Mark Hughes

Monday musings

This morning, I was listening to the radio, and they had some guests on (who's names I've forgotten. My memory is terrible for that) to ask them about women who had inspired them the most in business and the workplace. One of them named Anita Roddick, the founder of Bodyshop, who not only built her business from the ground up, but pioneered corporate responsibility, before it was a popular thing to do. The next said she'd pick Rose Boland, a sewing machinist who led a strike that triggered the introduction of the equal pay act. Also mentioned were, Julia Varley, a millworker and suffragette, Inez Mccormack, a civil rights activist, Jayaben Desai, a strike leader who challenged racial and gender inequality, Audrey White, a shopworker who was sacked for complaining about sexual harrassment, and fought against the unfair dismissal, Dame Stephanie Shirley, who was a mathmetician, businesswoman and IT Pioneer that arrived in Britain in 1939, to escape from Nazi Germany, Dame Helen Alexander, the first female to head the CBI, and Martha Lane Fox, a successful businesswoman and philanthropist. What really struck me, whilst I was listening to this, was that I didn't know who any of these women were. If anyone asked me who is the CEO of Amazon, straight away I'd say Jeff Bezos. You ask me who built Virgin, I wouldn't hesitate to tell you that was Richard Branson. The same could be said of dozens of other large companies. I even know the CEO of McDonald's is called Steve Easterbrook. As I thought about that, I realised that the fact that was just dawning on me wasn't even something I didn't know. I had never given any real thought to it, but I have always known that women just don't get the recognition that men get for the same things. Sure, we all know who Florence Nightingale is, and the majority of us in the IT industry could talk at length about Ada Lovelace (a genius mathmetician widely regarded as the first 'computer programmer', despite the fact she died in 1852), and there are other females that are household names, for one reason or another, but generally, women have to do something especially revolutionary to get the same recognition men get for a lot less effort. I think the reason for this is the same thing that has caused so many 'powerful' men over recent decades to use their positions and influence to abuse women, and a lot of other issues that have surfaced recently. I see these stories, I cannot understand what goes through the minds of the men that do the things they do to other people, like what sort of thought process does someone have to go through to think that some of these behaviours are ok? I am thankful that my parents taught me well (I think), and my dad is an example of how a man should treat a woman. All my life I don't remember ever seeing him so much as raise his voice to my mum, let alone a hand, which I think is why some of these things are so alien to me, and I'm thankful for that. I also happen to work for a company that does a great deal to celebrate and value women, not just in the workplace, but generally in other apects of life as well, which may be another reason I've always been so oblivious to a lot of the difficullties faced by women that I never will. Having given it some thought, I am more appreciative of the efforts it takes some women to get on a level footing with men, and for that I think that women in general deserve a greater level of respect. While it's disheartening to see so many stories coming out that show a horrible attitude towards women in all areas of society, I'm optimistic that we're heading in the right direction, and while women and men are equals in the eyes of the law now (thanks to some hard won victories), I firmly believe that it won't be long before attitudes catch up and we see true gender equality in the way we treat each other as well.