Forbes Magazine blunders – a snapshot of gender bias

In News, Uncategorized on May 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Thought of the day.

How do media images play into gender bias? Fascinating story-in-photos by Forbes. Problem is, they think they’re telling an unbiased story about job interview success. I saw something different…

We are shown photo after photo (10 in total) of job interviewees and interviewers. A woman appears in three of them. After three photos of (sorry, guys) homely, just-your-average-middle-aged-men, a woman appears in Photo 4. Woohoo, and just the type you were hoping to see! She’s young (she can probably vote by now, that’s good), thin, pretty, and wearing twice as much makeup as I’ve seen on a woman in any office I’ve worked in over 5 years of recent memory. The next woman (Photo 7) makes a fantastic debut – or at least her bare legs do. We see the whole body of the suited man doing the interviewing, of course. The “please hire me!” character is a girl, and do those stilettos ever prepare her for that trip to the café for Mr. Boss’ favourite bagelwich. In Photo 10, we finally have a woman who looks more like someone I can recall working with. But she’s sitting at the interviewing table, uninvolved, as the other three men are on their feet shaking hands and laughing. Awww, sweetie. I know you’re outnumbered 3-to-1 in that office (roughly 5-to-1 in this slideshow) but can’t you try harder to master, I don’t know, man-talk so they’ll include you?

Whew (enough math, I need to read some Shakespeare and recover). Well, the silver lining is that Forbes isn’t a significant force in influencing business professionals. Wait a minute…

All this is to pose some food-for-thought questions. Does this photo montage even matter? Are people influenced by what they see…well, um, yeah…but does something like this have the potential to perpetuate gender bias? Do you think any how-to-get-ahead-in-business article editor bears any kind of responsibility for attitudes toward women in the workplace? And finally, did Susan Adams (woman who wrote the larger article) have anything to do with the photo selection, and if not what does she think about it? Did she think about it at all?

If you’re wondering why we care, Scarlet Satin exists to create more opportunities for women in theatre. The fact that just 30% of these photos included a woman reminded me of similar statistics of women hired as actors/playwrights/directors. Sadly, theatre is even further behind than many other industries where equitable hiring is concerned. Kudos to Huffington Post for their thought-provoking exploration of this important issue, and Michael Dove of Forum Theatre’s Female Voices Festival. Thanks for being outspoken with your smarts, and for knowing that it’s 2012.

P.S. I know biting sarcasm isn’t typical of SSP’s voice – hey, just felt like shaking it up a little. I was just reading The Oatmeal so can I use their contagious humour as an excuse?

Post by Diana Squires, freelance marketing/communications professional and Artistic Director of Scarlet Satin Productions.


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