“I’m sorry”, “I can’t”, “I must” – lets change that inner voice

Be a Game Changer by changing your Inner Game – EMPOWERED IDENTITY

How often have you said, “I’m sorry”, “I can’t” or “I must” and felt the pressure of expectation on your shoulders. You might have felt burdened and unmotivated, confused or even angry. This is one of the biggest performance issues that hold us and our staff back but you can change your inner game and start to change the conversations with yourself that influence your beliefs and ultimately, your life.

During my Diversity Assessments and Gender Consulting, I often find that some women and men are almost held hostage by their own beliefs about themselves and the role that they think they need to fulfil in society. These beliefs do affect the way that we behave, they affect the way that we think of ourselves and this can translate into the way that we treat others, particularly our expectations of what other people should be doing. When we add traditional stereotypes to our judgements, these behaviours and beliefs can sabotage us. Sometimes you might feel like you can’t go forward and you can’t go back, you don’t know what decision to make and you feel totally worn out by ‘pushing against’ the norm, trying to get what you feel you deserve.

In speaking to hundreds of women over the last couple of years, I have found that we often fall into our gendered stereotypes even when we are actively working against them! I often hear statements that in effect, relegate the person into the very stereotype that they are trying to escape. I think that this is because we have been socialised we don’t even realise where our thoughts are coming from and this can lead to internal conflict. In our private lives this can manifest in all sorts of ways, but in our workplaces this can manifest as a lack of motivation, confusion and a degradation of performance.

I’m here to tell you that this is an organisational issue, not just a personal issue.

I believe that we won’t truly see greater women’s participation in leadership until we start to work on our inner game. For example, many of the young intelligent women that I speak to, tell me things like, “I have to take time off to have a baby”, or “My kids”, or “I have to”, or “I can’t”. They sometimes feel burdened and concerned about their job and how they will be perceived by others if they return, or if they don’t return to work. Its like you can’t win either way. When I talk to them about having a baby and how their organisation might support them, I ask them why they think they must take the time off and not their husband or partner. I point out that in actuality, they could have the baby and return to work almost immediately. They look at me strangely because they believe without a doubt that the child rearing, and particularly the early child rearing is their job. They must take the full burden of it, and to consider anything else is unheard of. If we are being perfectly fair, the child’s father could take over virtually straight away. Many new mothers don’t breast feed, so you could argue that it is only the time to recover from the birth that needs to be taken into account. Of course most mothers want to stay at home, and their are lots of studies that suggest that this is the best course of action, but in what paradigm is that? Don’t you wonder what lens and value system was in place when these studies were done, and what was the level of choice of those women at the time? Did they feel that they could really be honest and say that their career was really important or did they feel the enormous pressure of motherhood to be perfect and happy with this new life? How much of this pressure was self imposed?

We can challenge how we think about ourselves and reconsider our beliefs about ourselves, but in order to do this we need to look at our identity, what it means to us and how it is reflected by and affected by society and other people.

What might you achieve if you challenged the established norms of society? Check out our latest Working Session, “Be a Game Changer by changing your Inner Game – EMPOWERED IDENTITY”


The link between shame and recognition, teenage drunkenness and difference

The increasing social issue of teenagers that get blind drunk on our streets as a entertainment pursuit is alarming but is there a message in the behaviour that we as adults just aren’t getting.  The behaviour is a form of recognition and belonging, and I think a form of protest against contemporary society and its values, many of which indicate a double standard.  You would think that a young girl passed out on the ground with her skirt up around her waist would be shameful, but its not in this new social accepted-ness that sees our youth drunk and disorderly.  Part of the badge of honour is to have your photo taken by someone else to prove that you have managed to ‘enjoy’ yourself so much and have drunk so much alcohol that you have now passed out on the street, exposing yourself to all sorts of danger in the name of fun.  Somehow this act has turned to recognition and maybe even a protest of difference.  They are challenging our idea of shame and turning it into a badge of honour that gives them membership to a group of ‘strangers’ to society.  The group of those protesting and wanting to be recognised for their own difference and identity.

From my reading of Gaita (2002) and his distinction between guilt and shame, I think that it is shame that is most powerful.  I found the most interesting was the discussion about the Holocaust where unbelievable pain and suffering experienced by so many.  It’s almost like we can easily keep functioning as humans with just guilt, but when we add shame to the mix, a realisation of what we have done and how it has affected others comes apparent and I think that this is ‘shame’.  As Nora Levin ‘put it’, some of the prose was written with ‘bleeding eyes’ (pg 277), an extreme outpouring of pain as a result of trauma.  Sure, the perpetrators may have felt guilty – and been found guilty of crimes but it is only when they understand “this kind of truth and reality” with an ‘informed heart’, do they understand and feel shame.

I certainly think that Gaita is onto something by linking together shame and recognition.  It seems that the pathway to the acknowledgement of ‘shame’ is through a process of an ‘informed heart’, more than an acceptance of culpability or guilt.  It goes to the core of a person and enlists deep and powerful feelings that must awaken‘recognition’ of the issue whether that is damage to someone or something else, or damage to oneself by actions.


Honneth, Axel (1995), ‘Personal Identity and Disrespect: The Violation of the Body, the Denial of Rights, and the Denigration of Ways of Life’ in Axel Honneth and Charles Taylor,The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflict, Polity Press.

Gaita, Raimond (2002), ‘Guilt, Shame and Collective Responsibility’ in Michelle Gratten (ed) Reconciliation, Melbourne, Black Inc.


Can you imagine a world where each morning you wake up and face a day where you find that you are going out into a world that throws obstacles in your way at every turn and when you try to explain those obstacles, you just cannot?  You know they exist, you feel the results of them; you know that some people treat you differently.  Sometimes people talk as if you don’t exist, or worse make light of what you are saying whilst you are standing there as if you aren’t there at all.  You know something is happening that feels like exclusion but when someone asks, you are not able to explain what you mean.  You know you could have a better job, you could have more money and you could feel more in charge of your life but somehow these simple things elude you.  People around you tell you that you should be grateful for what you have and that you should not worry.  You are so lucky and other people wish that they were just like you, but you feel that every day you are fighting against issues and inequalities that are sometimes overwhelming.  They drain you and worry you, and ultimately drag you down making you weary and less inclined to speak up again tomorrow.  In fact, the tiredness silences you.

