The Block patronisingly introduces first female chippie - Would the show benefit from quotas?

The Block patronisingly introduces first female chippie - Would the show benefit from quotas?
The Block patronisingly introduces first female chippie - Would the show benefit from quotas?

A female chippie joined The Block last week. Of the hundreds of tradesmen swarming the building site, the producers did everything short of shining a stage light on her to highlight her presence.

And then it began. A segment devoted to the fact that there was a female carpenter in the group and ... she was a LEADER. Surely not. Apparently this clearly rare breed of tradesman could not only use a drill, she could also tell the blokes what to do. Footage was shown of her drilling and also directing the workflow.

A couple of male contestants then proceeded to discuss how great it was to have a female chippie on The Block leading the troupes. But did the producers have to include the comment that the very idea of it was "a bit hot"?

The only male contestant who actually is a tradesman exclaimed that he hadn't really met a female chippie before. And host Scott Cam, another chippie by trade, wanted to know if she was good at being the leader. He actually asked her.


Photo courtesy of Channel 9.

It was the most patronising three minutes of television that I have witnessed in a while. The female chippie looked as capable as the next guy and anyone who hasn't just woken from a fifty-year coma knows that female leadership is increasingly not a miracle to behold.

I almost feel bad about calling out The Block for this because I actually believe that the producers were naively thinking they were doing a positive thing for women to highlight the woman. But true equality can only be achieved when women can get on with the business of working in jobs that were once the domain of men without it being made to feel token. Flooding The Block's construction crew with women would have been a better step forward for gender equality. It would have looked a lot less awkward.

The Block wasn't the worst thing about being a woman in the construction industry yesterday. The Australian Bureau of Statistics released it's latest gender pay gap figures and although on average the overall gap has slightly declined to 17.1% compared with a 17.5% gap a year earlier, the gender pay gap in the construction industry has blown out in the space of 12 months from 18.2% to 20.1%.

Construction isn't even the industry with the greatest gap. That honour falls to Financial and Insurance Services with a gap of 31.9%. My own industry, Information Media and Communications, has a gender pay gap of 18.6%, also worse than the national average. The best industry for female pay equality is Wholesale Trade with a 7.2% difference, down drastically from 17.2% a year earlier.

The thing is there doesn't have to be a gap at all. There are highly skilled female leaders in most industries waiting for an opportunity to show you what they can do. I have five women in my leadership team of eight. I will readily admit that I would rather have a 50:50 mix because I am aware of the benefits of diverse thinking at the leadership level. But I also have a broad spread of age groups, ensuring that there is a healthy mix of experience and fresh ideas.

There isn't a pay gap based on gender in our small slice of the media industry, so there must be organisations where the actual pay gap is much greater than the industry average. Those companies are undoubtedly feeling little real pressure to do anything about the gap because the industry figure lets them off the hook: everyone else in the industry must be in the same boat so how can they be expected to feel responsible for an industry issue?

I won't apologise for being a supporter of quotas. It's called good planning. Has anyone else managed to get their company to equality using a different strategy?

Marina Go is CEO of Private Media, publisher of Women's AgendaCrikey, SmartCompany, Property Observer, StartUp Smart and Daily Review.

This article first appeared on Women's Agenda.


Community Discussion

Be the first one to comment on this article
What would you like to say about this project?