It’s funny the little ( or not so little ) things that crop up from time to time and suddenly remind you of differences you rarely notice.
I know lots of people who share my passion for radio and who either work in the industry, or used to, or want to.
Some of them are women and some of them are men and I generally tend to be pretty blind as to which is which. My awkward early adult years, when I was fresh from an all- boys school and woefully unprepared for the real world which had two genders rather than one are thankfully far, far behind me now.
I’d like to think that the people I work with in all my different fields of endeavor would say that I treat everyone just the same regardless of gender, race, orientation, or any other divider you care to dream up.
Actually, the above is not strictly true – in roles where I manage people I tend to treat everyone equally, but with slightly different styles of approach for each person, the difference in treatment being based on their needs as an individual, rather than their “group” identity.
So: radio. My radio friends tend to post on Facebook just like everyone else, and the sort of stuff they post is similar in tone to my own online doodlings; They talk about their passion for what they are doing, their excitement at new bands or brands encountered, and there are exhortations to listen/attend/spread the word, and of course veiled hints at new projects or opportunities soon to be launched or grasped.
Oh, we all love the thinly veiled “somethings going on but I can’t tell you yet” messages, both as poster and reader.
Indeed I posted something in that vein myself only a week or two ago “things are happening . . . developments in the future” that sort of stuff. The responses ranged from the “please tell me” and the “that sounds exciting” through the oft-asked “is it to do with offshore radio?” (the answer to which, I can reveal is No. or . . well, not quite. I was actually hinting at three different things coming to the boil, and one of them is not offshore radio, but does involve it in a twisted kind of way.
Anyway, I was perusing the Facebook page of a fellow broadcaster last night, and was amused to notice that the responses to her “don’t you hate it when you have good news but can’t share it till a certain date” update were much the same as the responses to mine.
Except . . she had included the extra information that no, she was not pregnant. And despite this, people in the replies were still speculating that she might be. And they way she included it in her status update told me that this kind of misinterpretation was something that she was used to dealing with.
Given that I have spent a goodly portion of the non-radio related half of my working life involved in services management for large multinationals, I had almost, and don’t laugh here, forgotten that women get pregnant.
What I mean is that, in modern, enlightened working environments (and they are the only kind I will deign to make my management expertise available to) women’s reproductive choices should never be factored into the kind of hiring/promoting/career streaming decisions that I get called upon to advise on. It is so much the norm just to evaluate people as people that gender becomes almost invisible. Of course, not all employers are ethical, which is why legislation protects, or, should I say, protected people, until recently, making it clear that hiring decisions could not be based on questions about personal issues which should stay personal..
But Facebook, and other online services, threaten to be a game-changer here.
It used to be the case that your life could be compartmentalized pretty effectively, and that the only things that your employer, or your work colleagues found out about you, were those things that you were willing to share with them, but that is changing rapidly.
I’ve seen this myself: I used to keep the creative/media half of my life very isolated from the IT management side, and few people from either world crossed over with friends in the other. But Facebook has made all of the various parts of my existence, and the people I know in them, increasingly entwined.
It’s common to read now of employers pre-screening potential hires by searching social media, though it is not a practice I use myself, nor much approve of. Call me old fashioned, but I believe that, criminal convictions aside, people’s private lives are no legitimate interest of the corporations that employ them.
When it comes to the age old question of female job applicants facing discrimination based on fertility status or assumed family plans, legislation had worked to curb this, and a “don’t ask, don’t speculate” culture has been successfully inculcated into management in most good employers. (there are still some bad ones out there of course, but I don’t work for them on principal).
But now, even if a woman is not asked directly about her plans or potential pregnancies, all that has to happen is for her to have a few friends in the office who are also friends on Facebook, and gradually it gets to the point where nothing is private any more. Which can be OK, with an ethical employer. But it leaves doors open for others.
People tend to forget that the sole purpose of social media sites is really to data-mine, and that apart from being mined by the service provider, the info is also there for others to see. And even your sister and cousin speculating on your timeline about your possible baby plans is data, of a sort, and capable of use, for good or ill.
So happening to read through this woman’s post and seeing how easily people could make assumptions, and how she had to be proactive in avoiding them, even if an offhand and humorous way, was a bit of an eye-opener for me. Equally, sexual orientation can not be questioned in a job interview, but could be very easily mined from social media, by those who don’t embrace diversity.
We may be all the same in capabilities, in passion for the job, and in skill, but still there are differences and different challenges to be faced by some, and it is so easy sometimes to simply fail to see them.
We can’t undo social media, but we can redouble our efforts to spread empathy and openness in corporate culture, and to speak out when we see wrong treatment. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance etc.
Food for thought for me, as a manager, as a communicator, and as a human being.