‘Generational laggards’ called out on gender inequality

business, women, woman

Cosmetics retailer Mecca has launched its M-Power program, aimed at empowering females through education, independence and entrepreneurship to coincide with International Women’s Day.

The program provides funding, mentoring and learning opportunities with industry experts.

Fashion firm Decjuba will ‘talk to their customers through Instagram’ to reflect on the progress made by the company in tackling gender inequality.

Decjuba’s team is comprised of 99 per cent females, with the retailer looking to use the social media initiative to share insight into the company’s culture and achieving gender parity.

“Toxic bro culture”

Meanwhile Vinomofo co-founder Andre Eikmeier has called on stakeholders in the wine industry to ride the wave of the #metoo movement and urgently address the under-representation of women in the sector, alongside “toxic and juvenile” bro culture in start-up circles.

Speaking to Inside Retail on the eve of International Women’s Day today, Eikmeier said that there are series of striking inequities in the wine and start-up communities related to the representation of women and how they are treated in the workplace.

“This is obviously a fucking problem and we have to address it,” he said.

Atong Atem, recipient of Mecca's mentoring scholarship and her Self Portrait on Mercury

Atong Atem, recipient of Mecca’s mentoring scholarship and her Self Portrait on Mercury

Referencing the global push against sexual harassment that’s emerged in the wake of allegations against high profile individuals in the entertainment industry in recent months, Eikmeier said some men had to be made into examples to change what’s considered acceptable.

“This movement we’re in the middle of is really powerful and needed…it’s really dangerous for someone like me to say it’s not a problem, every time you think those barriers aren’t there you see Uber and a whole bunch of others and realise it doesn’t take much before you suddenly have a toxic bro culture.”

Vinomofo has today launched a wine case filled with wines made exclusively by female leaders within the industry to promote female entrepreneurship in the community and will add a permanent search tag to its site to enable customers to search for drinks made by women.

The business hopes to set an example for some of the generational laggards in the wine industry that Eikmeier believes aren’t embracing change quick enough.

“The [older] generation is still pretty prevalent in the wine industry…it’s a bit like casual racism, it’s a prevailing attitude – shit needs to change,” he said.

Gender quotas the way forward?

Whether employers should implement gender quotas to address the under-representation of women in leadership remains a hotly contested topic in the retail industry.

Last week former Myer CEO Bernie Brookes, a long-time advocate for gender equity in business, told a panel at Inside Retail Live that quotas represented reverse discrimination and we’re ultimately misguided.

“Reverse discrimination has two distinct disadvantages, it doesn’t help productivity…you’re getting a person who isn’t qualified to do the job,” he said.

Instead, Brookes said boards should be taken to task over their failings.

“What has to be done is everyone has to report on improvements to the pay gap and representation, and they have to be accountable to it,” Brookes said.

But National Retailers Association (AU) CEO Dominique Lamb says that women have been sculpted in a way that’s not conducive to climbing the corporate ladder, and that this barrier had to be addressed.

“It’s endemic in women, we’ve been unfortunately environmentally sculpted not to lean in and be promoters,” she said.

“We want to basically have a system that embraces women for exactly who they are because of what they bring to a business.”

Vinomofo has not used quotas to promote diversity in its own business, but Eikmeier advocated the practice as a way to break through barriers in the workplace.

“Quotas are important, I know it seems like it isn’t merit based and, in a way, can seem a bit disempowering to women as well – but you just have to even the representation,” he said.


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