I am, for the record, supposed to be reviewing a document for someone, but I thought I would rant instead. I just finished a slide deck and I made a few changes, but mostly when I got to the end of it, I sighed.
When I was in my first year of University, fresh out of a girl’s school, I had an economics textbook that used a “she” in an example. This was in 1997, as we were just starting to be a bit more conscious of gender stereotypes. I remember it because the example surprised me. I noticed the “she” and after a feminist sort of education, you wouldn’t think I would.
The reality is that I work in a male dominated industry. Most of the men I work with are great men, supportive and egalitarian. I don’t often run into the jerks. It’s still not all that uncommon that I will walk into a room filled with decision makers and they will all be men. I am, often enough, the only woman in the room. If you say “stand up and be counted” in my industry, you just aren’t going to count a lot of women. There aren’t a lot of us.
It was a good slide deck, polished, good content, but I got to the end of it, added a few comments and then sent a note back saying “could we put some photo’s of women in it?”
I do that now when I build slide decks. I look for pictures of women. I deliberately try and use he and she interchangeably. I didn’t used to think of these things. It’s a small thing, but I believe it matters. What we show in pictures is very telling. When it’s all men, we support the notion that men make decisions. To tell you the truth, I don’t think we will solve the world’s gender problems by having women in a slide deck. I don’t think we will end child brides, the pay gap, maternal morbidity or really much of anything by adding in a few more women into a sales slide deck.
Maybe though, maybe we will do what that text book did for me. It started me on the path of questioning. Wondering why there were so few women on corporate boards, so few female executives, so few women in parliament.
Wondering who it was that was telling me I had to be a secretary, a teacher, a nurse, and why the hell I was listening to them anyway?