Coming of age in a turbulent world

Next week, my beautiful, funny, clever, quirky middle child will become an adult.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of the world she is facing at this milestone. She enters adulthood as the world is reeling from a pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout, and as worldwide protests rage about racism and police brutality.

Luckily, the genetic lottery means she will embrace adulthood with privileges many don’t have … she is white, she has a middle class family, she has received an excellent education, she has wonderful friends and she has a happy, supportive home life.

BUT … even with all that privilege, she will face discrimination and bias in hiring and pay decisions simply because she is a woman. With the Total Remuneration Gender Pay Gap in Australia currently standing at 20.8% (source: https://www.wgea.gov.au/topics/the-gender-pay-gap), her lifetime earnings may be hundreds of thousands of dollars less than men her age. She may also face bullying and discrimination at levels not experienced by her male counterparts.

 

Last week, I spoke at a webinar about negotiating tips for women and was asked what I thought the future would hold –whether young women will face the discrimination and bias, and specifically the negotiating backlash, that generations before have faced.

I am hopeful that they won’t. I have seen the change in men’s attitudes over time and the growing confidence of young women. I think that Covid-19 isolation arrangements have also probably educated many men about the realities of life at home with small children. This can only help.

And yet, there is a long road to travel before unconscious bias has vanished.

In medicine for instance, there are more women entering medical schools than men, and yet it remains an industry dominated by men. There is some progress with campaigns like Operating with Respect, which was launched by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) in 2015 to improve patient safety and counter bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment.

There are also informal campaigns like the hashtag #ILookLikeASurgeon, which is used to promote diversity in surgery as well as to highlight discriminatory behaviour. The hashtag has been circulating for several years but continues to get dozens of mentions every day on Twitter.

Nonetheless, discrimination remains. Yes, there has been a lot of progress, but the need to highlight and denounce gender, race, and other biases remains necessary.

 

So, what of my gorgeous girl? Next week, she becomes an adult and she is as ready as she can be. Let’s hope our training institutions, places of work, social norms and personal levels of awareness can treat her fairly. Let’s hope the turbulence and pain in the world at present will lead to a more equitable future for all.

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I offer a range of programs to help women and mixed teams improve their negotiation knowledge and skills. This includes one-on-one coaching, pre-conference programs and group training.

All of the programs are based on Sustainable Negotiation™, the approach I developed to move people from avoiding negotiation to engaging with it so that negotiation skills can be incorporated into everyday life.

Get in touch if you want to hear more about the programs and send me a message if you are interested in receiving a copy of my whitepaper, “Negotiation Skills as a Remedy for Gender Bias in Medicine”.