I’ve spent the last 15 years or so jetting around the world talking to folks about the minutiae of IT and generally having opinions, it’s been a fun time and, if only to appease my guilt about my carbon footprint, I generally use the opportunity to be a kind of roving ambassador for Aotearoa.
I’m often having conversations, especially with my US counterparts, about diversity and inclusion and I generally talk from my Kiwi perspective. Many of those years that I’ve been travelling have seen New Zealand with a female Prime Minister (with children out of wedlock, no less!) a female Chief Justice and a female Governor-General. Add to that the fact that New Zealand was the first country on earth to give women the vote and I feel it is somewhat justified to be a little blind to the diversity and inclusion battles that “others” fight elsewhere.
Of course, we’re not perfect – a look at the list of our public company CEOs and boards shows this but, all things being equal, life in New Zealand feels relatively equal. Obviously, I write these words from the perspective of a white, almost middle-aged (please, spare my mid-life crisis and don’t argue on that one) man who, other than some vagaries of cultural and familial background, has had a pretty good run of it. With that unavoidable perspective aside, I still contend that it’s possible to live here and have the perspective that things are pretty good.
I was thinking about this perspective the other day when trying to find an easy way to watch the London Marathon. Like many sporting events, the annus horribilis that is 2020 caused issues for athletics and the London Marathon was being run as an elites-only race with a handful of invited men and women running a modified and secured course. As a keen distance runner, the opportunity to see these superhuman athletes, was one not to be wasted.
As I was chatting with my running buddies, we realized that the marathon was being livecast on BBC. Ah, we thought, problem solved and there was our evening of viewing sorted out.
Not so, it seems. You see the women’s marathon was being screened on BBC Two, the lesser channel of the Beeb’s arsenal. Thereafter, once the women had finished their heroic feats, the transmission would swap over to BBC One, the primary channel of that august organization. It seems that despite both genders running the same distance (42.195 kilometres for those unaware) somehow the men’s race warranted better coverage and higher-profile than the women’s.
Now I can just imagine the response of some of my friends with their red-tinged necks: “wait,” they say “you’re trying to create a problem where there isn’t one. You’re taking offence and seeing inequity where none exists. By pointing this out you’re doing nothing other than appeasing some bleeding-hearted liberal base that spends all its time wringing its hands and virtue signalling.”
All of which are fair accusations. And all of which invite a descent into shouting and eventual comparisons to Nazism and throwaway lines about the fact that if someone had stood up for injustice in 1933, six million Jews, and countless others, would still be alive. And, yes, demoting the women’s race to BBC Two isn’t akin to genocide, and arguably pales in comparison to the millions without clean water or sanitation.
But that’s not the point, is it? Injustice and inequity aren’t binary. Simply because something worse exists doesn’t mean that the lesser action becomes irrelevant. As my one-time colleague Pete used to say, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
And, let’s face it, even at the risk of being seen as pandering to those with heightened sensitivities, what would it have actually cost the BBC to provide a level playing field to men and women?
So it seems we’re not there yet and, while we quite rightly take a look back and celebrate how far we’ve come, we should also look forward and recognise we’ve still got ground to cover.