The Truth About Normal: Monumental Myths & Astonishing Behaviour

the new normalLynne Doughtie became the first female global CEO of KMPG in July 2015. I was reading about Lynne in an article and about her self-directed mandate to get more women into work at a senior level. She outlined a number of key steps for aspiring female leaders, which included the usual suspects like mentors, working hard, being confident, don’t want it all etc. What compelled me to make this the subject of my next blog was that the article failed to overtly recognize that Lynne is changing the shape of the world simply by making it ‘normal’ for a woman to be at the top of a global organization leading 27,000 people.

My childrens generation should be able to see this new ‘normal’ which, according to the outrageously likable Justin Trudeau, is an equal number of men, women, LGBTI, culturally diverse, able bodied and disabled leaders in government and the corporate world. In other words, have corporate and government leadership structures reflect our societies and communities. Astonishing concept eh?

So, about those myths. My son  & daughter grew up watching G rated films & programs. In a study (Gender in Media: The Myths & Facts) carried out by The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, it was found that even in G rated family films, male characters outnumbered female characters at a rate of 3 to 1. Males dominate speaking parts up to 83% of the time and females are often portrayed in background or support roles and disturbingly, show more skin with a focus on body size, shape and beauty. And this has been occurring, with no change, and unchecked for 60 years. See Geena talk about her work here.

‘Normal’ for my children, their generation and mine, is that females have a supporting or background role in work and life. That’s astonishing and time to change it.

Annabel Crabb writes about ‘normal’ and role reversal in her book The Wife Drought. Crabb talks about the questions that are posed to a (working) woman that would rarely be asked of their male counterparts. One of the good old chestnuts I have heard consistently over my last 25+ years of being a working mother (& astonishingly a businesswoman!) is “how do you do it?” Conversely, I have never, ever heard a man being asked that question. I was (& still am) asked that and other questions like “gee you must be busy?” or “how do you fit it all in?” Presumably I am asked this question because I am actively involved in other interests on top of my (paid) day job. I assume that people wonder how I could possible juggle it all when in fact, this is quite an ordinary proposition for me and thousands of other people like me. I hang out with a lot of men and again, I have never, ever heard those questions posed to my male colleagues. Meaning? Well I guess I am just not ‘normal’! Because ‘normal’ means that 83% of the time in movies, TV, work and life, men have the lead. That’s what is ‘normal’. Astonishing!

So back to Lynne Doughtie. Lynne and others like her, Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, and in Australia, Elizabeth Broderick, Ann Sherry, Holly Kramer, Jayne Hrdlicka, Gail Kelly, Diane Smith-Gander, Holly Ransom (I could go on!!) will make female leadership ‘normal’. She will help me, my daughter, my son and the women & men of our generations realise, in Sheryl Sandbergs words, “We are a new generation and need a new approach”. Now that’s astonishing behaviour and I like it!

Michelle Redfern Advancing Women Founder


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