Sadly, this is how many women feel way too often.  It might be that we do way more housework than our partners, and we are just sick of asking them to step up.  Alternatively, that you have put off something important so many times because you feel guilty that you aren’t doing what you should be doing, these thoughts of something better just get pushed to the background yet again, and you feel hopeless.  It is hard because there is a complex array of inequalities that are both seen and unseen and although it seems like some barriers have been removed, in practice they still exist and you feel constrained and not able to live up to your full potential.

It might be because you are just living over the poverty line as a single parent and each day is a struggle.  You feel you don’t have a voice and the more you try to get ahead the harder each day seems to get.  Each year another government policy comes into force that is supposed to ‘help you’, but instead creates even more complex issues for you to overcome, and you get more weary and less inclined to try each time another setback happens.

It might be that we feel we work really hard at our jobs, are highly educated and productive but are continually passed over for promotion year after year when we see the promotion go to someone we know is less productive and less capable.

On the other hand, that you hear on the news that ‘only 17 countries have a female President or Prime Minister and women’s average presence in parliaments across the globe is only 21% of the total ministers.  Recent actual voting data using the Chilean voter model, found that women were less likely to vote for a women than they would for a man’ regardless of policy (Francisco Pino, 2013)[i].  You wonder, “why don’t women support each other?”  All this makes you tired, tired of swimming upstream and fighting against the odds that seem so insurmountable that you think no one could ever win against them.

This is what life is like for many women, even the successful ones.

It is early days and we have centuries of behaviours and societal norms to change before we really see big changes in gender equality.  These behaviours exist for both men and women and can be as simple as the belief by young women that she has to wait for the man to ask her to marry, instead of just asking him.  All this waiting has the effect of silencing women, subordinating them to the backseat of decision-making.  Of marking time until ‘something changes’, and ultimately it prevents many women from getting ‘off the sidelines’[ii] and getting on with it.

In the workplace, many of our organisations are developing gender diversity policies to combat some of these issues.  Some are more successful than others are, but the important thing is that we have begun.  Now we need to really leverage these initiatives and turn theory and rhetoric into economic performance and a more equitable living condition for women and minorities.  I believe that by ‘silencing’ the weary women we are constraining our ability to resolve many of the organisational performance issues that hamper our economies, largely because our organisational leaders don’t hear women’s voices often and loud enough – the voices that provide alternative views and ways of thinking.

Australia has been relatively successful in increasing women’s participation in the workforce, but there is still a long way to go and many prejudices and discriminatory practices lie just beneath the surface.  The new gender indicators introduced by legislation in 2012 by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency WGEA, 2012[iii], previously known as EEO, seeks to unmask some of these underlying and often hidden issues.

“What is important to recognise is that an organisation’s gender culture is hidden behind the dominate rhetoric of equality, (Benschop and Doorewaad, 1998; Tienari et al., Ainsworth et al. (2009) in North-Samadizic (2011)[iv].  For example, in an analysis of reports to Australia’s EEO regulatory body, Ainsworth et al. (2009) demonstrated how organisations are blind to gender through unstated male norms that suppress gender differences“.  North-Samadizic (2011).  They gave the example of organisations stating in reports that gender is irrelevant or insignificant to the hiring and promotions process.”  Therefore, gender structure, gender identity and gender symbolisism can limit equality if it is present in the ‘gendered subtexts of organisational rhetoric’ (Taska 2011).

That is; although these organisations purport to have equality, assessments show there remains a bias’ in recruitment processes and within cultural behaviours themselves.  Gender Symbolism and subtexts, both verbal and behavioural convey a set of ‘meanings’ that can maintain gender inequalities by quietly working to prevent change in environments where women are seen as the ‘other’.  This plays into stranger theories where white male masculinity is the norm and the term ‘woman’ can hold less value that the term ‘man’.

Imagine this instead.

Now imagine a world where all the seen and unseen barriers to women’s success are removed and think about the incredible potential that is now unleashed.  With economies struggling all over the globe, isn’t it about time we smashed through these barriers and took advantage of this potential.  If women were a commodity (and sometimes they are seen as that), or assets in a storeroom any business would seek to improve that assets performance instead of marginalising it and leaving it to underperform.  We don’t see women as a natural and valuable resource.  We often see them as expendable as collateral damage in war or simply there to support others or provide menial labour, and worse we see them as a cost to society and our organisations because of their biology.  This valuable biology carries the promise of new life, the birthing of children without which there would be no need for discussions about performance, economics and politics because simply, there would be no humankind.

Why do we let the enormous potential of half this valuable population languish?

Just think for a moment what it would be like to be freed of the expectations of physical beauty and the never-ending focus on sexiness and youth and instead we welcomed experience and substance.  Imagine if it was just as easy for women to excel in their jobs and for female entrepreneurs to have the same access to capital as their male counterparts do because they are more able to tap into existing networks where capital raising is common.  Imagine a world where stay at home parents were valued, able to nurture their families without the threat of poverty or losing valuable job experience at every turn.  Imagine a world where we no longer referred to ‘the burden of childcare” and instead this cost was factored in across society because it is seen as valuable.

Our economies would benefit from new industries and new ways of thinking instead of the current system that fails us at regular intervals because it is built on the boom and bust mentality of status, greed and power instead of sustainability and common sense.  The finance sector takes pride in being able to predict the next bull or bear market instead of planning on sustainability and inclusion.

In short, gender equality is essential to increasing economic sustainability, increasing organisational performance and breathing new life into the way we think, work and live.

What a world it is going to be!


