Guest post: The Power of the Purse! by Yolanda Vega

Our guest post today is by Yolanda Vega, CEO of the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Yolanda shares some thoughts on gender, equity, and business. It is interesting to ponder the ‘power of the purse’.

“As a young journalism student the political influence of Australia’s few male media moguls was apparent; that was more than a quarter of a century ago.

When I graduated the industry leaders included Murdoch, Packer, Holmes à Court, Fairfax, Bond and Stokes. There wasn’t a woman in sight – not as an owner, nor as the head of any media group.

Today, we finally have a woman; Gina Rinehart who has in recent times become a shareholder of two large media groups (Fairfax and Network Ten).

The boys have, since the beginning of time, had a concentrated hold and complete dominance in television, radio and the Australian press. The media has influenced what we think, read, see, hear, believe and buy.

This is the primary reason as why women are continuously portrayed by the media in unacceptable sexist ways: men both provide the message and they are the messengers. Violence, sexually offensive, degrading, unflattering and demeaning images of women are delivered daily on all platforms.

It wasn’t until 2011 that Fairfax appointed its first female editor to the Sydney Morning Herald. Amanda Wilson was, and still is, the first and only female editor in Fairfax’s 180-year history.

To finally have a few women in this powerful male dominated space is encouraging, we might even get a different perspective of the world and start seeing a more positive focus on women; a view that shows women are great contributors to our economy and communities – it might even reduce violence against women and show future generations that ‘equality’ is not just a word.

Regardless of your political inclination, it is interesting to hear certain male politicians are requesting the media provide our first female Prime Minister with the same courtesies extended to her male predecessors. Bob Brown recently told journalists that: “the degree of relentless criticism on this Prime Minister coming from male commentators … is sexist and quite ridiculous at times.”

Research shows there is a pattern of misrepresentation, which “underestimates the economic role of women and automatically assigns them to a lower status and/or subordinate positions”. The visibility of powerful, successful and influential women in the media is limited and segregated, providing a totally distorted view of our society.

We need only look at the portrayal of women in sport to get a very clear picture of how the media represents men as strong, intelligent, powerful and confident and how women are valued primarily for their body, with no recognition of skill or intellect.

Ridiculous indeed and the portrayal of women across the board is absurd!

And so too is the recent outrage at Ms Rinehart’s business diversification.

I note that every time I read an article about Ms Rinehart, or hear about her business dealings on radio or television, she is referred to as “the daughter of the late mining magnate Lang Hancock”. This information is superfluous and it is not in the public interest!

Why is the father of the male billionaire constantly excluded and the father of the female billionaire continuously included? Blatant conscious sexism, perhaps?

The portrayal of successful women in, business, sport, politics and community should be equal to that of men, but it’s not and therefore not to be tolerated.

Our economy competes globally; women are great contributors, yet the archaic and demeaning portrayal of women as being weak, fragile, sex symbols and/or incompetent continues at an alarming level. Reporters, journalists, subeditors and editors are constantly breaching their code of ethics and nothing is done about it.

Women have the same rights as men in this country; it’s about time the media started reading their own code of ethics and start adhering to it, as well as observing our anti-discrimination laws.

Any and every woman in this country, irrespective of financial or political status, has the right to do business in any industry she wants. If Ms Rinehart has decided to play in the boys’ media sandpit it is her democratic right to do so and should have the right to keep her family private emails private.

You as a consumer (women make more than 80% of consumer decisions) have the power of the purse and you can influence and affect this and every other business. Remember if women stop buying, the economy will stop dead in its tracks.

Next time you buy something, ask yourself ‘whom am I giving my money to and who will reap the benefits of my hard earned cash?’.”

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