BOOK REVIEW: Stop Fixing Women – Why Building Fairer Workplaces is Everyone’s Business by Catherine Fox

BOOK REVIEW: Stop Fixing Women – Why Building Fairer Workplaces is Everyone’s Business by Catherine Fox

NewSouth Books
April 2017
Paperback, $29.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Non-Fiction/Society & Culture/Gender Studies

7/10

For years society’s “fingers” have been squarely pointed at women. We’ve been told what to do, what to avoid, to lean in, speak up, support each other and back ourselves. But has this information – which is sometimes contradictory – actually helped achieve anything? The gender pay gap remains largely unchanged and the percentage of women in senior management and leadership roles remains at a disappointing low. Thankfully, leading women’s commentator, Catherine Fox advocates a different approach as well as offering much food for thought in her third book, Stop Fixing Women.

Fox builds cases against the previously-held mindset, one she describes as the “deficit model.” This involved telling women that it was their own faults that they were being marginalised in workplaces even though these environments had been designed by and for male breadwinners.

Rests on the belief that women are naturally deficient in risk taking, assertiveness and courage, while being over-endowed with emotions and caring skills… My guiding themes are that women are not wired for inadequacy but are coping with routine bias and sexism, while the men who still hold the power to set the norms, behaviours and attitudes prevailing in workplaces therefore need to help change them.

In Stop Fixing Women Fox tackles the ingrained myths and assumptions that are prevalent as well as the systemic bias that occurs in the workplace. She states that some people are not cognisant of their own biases because they believe that this is the way things were always done and that this is how they should continue into the future.

Fox proposes ideas for changes where all people can benefit, for example in the areas of flexibility in the workplace. She also says that change does not mean that women have to be placed on pedestals. Rather, she champions a system of hiring and supporting staff that is accountable and transparent, so that the decisions made can result in a more equal playing field for all participants.

This volume is meticulously researched and Fox uses a series of research studies, real-world examples from the government and private sectors, and statistics to back-up and support her claims. One interesting study was by Laurie Rudman of Rutgers and Peter Glick of Lawrence University where participants were asked to assess a confident response by a job candidate. The results found that the assessment of the candidate differed depending on the candidate’s gender.

They found that when a man who was presented as assertive delivered his response, he was seen as confident and competent; observers said they would want to hire him. But when a woman described as assertive made the same self-promotional statements, she was viewed as less likeable and not a good fit for a job.

Another study found that engaging in behaviours where you are seen to be valuing diversity can have negative consequences.

Participants in the study were asked to assess a recruiting decision by a series of fictitious managers of different gender, race and age groups. ‘Participants rated non-white managers and female managers as less effective when they hired a non-white or female job candidate instead of a white candidate […] Basically, all managers were judged harshly if they hired someone who looked like them, unless they were a white male.

Catherine Fox offers up some very thought-provoking and insightful commentary in her book, Stop Fixing Women. She challenges some strong beliefs while trying to reinforce the important and logical point that women should no longer be viewed as the sole problem and solution with respect to gender equality issues, especially as they continue to make up the minority of the decision makers in organisations. This volume makes some compelling arguments which should hopefully change some readers’ beliefs and expectations, because in doing so it will help build a more positive future and one where we all might be able to find a common ground.

BOOK REVIEW: Stop Fixing Women - Why Building Fairer Workplaces is Everyone's Business by Catherine Fox

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