[i] PINO (2013), “Is there Gender Bias Among Voters?  Evidence from the Chilean Congressional Elections” White Paper VI Cosme-FEDEA Annual Workshop on Gender Economics, Madrid Spain

[ii] Off the Sidelines, a movement by US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand http://www.offthesidelines.org/home

[iii] EEO, Equal Opportunity for Women, now known as Workplace Gender Equality Agency, http://www.wgea.gov.au/

[iv] Andrea North-Samardizic, Lucy Taksa, (2011), “the impact of gender culture on women’s career trajectories: an Australian case study”, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, Vol. 30 Iss: 3 pp. 196-216



Butler defines post-feminism in two ways.  The first draws on Feminist, Simone de Beauvoir’s claims, that “one is not born, but, rather, becomes a woman,” (Butler 1988, pg. 520).  Butler further explores the idea that various historical ‘acts’ that an individual performs throughout their life experience, builds our view of ourselves, reinforcing de Beauvoir assertion that one ‘becomes a woman’ through learned experiences and expectations of gendered behaviour.  Following feminist theory, that gender is a contrived identity and Butler suggests that in reality there can be no women’s movement, because, to take the theory to its extreme, there is no identity ‘woman”, as it is socially constructed gender.  Secondly, she uses the feminist theory that sexual difference underscores our  ‘naturalized conceptions of gender’ and that gender is contrived, learned and hence can be reconstructed and unlearned (Butler 1988, pg. 520).  In this paper, I will discuss the implications of Butler’s definitions in terms of the act of the recognition of difference.  It will further explore,  Butler’s idea that historical ‘acts’ that determine our view of gender identity and naturalisation can be ‘reconstituted’ to form new models of identity, or in fact, the ability to have no limits to identity, leaving open the possibility of developing an un contrived and more diverse society.

Throughout her paper, Butler uses the term ‘act’, meaning, the ‘conception’ of, or the performance of an idea either physically, or in thought, or in belief.  The act must be one that is shared socially and is historically accepted, and has a constituted and agreed meaning.  She likens ‘Phenomenological’[1] study to feminist theory as the ‘doing of’ or ‘living out’ of these lives in a performative state, much the same as individual feminists lives are different, where underlying belief’s and historical ‘acts’ have constructed a way of being that generally matches an accepted gender state.  She argues that if we view gender as a series of ‘acts’, even if seemingly unrelated, then the composition of these ‘acts’ gives an appearance of substance, ‘a constructed identity, and a performative accomplishment’.  No matter how ordinary or mundane, once we believe the act as performed, the substance of it becomes real, whether it is true or not.  We could therefore suggest that many feminist dilemmas become real merely by the act of exposing them.  By talking about them and by arguing against them we create the substance of the dilemma.  Would not a better way be to concentrate on the positive ‘acts’ that provide a new pathway rather than focusing on negatives?  In my view, this opens up the possibility that feminists (and women in general) are able to develop new ‘acts’ whilst in the safety of their own habitus.  They perform and practice these acts, perfecting them before taking them to the wider society, not as an alternative but by creating a new history.  This would mean that these feminist actors would first recognise and accept the difference in these acts, not merely tolerate or label them.  As Butler suggests, what is contrived can just as easily be uncontrived and then – re-contrived the into the performance of a new ‘act’, thereby changing the actors ‘history’ and providing new possibilities for the future.

In “My interesting condition”, Clausen, J. (1999), discusses her mixed feelings at losing her ‘identity’ as a Lesbian Feminist when she began a relationship with a man.  She had always thought herself as bisexual, but almost because she was also a feminist, the act of having a relationship with a man extricated her from her previous “Lesbian Feminist” friends.  To her friends it was as if she had betrayed them in some way by having a heterosexual relationship.  Although her sexuality and female gendered identity had not changed, where she was previously accepted as bisexual and lesbian within lesbian feminist circles, once she became bisexual in a heterosexual relationship, her behaviour was no longer accepted in these same lesbian feminist circles.  She became almost too different to be recognised, but in fact, she had not changed at all, she had merely changed the sex of the person whom she carried on an intimate relationship with, instead of a same sex relationship, it was now a heterosexual relationship.  Clausen found the resultant separation from her previous circle of friends upsetting and disturbing.  I think this highlighted the hypocrisy of some of her former friends that is was ok to be bisexual and lesbian but by taking up a relationship with a man somehow precluded her from being bisexual and instead made her heterosexual and even cast a doubt over her feminist sisterhood.

In my own view, Feminism is organic rather than something that needs to be defined or performed in a certain way.  Prior to my study of Sociology, I would not have recognised a feminist, and certainly did not realise that there were many different types of feminisms.  Many younger women do not class themselves as, or even identify with being a feminist.  Instead, historical female behavioural models are collected, compared and consolidated, recycled depending on which role the actor chooses to play.  These models come in different forms such as the ‘post feminist’, the post feminist lesbian, the black feminist, the old feminist or the young feminist, and many more.  There are established models for each different type of feminist category, easily recognised by other feminists; however, these models may are not so readily understood and recognised by the wider community.

In “Where is Feminism Now?”  (1997), Curthoys talks about feminism in the mid 1990’s, and she refers to feedback she had that seemed to indicate that women’s search for equality at that time had come a long way (her example being girls on surfboards) since the 1970’s.  Looking back to the 1970’s from where I sit now in 2013, I am not sure that the road travelled has been so positive, or so profound in its success.  Many young girls do not even know how to spell feminism let alone think of themselves as a feminist, and for many older women, this seems like a return to the inequalities of the past.  Curthoys suggests, “what distinguished women from one another is not their generation, but the timing of their exposure to feminist ideas” (Curthoys 1997. Pg 206).  Some women feel no need for feminism at all, or like me have no idea that they were living a life that paralleled feminist theory.  The timing for the need for feminism comes at different times and depends on a women’s country of birth, religion, economic and social status and age.  By this, I mean that in many western countries, women see themselves as already equal to men and with the same advantage of choice, so feel that they are in no need of activism, or knowledge of feminism and the ways that feminism has already helped their lives.  However, in other many other countries this is not the case and women are compelled to rise up and protest the inequalities and inequities that prevent them from having equal choice and the right for self-determination.

