Anyone watching Taylor Swift’s video of her new release The Man can’t fail to appreciate the irony of International Women’s Day 2020 hashtag - #Eachforequal.
Having sold more than 50 million albums, Swift is one of the world's best-selling music artists and the highest-earning female musician of the 2010s. It seems inconceivable, given this success, that she would still feel she was somehow not equal to any man. Dressing as a man in the video, her actions and her lyrics indicate we are not yet #Eachforequal.
They'd say I hustled
Put in the work
They wouldn't shake their heads
And question how much of this I deserve
What I was wearing, if I was rude
Could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves
And we would toast to me...
Men's physiology defines most sports, their health needs largely define insurance coverage, their socially designed biographies define workplace expectations and successful career patterns, their perspectives and concerns define quality in academia, their experiences and obsessions define merit, their service in the armed forces defines citizenship, their presence defines family, their inability to get along with each other defines history.
These are our societal norms.
In sociology we use the term privilege to describe these societal norms – male privilege sets these norms and provides the measure for us all (although we are very hesitant to call this out in the business context). And because this system is hard to see, and because systems of privilege interact to reinforce themselves, the power of male privilege at work remains difficult to erode. It requires #Eachforequal.
To make the shift to #Eachforequal, let’s start making women the benchmark more often for how we speak and act.
We could flip our standard – to what the law calls “the reasonable woman standard”. Whilst we won’t know if it would immediately resolve Taylor Swift’s challenge:
…I'm so sick of running
As fast as I can (as fast as I can)
Wondering if I'd get there quicker
If I was a man…
It might be a step in the direction of #Eachforequal.
Applying the standard of a reasonable woman to everything we do at work - that is by making woman the measure of man – would force businesses to recognise women's perspectives, as well as those of men. After all, in law a reasonable woman is just one who wants and demands "respect, personal autonomy, agency, and bodily integrity"; who could object?
To be #Eachforequal on International Women’s Day in 2020 we can start by flipping the benchmarks in the workplace, and in society, to one that respects the personal autonomy, agency and bodily integrity of women, not men. Imagine if:
We used women’s requirements to build the benchmarks for recruitment and promotion?
We used women’s needs to define workplace expectations?
We used women’s career paths as the expected trajectory for success?
We used women’s family roles as the requisite for work-life balance?
Businesses who are brave enough to do this take a powerful step toward #Eachforequal. For as Swift says:
…'Cause if I was a man (if I was man)
Then I'd be the man (then I'd be the man).