing “in the machine”? Are they hung-over from an outdated perception that gender equals soft skills, touchy-feely-potential-political minefields?

The new reality is gender equals greater profits, better returns and innovation you haven’t even thought about yet. The commercial upside of getting more women involved throughout your business remains a valid and underutilised disruptor in business.

It is essential that men and women move forward in step together, to incite change or women will remain under represented and dormant in the growth-value equation.

My commitment is to help drive this change and equip the three in four Australian CEOs who “want to be disruptors in their category”, with the courage and tools to use the power of gender-intelligence as their weapon of choice.

Bec Brideson is a consultant in the gender-intelligence space.

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