Curthoy decided to do a survey via email and one of her respondents (in ‘femailers’ pg199), named Carol, said she respects younger feminists because they openly demonstrate “extraordinarily outrages by forms of sexist behaviour”.  (Curthoys 1997, Pg 206).  As an older feminist, she was impressed as sexism was one of the behaviours she had learned to ‘work her way around’ using the ‘acceptable’ feminine behaviour of the day when she was younger.  Curthoy highlights a different approach by younger women to the same problem, a different way of ‘acting’ and responding to the same issue.  In the early 1970’s, sexism was difficult to explain in a male dominated working environment, and many older women like Carol needed to manoeuvre their way around the minefield of sexual discrimination and inequality as best they could.  We are all now clearer on the definitions of ‘difference’.  We understand the definitions of homosexuality or gays.  We understand the meaning of sex discrimination and inequality, and much of this understanding is as a direct result of work of early feminists.  In my own view, I think that we have regressed.  I see that many young women do not even seem to recognise sexist behaviour when it presents itself, let alone be ‘outraged’ by it.  I still see young boys ‘talking down’ to girls on school buses, repeating the girls questions back to them like they are stupid like they haven’t understood what was being said.  This is exactly the same behaviour I experienced from young men in the late 1970’s.  If you asked a male to repeat something, maybe because you didn’t hear them properly the first time, or you just wanted to make sure you knew what they meant, you were laughed at – and then a patronising response would come back, like “oh high ball”, meaning “you silly girl, over your head was it?”.  I still see this similar situation played out when the boys respond to the girls question by proceeding to give their ‘advice’ as a way of answering the question.  It is a almost invisible difference, but one that helps to promote a mode of behaviour in young girls that see’s them defer to the male, to be more accommodating instead of telling them that it is unacceptable to speak to them like they are stupid.  This becomes a learned behaviour and many girls become women who just don’t want to put themselves in those embarrassing positions where they might be perceived as stupid.  On the other hand, perhaps it is just a different way of handling an old situation.  Being less confrontational at the time could give many young women the opportunity to pick a time and place to make their feelings known later; and I hope that is the case and they are not just recoiling and subordinating themselves because they don’t recognise the implications.  I know from personal experience that this pack mentality of males putting down women is alive and well in many meeting rooms in organisations everywhere.  Instead of women “leaning in” (Sandberg 2013), they recoil into their seats and never correct the behaviour and so it becomes part of their learned identity.  This is a way that historical acts are changing and we as ‘older feminists’ just don’t recognise it yet as a new act and validate it.

If gender is naturalised and learned, then we can unlearn it.  We can change our responses to the way we recognise differences based on gender models.  That is, the way that society has built up an image of heterosexual gender stereotypes, deviant and ‘other’ gendered stereotypes, could be changed by reconstruct new gendered models.  A more radical thought would be to disband current gendered models completely and instead look at each person as an individual, recognising and accepting their existing difference in our society, and drastically enhance possibilities for everyone.  Butler says, “By dramatic I mean only that the body is not merely matter but a continual and incessant materializing of possibilities” (Butler 1988, pg. 521).  For Butler, we have an endless ability to shape our own identity, and that the ‘gendered body’ is merely sedimentation of various acts.  It follows then that by changing the ‘acts’ and the environmental structures that the acts exist in, we must be able to change entire views of gender and through this process uncover a way to completely accept and recognise difference.

She draws a comparison between her own phenomenological studies and the way that feminists analyse personal situations in order to clarify issues shared by others more broadly such as culturally or ethically.  The political solidarity of feminists’ risks ‘making visible’ previously unnoticed acts of oppression and discrimination against women, into something visible.  Highlighting a potentially ‘new’ gender stereotype that will provide the ‘actors’ with new roles, but not necessarily improving the status of women of different culture and race.  This has the effect of further marginalising those that are ‘different’ as they fail to conform to the new gendered role.  Some in Postmodern feminism failed to recognise the different and unique circumstances that specific individuals experienced due to various cultural, ethnic or religious backgrounds and were labelled as “white feminists’, promoting feminist theories under the frame of white privilege.  Feminist assumptions based on the experiences of white western feminists, fail to recognise the intersection of gender, race and ethnicity and often failed to serve the needs of global ‘sisters’.  By categorising these individuals into groups where race ethnicity and gender intersected, it only served to further marginalise and disenfranchise these individuals.

Butler points out that each of us is capable of ‘acts’ that contribute to feminism, or more broadly, gender equality by choosing whether to play out the historical version of what our physical body should look like, how we should behave, and what we should believe based on accepted norms.  We have the power to change both ourselves, and our society in two ways.  Firstly, we can create different models of how we look, behave and what we believe, but this takes an understanding of the historical events that have led us to our current view of ourselves.  Secondly, we can recognise and truly value the difference in others, not merely tolerating difference, but embracing and accepting it as intrinsically valuable.  Many contemporary young women do not associate themselves with any form of feminism, but they still experience freedoms not afforded to women a hundred years ago, and indeed even 50 years ago.  ‘Girl Power’, the ‘new traditionalist’, stay at home mum, and the increasing ‘mummy power’ groups are reshaping ‘acts’ of the past in a new way.  They are able to differentiate themselves from their mothers before them but require the recognition, acceptance and respect of older feminists in order for change to happen naturally.

Butler (1988. Pg 525) says, “The transformation of social relations becomes a matter, then, of transforming hegemonic social conditions rather than the individual acts that are spawned by those conditions”.  Butler asserts that you cannot just change the individual and their ‘acts’, but effective transformational change means that feminists need to change the ‘conditions’ under which the acts are ‘spawned’.  We can see examples of this in family environments where little girls wear pink and are rewarded for behaving a certain way by being ‘nice’, yet boys are rewarded for modelling the accepted male gender model, meaning we are still gender differencing when our children are babies.  Even though many parents are aware that dressing children in colours that are associated with their gender is not mandatory, most parents still ‘act’ in the same way that their own parents did, and sustain, in most cases unwittingly, the recognised gender models within families.  The child’s gendered behaviour is reinforced through reward for ‘good’ behaviour when it subscribes to the accepted model and punishment for ‘bad’ behaviour that does not subscribe to the accepted model.  A failure to recognise and validate different ‘acts’ by the child continues to enforce a naturalised behaviour and in my view, limits individuality and ultimately limits economic growth because it can stifle creativity.  A recent study by Dr Terrance Fitzsimmons (2012) of UQ Business School, “Women at the Top” highlights the attributes that high achieving women demonstrate showed clear patterns each female leader had in common.  Fitzsimmons believes that these patterns helped form the attributes that pushed them to the top of the corporate ladder.  There were strong similarities in their childhoods.  Firstly, nearly all the women had suffered a traumatic event in their childhood, something significant enough to interrupt the family flow.  Secondly, almost all the women interviewed were from small business families, so were familiar with the workings of business.  This research is interesting because it shows that these women were in families where individuality and difference to naturalised gender behaviour was recognised and accepted.  Perhaps, many of the historical gendered acts that normally defined the accepted historical ‘acts’ were not present due to the early experience of trauma and thus the protraction of the historical stereotype was dissolved.  The study compared the experience of these women to that of male leaders.  They cited a common ‘habitius’, which in most cases gave them a strong knowledge of the business world and helped to nurture commonly accepted male attributes such as competitiveness, individuality, assertiveness and drive in an environment where they were recognised as a group member – they fitted in and were accepted giving them the confidence to succeed.

