To celebrate International Women's Day and our ongoing Basing Folk campaign, we spoke to influential women from around Basingstoke Town Centre. One of these was Mary George, Marketing Manager for Proteus Theatre Company.
What is your current role?
Marketing Manager for Proteus, the theatre company that also runs the Proteus Creation Space.
What does gender bias or stereotyping mean to you?
Pre-determining (even implicitly) your opinions of an individual based on the gender they identify with. This could be anything from making assumptions about their life choices/skillset/personality etc, to explicit discrimination and unequal treatment of someone based on their gender.
What examples of gender bias or stereotypes have you come up against?
On a very low level, the back-handed comments from tradespeople assuming as a woman, I know nothing about mechanics/ plumbing etc. I mean, strictly speaking, I don’t but that has nothing to do with my gender, more than DIY bores me deeply! It might seem innocuous but these deeply ingrained attitudes are what have contributed to woman being under-represented in certain industries. During the course of my career, I feel lucky to have worked for organisations where I have never felt that gender has played a role in my success or progression.
Why do we need gender equality?
Because gender equality is essentially part of human equality and we are all human beings.
How do you work to achieve gender equality in your current role?
This is a tricky question to answer in specific relation to my role. However, as a female-led organisation, Proteus have been wonderfully supportive of me working flexibly to enable me to fit my work around having two young children. As an artistic organisation Proteus very supportive of female artists in every stage of their career, locally we host some really fantastic female-led performance pieces and really give a platform for the (sometimes unheard) female voice through the work that we make. We are currently creating an adaptation of The Bloody Chamber – with an all-female cast using aerial circus and physical theatre to re-tell Angela Carter’s famously twisted fairytales!
How do you want the workplace to look in 5 years’ time?
I would love for organisations to look at how they can accommodate more flexible working for all, (regardless of gender) following the examples of countries like Sweden with much better maternity/paternity rights, long hours of overtime discouraged and taking time to spend outdoors/ with family/ friends actively encouraged. I want to stress that I do mean flexible working (where possible) for ALL, not just those with children. Everyone has a right to a good work/ life balance and this is a key factor for positive mental health and lowering stress. There needs to be a seismic cultural shift in attitudes and this is no small task. Surely though, in the long term, this would place less strain on health services as a result.
What can you as an individual do to achieve this?
By being supportive of bills/ campaigns for equal rights/ flexible working. There is a fast-growing Woman’s Equality Party in the borough for example who work towards promoting better opportunities for all. On a more micro-level I try my best to bring my little ones up in a way that they see every individual as important as the next and that they value fairness/ kindness and accept/ embrace and celebrate everyone’s differences – well, that is the ambition anyway. I want them to grow up in a more accepting world.
What can we as a whole do to achieve this?
There is a brilliantly inspirational campaigner and blogger @Mother_Pukka who over the past few years has relentlessly campaigned for #Flexappeal – flexible working for everyone. It has much to do with gender equality but the basic principle is that everyone deserves to work flexibly, regardless of their life stage/ situation to create a happy, healthy, balanced and effective workforce and to utilise the incredible skills of people who could contribute so much more to the economy if they had the option to work flexibly.
Go check out her insta – it’s a real inspiration as to completely changing the way we think about things. I believe she now also has a weekly radio show on Heart FM and writes for Grazia at the company I previously worked for! If this is an area that interests you, you’ll quickly find other interesting groups and accounts to follow.