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blog post vm oscars

The Oscars came and went this week in a blur of glitz, glamour and political statements. While politics and the Oscars are a more unusual pairing, this year politics was as prominent a theme as the off-white frock, with actress Patricia Arquette’s politically charged acceptance speech a particular highlight.

During her speech, Arquette drew uproarious applause from the audience for her plea for equal rights for women in the United States of America: “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America”.

While her comments (especially those made backstage after Arquette’s speech) have come under scrutiny from particular members of the public, it cannot be denied that her speech and the resulting media attention surrounding it, has ignited the gender equality debate.

Some have argued that Patricia’s speech was unnecessary. Fellow actress and conservative pundit, Stacey Dash was quoted saying “I didn’t get the memo that I don’t have any rights”. Furthermore, American author and social commentator Suzanne Venker, argued the issue of gender equality in itself is pointless[1]. “The problem with equality is that it implies two things are interchangeable – meaning one thing can be substituted for the other with no ramifications.

But being equal in worth, or value, is not the same as being identical, interchangeable beings. Men and women may be capable of doing many of the same things, but that doesn’t mean they want to. That we don’t have more female CEOs or stay-at-home dads proves this in spades.

This doesn’t mean that men can’t take care of babies or women can’t play sports. It just means each gender has its own energy that flows in a specific direction, which both need to be celebrated.”

This argument begs the question….if there is no such thing as equality between the sexes, what exactly should we be striving to achieve? What does being equal in worth look like in today’s society?

[2]According to the Department of Justice and Equality, gender equality is achieved when men and women enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making and when the different behaviours, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favoured.

Ultimately this definition and Venker’s argument come to the same conclusion; that the differences of both men and women need to be equally valued in society, and both genders should have the opportunity to take part in any societal sect they wish to. The only difference is, one definition argues that this equates to gender equality and the other argues it is tolerance for each gender.

This confusion could be due to the fact that despite reaching a stage where both young girls and boys are able to view the world in terms of endless possibility, the realities they confront as they grow older mean that this picture contracts, all because we’ve yet to discover what such a world would actually look like.

[3]Elizabeth Broderick, the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner spoke about this in great detail in 2010. “There has been much confusion within gender policy in recent years, with gender education policy being affected by a backlash against feminist gains, and the rise of a companion perception that men are victims of reverse sexism. Suddenly we are presented with competing victims’ syndrome, where the idea of ‘gender’ starts to be mobilised to generate and exacerbate conflict, rather than to resolve it.”

Broderick argues that there is still a lot to be done to achieve gender equality that matters for future generations. She also believes that the value of equality needs to be acknowledged not just by human rights activists and the general public but by economists and decision makers.

“According to The Economist,  “the increase in female employment in the rich world has been the main driving force of growth in the past couple of decades…[contributing] more to global GDP growth than …either new technology or the new giants, China and India.”

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs argue that closing the gap between male and female employment rates would have huge implications for the global economy, and that narrowing the gap in Australia would boost our GDP by 11%. They suggest, encouraging young women to choose more highly rewarded work roles, amongst other things.”

To reach this growth and close the gap between men and women, particularly within the professional sphere, Elizabeth argues that a review of the roles of boys and girls needs to be discussed, as well as strategies to minimise the way in which we use ‘gender’ as a limitation and a divider within society.

VM Learning agrees with this belief and have worked continuously over the last 25 years to  bridge this divide through our Women As Leaders program. The program relates specifically to the workforce and aims to develop specific strategies for dealing with barriers for women in management. Our program also has a proactive focus, bythrough analysing current opportunities within the job market and what they mean for both women overall and the individual. The Women and Leaders program will be running in the second half of 2015, with the first public workshop held in June. Call 07 3215 8888 to book now.



[1] Venker, Suzanne (2013). ‘To be happy, we must admit women and men aren’t ‘equal’’.

[2] Department of Justice and Equality (2011).  Gender Equality.


[3] Broderick, Elizabeth. (2010).  ‘What does a world of gender equality look like?’.