Butler argues that ‘hegemonic social conditions’ must change and in a perfect world each person would be able to construct their own view of their identity, instead of having a ‘gendered body’ that is culturally restricted by society.  If the Post Feminist movement is to be transformative, it needs to encourage individuals to construct their own view of their ‘gendered body’ that is unrestricted by culture.  It must encourage individuals to refrain from constructing a view of the ‘gendered body’ that does not recognise the difference and diversity of others as this will only lead to a contrived view of themself.

In summary, Butler’s definitions provide us both enormous possibility for positive change and an equal possibility for stagnation if we don’t look to deconstruct the amalgam of historical acts that still so clearly define us as women.  Without a recognition and respect for an individual’s points of difference, we cannot hope to develop new pathways, and models for gender balance that will sustain us into the future.  We need to constantly question and reassess what makes us think we need to act and be a certain way and ask if it is my identity or is it one that projected onto me by external forces.  The modern world, constantly subjects us to external factors that try to influence our identity.  Not only are we subjected to images from the media that portray women and men in a certain way, we are also bombarded with language that suggests that ‘we want’ this or ‘must have’ and these suggestions can be powerful.  When faced with the external suggestions that degrade our view of ourselves, we can look back at the history of acts that have created this view and reconstruct it to form positive views that enhance us, and revitalise our gendered self rather than those that detract and have us questioning if we measure up and belong.

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Ang, Ien. (1995), “I’m a feminist but . . . ‘Other’ women and postnational feminism” in Transitions: New Australian Feminisms , Caine, Barbara; Pringle, Rosemary , pgs; 57-73

Butler, Judith.  (1988) “Performative acts and gender constitution: An essay in phenomenology and feminist theory” Theatre Journal , 40:4 pgs; 519-531

Clips from a French TV documentary on Judith Butler, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q50nQUGiI3s&feature=channel_page

Clausen, J. (1999) “My interesting condition’, in Storr, M. (1999), Bisexuality: A Critical Reader.  Routledge. London. Chapter 11, pgs; 107-111.  (Extract)

Curthoys, Ann (1997), “Where is Feminism Now?” in Bodyjamming , Mead, Jenna (1997) pgs; 189-212

Fitzsimmons, T (2012) “Women at the Top” in The Business Magazine of the UQ Business School, Issue One 2012, The University of Queensland Business School, Brisbane pgs; 9-11. (Extract)

Honneth, Axel (1995), “Personal identity and disrespect: The violation of the body, the denial of rights, and the denigration of ways of life” in The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts, pgs; 131-139

James, Susan (2000), “Feminism in philosophy of mind: The question of personal identity” in The Cambridge companion to feminism in philosophy , Hornsby, Jennifer; Fricker, Miranda , 2000 , pgs; 29-48

Sandberg, Sheryl (2013), “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”, W. H. Allen , United Kingdom

[1] 1. A philosophy or method of inquiry based on the premise that reality consists of objects and events as they are perceived or understood in human consciousness and not of anything independent of human consciousness.

2. A movement based on this, originated about 1905 by Edmund Husserl. Source http://www.thefreedictionary.com/phenomenological


The power of accepting difference, recognising diversity and building trust in cross cultural business relationships

I worked in Thailand in 2003 and was working with one senior executive of the bank who was always impeccably presented. True to Thai custom, we always greeted each other with our hands clasped together in front of our chests and then bowed slightly to each other. So no shaking hands! Thai’s then didn’t shake hands with another man let alone a women, in fact it was very unusual to be in the position I was in as a female in Thailand in the first place. I am only quiet slight and short (5’4″), but I was still taller than most of the senior Thai men and whilst they expect to be shorter than an American male executive they don’t expect to be shorter than a women. In Thailand you also have the issue of ‘face’, but I explained to them that this was no different to them putting me in an awkward situation as the Program Manager, where I might be shown up as incompetent because someone had not done something or told me about an important issue. I spend a lot of time talking these types of issues through with my team because Thai’s don’t like to say no and this can be disastrous when running a large IT program! They soon started to see that we weren’t too different but the major change was the one with the senior executive. I told him that bowing was not natural to me like shaking hands and that maybe one day we could do both. The male American exec’s thought I was mad and said that the Thai exec would never accept me. Well after a short time, he did. He took me into his confidence about his misgivings with the American’s and one day when we were all in a meeting together, the Thai Exec and I met at the door and bowed as usual. Then, he put his hand out to shake mine! This was a remarkable indication of his trust in me, and I was the only ‘Farang‘ (European) male or female whose hand he shook. It was one of the most satisfying things that has ever happened to me.

Listening to Live, desensitisation and the escalation of violence

Although there is a lot of noise around us and enormous amounts of chatter, people are less tolerant, less able to listen, and I think less able to express themselves.  I have noticed my youngest daughter is sometimes difficult to talk to because she fires questions at me in shorthand and when I ask her to explain, instead of going back over what she has said, she launches off on a new tangent in the hope that this new information will give me the information that I need.  This just leads to confusion and I feel like giving up.  Instead, I go back over the conversation and try to put each piece of information into context so that we can get to the answer that she needs.  This is very time consuming.

