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women of colour

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Toronto has a directory of ‘Women and Color’

Have you attended a technology conference or speaking series and noticed the gender parity within the audience? How about on the panels or the keynote speaker lists?

Over the past year, I’ve attended a number of conferences within the fields of technology, marketing, and business. I was startled to see so few women represented. In the crowd, there was often one table or two of women, all clumped together and isolated from everyone else. Those women who were part of the panels, were often asked the questions about gender in the workplace, as if they were token members

And this is just women as a whole gender. I can count the number of women of colour who took the stage on one hand. While feminism may have been the word of the year in 2017, STEM fields still have a long way to go in achieving gender and race equality.

When I read about ‘Women and Color’, a directory of women and people of colour who are available to speak at such conferences, I was floored! How has this database existed for two years without people knowing about it?

The directory was created by a product designer named Mohammed Asaduallah, who was just as frustrated as many women to find the lack of diversity within the tech industry. Asaduallah and a team of volunteers help maintain the site by adding in new profiles of women in Toronto. The profiles include a photograph, job title, a short description of the person’s expertise through tag words, contact information, and a link to their Twitter account.

Asaduallah hopes to grow Women and Color and add profiles from cities across Canada and even venture into the United States.

 

At your next conference or speaking series, perhaps consider reaching out to one of the numerous qualified women in this directory. It’s time to stop using women as “tokens” at technology events and start seeing them as the qualified and capable experts they are.

Lupita Nyong’o is beautiful…but I guess not European beautiful

As I sat scrolling through Instagram Saturday afternoon, I came across a post by Lupita Nyong’o. Nyong’o is a Hollywood actress who rose to fame after her role in the award-winning 12 Years a Slave in 2013. She became the first Kenyan-Mexican actress to win an academy award for Best Supporting Actress. After her breakout role in 2013, Nyong’o was adorned as this African princess of sorts- exotic, beautiful, but never more beautiful than the euro-centric standard of beauty displayed in Hollywood.

The image of Nyong’o that Hollywood approved of was a dark-skinned woman with a shaved head — regardless of the fact that her hair had grown since her role in 2013.

Pre-conceptions aside, what followed over the last week was a complete slap in the face. Nyong’o was photographed for the latest cover of Grazia U.K., a fashion news magazine. When the magazine came out, Nyong’o, and many others (myself included) were surprised to see that she looked completely different. The photography and editorial team had lightened her skin and completely removal of her Afro-puff. How on earth was this ok?

The complete alteration of Nyong’o image shows that, according to western Hollywood standards, a black woman cannot be too dark, a black woman must have straight hair, a black woman must speak properly, and a black woman must never be too sexy.

The photographer issued the following apology: “My altering of her image was not born out of any hate, but instead out of my own ignorance and insensitivity to the constant slighting of women of colour throughout the different media platforms.”

Many people who are unaware of the postcolonial issues that black women have faced, much less in Hollywood, are just willing to brush this off and hear the apology of the photographer that altered the image. There is no apology that can fix what has already been done. These events just prove how many people remain ignorant to the struggles women of colour face in the world.

The photographer, while apologetic, was merely following the pre-set Hollywood guidelines for cover photos. Nyong’o has been vocal about how removing her Afro-hair from the cover of the magazine speaks to the prejudice that still exists with black kinky and curly hair. It is tolerable to have straight smooth hair, but utterly classy and unkempt to be walking around with frizzy coils. Blacks are judged on their social inferiority based on their features like skin-tone, hair, and nose structure. This was just another example.

Taking away a black woman’s natural hair is like asking her to repress her culture and her heritage — to be compliant in the never-ending fight for what is deemed beautiful. If you have a problem with understanding this, then you need to kindly check your privilege.

Report indicates little change to workplace gender equality gap

The number one issue for women in business is achieving gender equality. October is Women’s History Month in Canada and as a country, sometimes it’s easier to take note of the progress concerning the roles of women in society then to accept the inequalities still present.

A 2017 study on the status of women in corporate America showed that people are comfortable with the status quo. The report, entitled Women in the Workplace, is the largest of its kind, with data gathered from  over 222 companies, and was established by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company. 

The report shows women at all levels in corporate America are unrepresented, despite achieving more college degrees than men. The percentage of men in positions of power at the corporate level is at equal level at some companies, but higher at most others.

Ignorance about diversity within the workplace is the primary reason for this disparity. Women of colour are generally placed at a disadvantage where they are often overlooked for promotions of job advancements. Overall percentages from the study indicate that, compared to white women, women of colour get the least support from their office managers.

