International Women’s Day theme is Be Bold for Change.
‘Be Bold for Change’ is a call to both organisations and individuals to help forge a better, more gender inclusive working world. It challenges all of us to become leaders, no matter our gender, to progress gender inclusiveness in our own sphere of influence – to help woman reach their full potential both in the workforce and in the public sphere.
This call to the masses is all well and good but will the masses step up and answer? According to the groupthink phenomenon, coined by social psychologist Irving Janis, the desire for moral justice and common sense is often overrun by the need for consensus. While in a group setting, individuals’ personal beliefs are no longer the main factor, as it becomes more important for the group to agree, to be in harmony. Personal interests are pushed to the background; the main goal is to ensure the continued success of the group through common thought. This groupthink is very prevalent in the theory of Bystander Apathy, a theory that seeks to explain why individuals are slow to act in a group setting. People believe that because no one else is doing anything, there is no reason for them to as well.
Bystander Apathy is a factor in gender equality as well, particularly in the workplace. Whilst gender equality continues to be an issue in the media, in the workplace the status quo of a lack of women in leadership roles continuing from the factory floor to the boardroom in employability, seniority and remuneration. Challenging that status quo requires boldness. It falls especially to the managers of business to promote change in this area, not just to sit on the sidelines. Male managers must become more aware of prejudices about gender roles that they have internalised. Women in positions of authority and status must in the words of Michele Obama “Reach back and pull up the woman behind her” and encourage other women to reach out and realise their best aspirations. We must all be bold for change.
Winsome Bernard CEO
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