What I have noticed over the past maybe 15 years or so is that more and more people talk at you, not to you.  They don’t listen to what you say and in the worst cases, (like someone at a call centre) will respond with a standard question no matter what you ask them.  The other thing that happens very often is that the person you are asking the question of starts to speak over the top of you like they can’t wait for you to finish speaking.  Very often, I have to tell people to stop speaking over the top of me and wait for me to finish.  They are often startled by this and sometimes don’t even realise that they have done it in the first place.  Many are so eager to jump in and answer your question to get rid of you that they haven’t listened to you in the first place.  Or they are simply so used to only listening to small amounts of information they feel the need to (tweet) interject after only a couple of seconds.  I think that there focus is on what they are going to say next rather than listening to what I am saying now.

I have also observed that if you ask someone multiple questions in an email, they are very likely to answer the first one of two, leaving the other questions unanswered.  This means that I have to resend the email to them to get a response for the other questions.  In a worst case, this could take some time and a number of resent emails.  I find that the best way to handle this is to say in the first sentence of the first email something like – “below I have outlined ‘x’(the number) questions and wish to have a response to all of them”.

Maybe this is because, as Julian Treasure says, ‘we have become desensitised by so much noise and information that it is harder to pay attention to the quiet’.  Treasure talks about ‘listening to live’ and as he says in his TED talk, this desensitization is a disturbing and serious issue.  When people don’t feel that they are listened to, they experience a whole range of emotions ranging from confusion, through frustration to the anger and extreme violence.  I am constantly amazed to see footage of men shooting guns in the air amongst chaos as some way of either protesting or celebrating an event.  Apart from being incredibly dangerous (like where do all those bullets end up), it completely shuts out any ability to connect to the silence, the inner feelings and emotions of the person who is trying to make sense of the situation, whether that situation be happy or tragic.  I believe that much of the escalation in violence that we see is related to a lack of social listening skills, and connection to other people.  People are becoming more and more isolated, separated from each other by a lack of intimacy, a loss of real person-to-person connection and the ability to listen.  We are losing the ability to have conversations that are meaningful, that connect with each other on a deep rather than superficial level, instead we are just ‘contacting’ each other through noisy words.

For many people silence is uncomfortable and that silence must be filled with some noise or some activity as soon as possible.  But it is in the silence that we often find the answers that we are looking for, its where we connect to our own feelings and those that others share with us.  It is how we get to know ourselves and others and it is vitally important that we teach our children to not only be able to listen, but to be able to appreciate silence.

When I was in high school, I had an argument with a teacher when I told her that hearing and listening were not the same.  She told me that the two things were the same, but they are not.  You might be able to hear noise; you might hear your parent, teacher, or partner talking to you that’s for sure.  You know that they are talking, you can hear the noise coming from them, but that does not mean that you are listening to them.


TED Talk by Julian Treasure – http://on.ted.com/Treasure11

The Connections Between HIV and Violence against Women in a Global Environment

321316_10151395601441737_727663664_nA paper by Susanne Moore 28 January 2013

Sometimes studying sociology can be depressing, reading enormous amounts of information that usually tell a sorry tale of persistent and current inequalities against women.  With one of the biggest issues still being the use of violence (and sexual violence) to maintain and sustain a power imbalance between men and women that limits a woman’s ability to negotiate safe sex.

I thought long and hard about posting this paper, but what I have noticed since studying Sociology is that much of the information that is actually informative resides in academia and is not accessible by everyone.  It is the assessability of this information that I think will help to change our societies for the better so I have resolved to post as much as I can for others to share.  Due to copyright laws, in many cases I can’t post the full articles, but I can reference them in my own writings and this is one of those articles.

One of my current study subjects is “Gender, Power and Globalisation”, and this subject means I am wading through reams of documents with startling statistics about the intersection of violence against women and the spread of HIV AIDS.  This is information that many of us are unaware of, and whilst women in countries like Australia, the United States and United Kingdom argue that they have already achieved full parity with men, alarming statistics indicate the large majorities of women and girls in many countries are very far from equal.  Interestingly, I found some startling similarities in the way these situations arise and managed by policy makers that could apply to all of us.  Many of these women and girls are in fact, becoming more vulnerable to violence, the subordination to males and increased health risks, due largely to the increased migration and movement of people as a result of globalisation.  This vulnerability is particularly evident when it comes to HIV AIDS for women in cultures where they are not equal or lack access to education and support services.  In a journal by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM 2008, one author cites the following statistics;

“In its 2007 AIDS Epidemic Update, UNAIDS estimates that globally the proportion of women to men living with HIV remained stable between 2001 and 2007, although the number of those infected increased by about 1.7 million. Behind this statistic however, UNAIDS reported a complex mix of sexual realities, including HIV transmission to women from men who were infected through unprotected sex, including unprotected paid sex and/or sex with other men, and/or unprotected sex with people who use drugs.

The situation is not the same in all parts of the world.  In sub-Saharan Africa, almost 61 per cent of adults living with HIV in 2007 were women, while in the Caribbean that percentage was 43 per cent (compared with 37 per cent in 2001).  The proportions of women living with HIV in Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe are slowly growing, as HIV is transmitted to the female partners of men who are likely to have been infected through injecting drug use or during unprotected paid sex or sex with other men.  In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, it is estimated that women accounted for 26 per cent of adults with HIV in 2007 (compared with 23 per cent in 2001), while in Asia that proportion reached 29 per cent in 2007 (compared with 26 per cent in 2001).13(Carr 2008; pg.4)

These figures are now somewhat old (2007), but you can speculate that if all the issues were resolved within a year of the statistics being complied, and, as a result, the incidence of HIV AIDS in women declined significantly, even today the lingering effects would be enormous.  We would still be feeling the ramifications in terms of the cost of medical support (if available) and the huge impact of this illness on a women’s ability to look after herself and her family, not to mention the loss of life and its impact on the community and families of the victims.  More notably is the connection between the spread of HIV in women and violence;

“The connections between HIV and violence against women have been the subject of a great deal of research and advocacy.  A literature review by the Harvard School of Public Health (2006) reports that:

“HIV infection as relevant to GBV [gender-based violence] is primarily acquired through sexual relations, which themselves are greatly influenced by socio-cultural factors, underlying which are gender power imbalances.  Gender based violence, or the fear of it, may interfere with the ability to negotiate safer sex or refuse unwanted sex.  Furthermore, violence against a woman can interfere with her ability to access treatment and care, maintain adherence to ARV [anti-retroviral] treatment, or carry out her infant feeding choices. Evidence also exists that living with HIV can constitute a risk factor for GBV, with many people reporting experiences of violence following disclosure of HIV status, or even following admission that HIV testing has been sought.  Thus a vicious cycle of increasing vulnerabilities to both GBV and HIV can be established.”  (p. 7)20(Carr 2008; pg.5).

