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Is gender specific content really necessary?

Yes of course, but only in certain circumstances.

In a society where diversity and inclusion are increasingly in the spotlight, I do often wonder whether it can sometimes be taken too far in the other direction. I am in no way arguing that we shouldn’t be championing change, I simply think that in some instances the unnecessary targeting of content can perhaps dilute the impact of topics that really do deserve our recognition.

I was recently reading an article on LinkedIn that focused on how to succeed as a female entrepreneur whilst travelling solo overseas. The article did raise one interesting point which was gender specific that, according to their sources, around 63% of all solo travelers are female. The relevance ended there, however. The points that followed could have very easily been applied to both male and female entrepreneurs, for example I am unsure as to why saving money where possible and attending unique events specific to your business are tips that only women will benefit from. Another article appeared in the ‘Women in Leadership’ section of a well-known news outlet offering three steps to improve employee engagement. Again, the advice was relevant to both males and females working in leadership roles. I could understand if the article appeared in another section of the website where it would also attract a male audience, but it didn’t (I checked). Articles of this nature are most definitely clickbait and are taking advantage of the recent pressure for diversity conscious content. The articles themselves, and many more like them, are relevant for both audiences and shouldn’t be pigeonholed for the sake of seemingly supporting a cause.

The term ‘Shero’ is something that I came across, again via LinkedIn, fairly recently and is another example of taking it too far in my opinion. This term seems to me to be completely redundant as hero is gender neutral and, although it may historically have been assigned to predominantly male figures, it can very easily be applied to both. By coining a new term specifically for females, it is acknowledging a disparity rather than celebrating the equality of using the term for both genders. Every professional should be celebrated equally, not by shouting louder about a cause you feel deserves more recognition or pushing one into the spotlight at the expense of another, but by creating platforms for each cause where they can have their say both independently and collectively for diversity as a whole. The recent #InternationalMensDay helped encourage conversation around the struggles many men face both in and out of the workplace, and is a fantastic example of where gender specific content does make an impact. The term allows topics that are not necessarily openly discussed to be given a platform and were wholly relevant to promoting the D&I movement, not just content jumping on the bandwagon and clickbait posing as useful and stimulating dialogue.   

IP Inclusive has been fantastic at championing this, with the Women in IP, IP & Me and IP Out groups all gathering ground as successful voices for D&I in the IP community. There is always room for improvement however, with the danger of events hosted by such groups only attracting a very targeted audience – women only attending the Women in IP events for example. As a frequent attendee of such events I have noticed an increase in a more diverse audience over time, which is incredibly encouraging, but in order for the messages to be reaching the industry as a whole, firms (and individuals within firms) need to be visible at all events, not just at those where they feel they fit the label.

I do appreciate that I may be guilty myself (just a little) of clickbait by phrasing the title of this piece in the way I did. However, I do think it is important to make sure we do not get carried away with assigning every piece of information a category in the interest of D&I and really concentrate on providing a voice for the topics and issues that really matter.

Phillipa Holland is a consultant at Fellows and Associates. She can be quite opinionated, however it is normally over topics involving cats and Haribo. 

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