Two major themes were presented in the data:

  • Women continue to be hired and promoted at lower rates than men and the gap is more pronounced for women of colour
  • There is no difference in company level attrition and women and men appear to be leaving their organizations at the same rate.

The distribution of women weakens as you climb up the corporate ladder. Entry-level positions have a higher percentage of women compared to c-list corporate titles like CEO, COO, CFO etc. The percentage of women is also rather uneven depending on the industry. For instance, there is a lower percentage of women working in technology than you would find in the food and beverage industry.

Depending on the industry, the larger percentage of men think their companies are doing a good job at highlighting diversity in the workplace.

The report indicates the bar for gender equality is too low and on average you may only see one in 10 women in leadership roles. Men are also more likely to get what they want, like a promotion or a raise, without having to ask.

Other statistical highlights include:

  • At entry–level positions, women occupy 47 per cent of jobs and only 17 per cent of that figure is represented by women of colour
  • At a managing level, women get promoted at a lower rate (37 per cent) than men in that same position (63 per cent).
  • At a senior C-list role, women of colour make up only three per cent or 1 in 30. At this level, white women occupy a position of 18 per cent.
  • Forty per cent of white women will have their work defended by their managers. That number is 28 per cent for black women, 34 per cent for Latin American women, and 36 per cent for asian women.

The conclusion of this report doesn’t offer much hope for women in business. In order to close the still prevalent gender equality gap, most companies will need to restructure their thought patterns and policies to be more inclusive to women in the workplace.The report recommends some key suggestions such as:

  • investing in more employee training
  • have a compelling case for gender diversity
  • managers should enable change
  • employee flexibility to fit work in their lives
  • hiring, promotions, and reviews are fair and balanced

These steps are not foolproof, but it does present a chance for people to question their company’s accountability and evaluate if they are doing their part to help reduce the gap.

What are your thoughts? Comment below.

Miss Representation: A Misrepresentation In Itself

With a society that’s always plugged in, its difficult to get away from the media. Our lives revolve around TV, music, video games, and movies. However, it is only recently that audiences are starting to realize what the content of the media is doing to society– especially women. Although powerful campaigns and initiatives are being launched in order to showcase and prevent the misogyny present in society, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.  Miss Representation is a documentary recently released on Netflix that brings forth what most of us are slowly becoming desensitized to; women in the media.

Consisting of interviews from a group of experts, the hour and a half film dissected the various aspects of the media that sexualize, dehumanize, and objectify women. Pat Mitchell (MA, President and CEO for the Paley Center for Media, former President and CEO of PBS); Jennifer Pozner (Executive Director of Women in Media & News); Caroline Heldman (PhD, Associate Professor of Political Science at Occidental College); Marie Wilson (founding President of the White House Project); and Condoleezza Rice (Secretary of State) are just some of the personalities that sat down to talk about the representation of women in the media. Montages of Reality TV stars in bikinis, journalists in low-cut tops, and pictures taken between Sarah Palin’s legs demonstrated the problem overtly and effectively. However, Miss Representation also indirectly brought forth other problems present in the media. Problems hardly spoken about by the line of experts and celebrities. But problems that are still there.

Women of colour (WOC), women with disabilities (WWD), and the LGBT community also should have been addressed. WWD are essentially non-exsistent while women of colour and LGBTs are also significantly underrepresented. Although Devanshi Patel, a young, WOC aspiring to have a career in public service, was briefly profiled in the documentary– she was essentially what WOC are in the media; ‘the token brown girl’ of the documentary. It would have been nice to see a discussion of the misrepresentation of celebrities such as Mindy Kahling or Sofia Vergara, who are known solely for their skin colour and foreign accent, respectively. The montages in Miss Representation showcased a series of privileged, white women who steal the spotlight time and time again. But it should be known, problems of sexualization, age discrimination, and objectification also apply to WOC and the LGBT community as well. Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, and yes, even Queen Bey always leave little to the imagination. Now whether their anacondas are actually empowering or objectifying is a conversation we all need to have. In addition, Mitch and Cam of Modern Family and Ellen DeGeneres are essentially the only representatives of the LGBT community and that too, from a comedic standpoint.

Essentially, the documentary didn’t consist of anything we didn’t already know. Women are no longer wear as much clothes as they used to, and the Kardashians are, whether we like it or not, plotting to take over the world. A powerful film would’ve been one that consisted of briefly showcasing the problems women face in the media followed by actual solutions to resolve said problems. Women need to stop victimizing themselves and need to start helping themselves- and most importantly each other.  All in all, Miss Representation kind of, well, missed the spot.

 

Rating: 6/10