This is a complex area and of course, many women take part in sex willingly and with consent, they want closeness and intimacy with their partner, but in some cases their ability to influence their partner’s sexual habits are restricted.  Often, this is exacerbated by the many cultural restraints and norms that define what it means to be a woman.  These restraints and norms often decide a woman’s access to education, information and services and their own attitude and expectations of sexual intimacy.

In many cultures, the ideal of a ‘good woman’ is one that promotes her fidelity through a union with one man.  This ideal holds that she is also someone that is a good mother and supportive wife, and the degree to which this is an issue varies from region to region and culture to culture and there are complex issues like race, financial status and religion that determine what is acceptable in the ideal of a ‘good woman’.  This ideal means that women are constantly battling with government and family expectations to control their own bodies.  This is not just a third world issue, demands are constantly made on the United States Government to introduce health reforms that degrade a women’s ability to access affordable birth control and access to abortion, reducing rights previously won by women in the past.  In addition, a woman’s right to choose is further under threat by constant objections by vocal pro-life lobbyists to current pro-choice options, requiring a watchful eye of policy formation to prevent retrograde steps that degrade women’s rights for self-determination.

In contrast, the ideal of a ‘real man’ is one where he is congratulated, and even encouraged to have multiple sexual partners, the degree of the acceptance of this norm varies from culture to culture, but can see men bringing the HIV virus uninvited into the home as a result.  Further complications arise when macho masculine ideals portrayed through violence, gambling and drinking promote a view that men need to subordinate women to prove their masculine identity.  An unequal power balance between husband and wife may see forced sex through domestic violence, in some cases, even when she already knows he is carrying the virus, she is often powerless to refuse.

“Despite research showing the strong linkages between violence against women and HIV and AIDS, it rarely finds its way into the responses to HIV and AIDS.  In Women Won’t Wait, Fried (2007) makes the case that:

Two pandemics threaten the health, lives and rights of women throughout the world: one is HIV&AIDS and the other is gender-based violence against women and girls.  Violence against women and girls is a major contributor to death and illness among women, as well as to social isolation, loss of economic productivity, and loss of personal freedom.  Research confirms that violence, and particularly intimate partner violence, also is a leading factor in the increasing “feminization” of the global AIDS pandemic, resulting in disproportionately higher rates of HIV infection among women and girls.  Simultaneously, evidence confirms HIV&AIDS as both a cause and a consequence of the genderbased violence, stigma and discrimination that women and girls face in their families and communities, in peace and in conflict settings, by state and non-state actors, and within and outside of intimate partnerships.”  (p. 1)21 (Carr 2008; pg.6)

Working environments where there is a high concentration of males can result in an increase in both HIV and violent crimes, including domestic violence.  This marginalises women who feel intimidated and controlled and reduces their input to policy decisions that might make a difference.  They become invisible, with their lived realities frequently lost on policy makers who look through a public health lens of high-risk HIV AIDS sufferers that sees women either as mothers of unborn children of as sex workers.  It frames them in a traditional female supporter role, does not assume equality and is really a value judgement from policy makers based on their own cultural values.  In a sense, unconscious bias based on the idea of what is required rather than understanding the lived realities of violence, suppression, discrimination and stigma faced by many women.  Programs that are more recent attempt to address these issues; however, the results will still take some time to prove effective.

The recipe to enact this type of vulnerability is a proven one; reduce opposition through violent suppression and intimidation, build an environment of blame, stigma and guilt, isolate by removing access to assistance, deny education and the ability to earn money, and institutionally sanction cultural discrimination and inequality and you have the potential for this same situation to happen anywhere.

 “Today Dlamini-Zuma, first woman Chair of the African Union quoted Samora Machel in her opening speech: “The emancipation of women is not an act of charity, the result of a humanitarian or compassionate attitude. The liberation of women is a fundamental necessity for the revolution, the guarantee of its continuity and the precondition for its victory. The main objective of the revolution is to destroy the system of exploitation and build a new society which releases the potentialities of human beings & this is the context within which womens emancipation arises. “This, and a later call by Ban Ki-moon for Africa to stand against rape & sexual violence & end impunity – were the only two times there was clapping – led by us #AUstoprape from the balcony!”

28 January 2013 – Nobel Women’s Initiative http://www.facebook.com/nobelwomen

Too many young girls walk to school in fear of violence, too many young women fear rape or death when they are simply living, attacked for no reason except that they are a female, and too many women are denied a voice simply because of their sex.

Unfortunately many more women will pay a heavy price before freedom is achieved. Whilst some men use their wonderful physical power to control and intimidate others, instead of using it to care for and work for others, women will suffer because it is not our way to take up arms to fight. Our way is to endure, to be resilient, to speak loud and long and to demonstrate the change that needs to happen.



Bales, K (2002), “Because she looks like a Child”, in B Ethernreich and B Hoshchild Global Woman, nannies, maids and sex workers in the new economy. NY, Henry Holt; pg, 207-299

Carr, R. (2008), “Walking the Walk: Closing the Programmatic and Financing Gap on Gender Equality, Violence against Women, and Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in Responses to HIV and AIDS”. In Promoting Gender Equality in HIV and AIDS Responses: Making Aid More Effective Through Tracking Results. New York: United Nations Development Fund for Women, 1-24, 40-42. http://www.unifem.org/attachments/products/gender_equality_in_hiv_aids_responses.pdf 

Photograph sourced – 28 January 2013 – Nobel Women’s Initiative http://www.facebook.com/nobelwomen

The History of arbitration and Industrial Relations in Australia’s Gender Wage Gap

Australia’s history of arbitration and industrial relations has evolved since the days of the Master Servant relationship between employer and employee of the mid 1800’s This paper will discuss the opposing perspectives of each and question if Industrial Relations be seen as a manipulative form of management control with arbitration as the governance layer of social change. It will look at the level of political intervention of these systems evident between employers, employees and third parties such as unions, and state governments.

