Boys Clubs as we once knew them may have changed, but when the heads of major corporations like Uber and 500 Startups continue to be caught out on their own sexual missteps, is accepting this boys club culture as simply ‘evolving’ really enough?
Last year, Dynamic Business published an article by Chris Maxwell outlining the ways in which boys club culture has evolved. While these exclusive alliances may appear different on the surface, the reality is that they are more present than ever – and are perhaps even more impenetrable.
Historically speaking, boys clubs had little need to hide. They weren’t discriminating, or so they’d argue, it was simply ‘the way things were’. But now in the era of #metoo, these clubs are far more covert and members are much deeper in denial of their own actions.
As Maxwell explains in the article, the modern boys clubs usually take place under the guise of shared history, hobbies, interests, or similarities – things that all seem perfectly innocent, but it’s what these alliances lead to that issues cause for concern.
Over the course of my career, I’ve seen it time and time again. When gender-based alliances are formed, women will often find themselves excluded from important conversations and major decision making – which subsequently damages their status and authority over time.
In male-dominated industries like real estate, there is a particularly strong prevalence of boys clubs. In fact, I believe this is one of the fundamental reasons why the gender pay gap in real estate is actually increasing rather than decreasing, and why women in the industry rarely make it to top level executive positions.
While of course I believe it’s important to build friendships within the workplace, it’s when this comradery overrides meritocracy and the balance of power becomes skewed that things take a turn for the worst. So, should we accept these new-look boys clubs? I don’t believe so. Here are my reasons why I believe we must take action and see that they are eradicated from the professional world.
Deep sexist roots
The concept of boys clubs are deeply rooted in a time where it was believed that a women’s place was in the home, and as such their contribution to the workplace was not valued. According to the most recent Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) report, women now make up 46.2% of all employees in Australia, and allowing the patterns of such an outdated way of thinking to continue without question prevents us, as a society, from moving forward.
Culture of cover up
One of the most insidious aspects of boys clubs is the cover up culture they breed. Above all else, boys clubs demand loyalty – even when it’s at the expense of another person. In the recent Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal, Rose McGowan has accused Ben Affleck of being complicit in the cover up the actions of Weinstein , who was at the time was helping Affleck to build his own career. While Affleck has firmly denied being aware of the events in question, the accusation alone has led to multiple women coming forth with their own experiences of sexual assault with Weinstein or Affleck himself.
As a society, it is vital that we acknowledge that the full extent of the damage that boys clubs can inflict on the women of the Australia workforce. The effects of these allegiances are something that most women will feel in their careers at one point or another, whether it takes shape in the form exclusion, discrimination, harassment or assault, boys clubs have the potential to ruin careers and cause emotional scarring that never fully heals.
Taking a perfunctory approach to knocking this old school way of thinking on the head will not make the inroads we need to. In order to ensure that women within the Australian workplace are not subjected to any form of sexual harassment or sexism, we stand together and reject the outdated ideals of those who been left unchecked for far too long.
About the author
Anna Thomas is the Chief Operating Officer of major Australian real estate network, Stockdale & Leggo. She was recognised as a Telstra Business Women’s Awards Finalist in the Corporate and Private Award in 2016, a 2017 Finalist in the Real Estate Business Awards ‘Industry Thought Leader of the Year’ Award and a Bronze Stevie winner in the Woman of the Year category in the 2017 International Business Awards. She is also the Founder and Brand Ambassador of the ‘Empowered Women in Real Estate’ initiative, a community empowering women to believe in themselves and step forward into leadership roles.
Related: Despite increased diversity, ‘Boys Club’ culture has not disappeared… it has merely evolved, Let’s Talk… Gender equality, The gender pay gap in the real estate industry is increasing: here’s what your business can do and Why do only 2 per cent of female business owners earn over $1 million in revenue?