Since 1907, an arbitration system that sets minimum wages was favoured by the social democrats with the result being the Arbitration Courts and Wage Boards of the 1890’s. The early courts were used to settle industrial disputes with binding agreements, whereas the Wage Boards brought together representative groups of employers and employees under an independent Chair. The idea was to agree minimum wages and conditions for workers that employers could implement. The early Wage Boards had no power to intervene in strike action which was the dominate form of industrial action in early Australia. After the 1890’s there was an increased desire for a faster conflict resolution remedy than the traditional ‘strike’ and ‘lock out’ mentality. Both Arbitration and Industrial Relations were designed to ‘de-politicise’ employment relations, but there were lingering concerns that politicians would continue to interfere with the democratic politics of these systems. (MacIntyre 1985) .

Around this time (1907), the President of the Arbitration Court, Henry Borne Higgins devised the “living wage’ that was based on what he determined to be the minimum amount required for a man with a wife and 3 children to live ‘frugally’. Mr Justice Higgins based his calculations on his expectation that all adults would marry, and that men were always the primary wage earners. Women supporting families through desertion or their husband’s death were only paid the equivalent of a single females wage instead of that equivalent to the “living wage”, and this caused extreme hardship for many families with a female breadwinner. Single females wage already half that of a single man’s in most cases although there were, some exceptions for women employed in agricultural roles. This inequality would be the start of unequal pay between men and women in Australia that continues today with women’s earnings less than men’s for the same work, often leaving many women in poverty. “The patriarchal phraseology reveals the underlying fear: the market threatened not just the sanctity of the home but the earning capacity and authority of its male head” (MacIntyre 1985: pg58).



Just some examples of ‘gendered language’

UNESCO‘s Guidelines on Gender-Neutral Language  was written as a result of the idea of ‘sexist language‘ when it was first raised by Nordic nations in 1987.

As we know, language is powerful.  It can uplift a person or it can drag a person down and for centuries women have been exposed to the constant use of gender specific terminology.

‘If words and language infer that women are inferior, the assumption of inferiority can exist’ (pg: 4)

Here are just a couple of examples from UNESCO’s Guidelines for Gender Neutral Language.  The alternative language is included to the right.

Man’s search for knowledge has led him to improve scientific methodology. The search for knowledge has led us to improve scientific methodology.People have continually sought knowledge.
Man, Mankind people, humanity, human beings, humankind,the human species, the human race, we,

ourselves, men and women, homo sapiens,

one, the public, society, the self, human


‘History of the Scientific and CulturalDevelopment of Mankind’ History of Humanity
manpower staff, labour, work force, employees, personnel,workers, human resources, human power,

human energy

“Its a fact that more men are attracted to IT positions than women – that’s just a general difference between the sexes, with exceptions of course”

English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d...

English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d’Albert Einstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently saw this statement, above, on a LinkedIn discussion group and of course couldn’t help but respond.  I was amazed and a bit surprised that with all the efforts that go into trying to get more girls interested in information technology careers, we still see these sorts of statements coming from men that are currently working in the industry!  Some of the comments that preceded mine and Matti’s inferred that women just didn’t want to put in the effort, or that they just didn’t have what it took to stay the distance and do the hard yards of academic work required to get to the top of this field.

Here is my response below;

“Matti, I am going to respond to your comments briefly so here goes. Firstly, one of the big issues we have as women is that we have children, and so do tend take time out of the workforce to have them, even if it is a minimal amount of time. For me, I have three children and took a total of 7 years out of the workforce to have and care for them – there is already a hit to my bottom pocket right there in terms of prospects of promotion, continuity of information tech skills, and of course lost income and worse still, superannuation. Until we all in society take responsibility for the continuity of the species, women will most probably be disadvantaged. Men are just as capable of caring for children, but as yet can’t have them physically. Given this, traditionally, and I am talking over centuries, women have been seen as the ‘carers and supporters’ with men being the primary breadwinners. It doesn’t take an Einstein to work out that this has created a work (and political and religious) environment and framework that has been predominately created by men. As women, we still experience some of the ramifications of this, but it is changing and by opening ourselves up to a more diverse talent mix (and that means women that have been full time mothers and carers of society), we must open up new ways of designing our organisations, open ourselves to new ways of thinking and increase innovation by diversity of thought.

The issue of why men seem to like IT more than women is also complex, but after about twenty years in IT mostly software development I have some ideas. I was at a talk by a man from Silicon Valley only this week and during his 40 minutes, I heard him repeatably talk about “the men” of Silicon Valley. He mentioned many names and they were all male. He talked in terms of ‘what is sexy’ (yes I thought that went out with the ark too, but no), he talked in aggressive, spurious, sometimes wanky sentences that, really seemed to big note himself rather than give us information. Women don’t respond to this type of talk (we are not turned on by it so much) and the idea of geeks working all through the night and eating pizza doesn’t appeal to many women either. I know myself, if my developers were working through the night, there was something wrong with my management and this meant we needed more resources or we needed to cut scope. So many women and girls just don’t get turned on by the bravado and geek behaviour.

However, we do need to appeal to girls to take up IT, but not in the way that we are doing it by talking about science and ‘sexy’ work all night stuff. We need to let our girls know that IT as a way to change things for the better, and get them to understand that technology is the decision making tool of the future. Everywhere we look, everything has some information technology component so girls must participate to retain a seat at the decision making table of the future. It is also going to mean a change in the way that traditional CIO’s and technical people behave, what they think work is and how they manage increasingly complex and diverse environments, like the mix of older workers and Gen X, Y.

Finally, many women are highly dedicated. They do courses, some are still the primary care giver for children, often look after elderly parents, try to be good wives and partners and are often exceptional employees. And, as you say badness is not restricted to any one gender, but then neither should be diversity of choice.”

Since the initial response was done using my iPhone, I have made a couple of corrections to spelling and grammar to hopefully help the translation of the original article to this blog post.  Needless to say, that seemed to be the end of the discussion.