It was International Women’s Day on Sunday (8th March) and this should spark lots of discussions about the progress towards equality. However, it’s important to consider what else we can do right now in our own work environments?
I think we can all challenge ourselves (myself included) in these four key areas:
Everyday sexism is alive and well and you can find examples of it everywhere. We are all socially conditioned to view the sexes differently and that’s ok as we are different. However, when you put this into a business context, male traits correlate more with perceptions of success than female traits. We all know that any men and women can hold any trait, however it’s what our mind jumps to that poses the issue. For example, a recent study conducted by the journal “Science” showed that girls as young as 6 were attributing hard working to females but only brilliance to males in blind case study tests.
The 2014 Superbowl campaign “like a girl” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs
took the world by storm demonstrating that the statement “like a girl” is used in modern day society as an insult. The campaign shows harrowing examples of young girls who are unaware so perform at their best next to teenagers and adults who perform parodies of what “like a girl means” – a direct response to societal conditioning.
The above examples show that limitations are continually imposed on women. The question “Would you say the same thing if that was a male?” is an interesting one to pose in the workplace. I am definitely not suggesting that we need to rename “manhole covers” to “person covers” but just to be a bit more aware of our own social conditioning and therefore sometimes give a more considered response.
One of the biggest reasons cited as holding women back at work is having children. Doesn’t it take two to tango? Why can’t we create work environments where parents regardless of sex can prosper?
A few years ago, I was with a client who started talking about a woman that was on maternity leave and had asked for part time hours. He had said no because the role was full time. I challenged this asking “Could you not ask her about how she can do her job in the time?” “Can you not look at alternative resourcing options?” I didn’t know this person, but I felt strongly about this being a juncture where she would demote herself just to get part time and that didn’t seem fair. If she wanted to do that then fine, but I could see that this decision was being made for her. As a manager myself I also know that it’s difficult to manage multiple part timers in full time roles and there lies the issue – it’s hard! It’s much easier for businesses to say no than to have to work to a more inclusive arrangement but isn’t it time that we challenge ourselves to do better on this?
I have also seen businesses offering inflexible start and finish times for meetings and have often thought, we could be much more helpful to people who are juggling multiple commitments be they family ones or other. Just move the meeting later or earlier, don’t use it as a weekly way of testing their commitment for work over family – work is not going to win!
Stand up against dodgy comments. It’s hard and no one likes to be the one that causes issues, but we must consider the damage done to the other women in the workplace, if inappropriate comments and behaviours are tolerated.
Support the campaigns; Fawcett Society run campaigns on pay equality and political representation (to name a few). Mother Pukka is campaigning for flexible working in order to enable equality and a fairer working environment for all. Jameela Jamil is pushing back on impossible beauty standards imposed on women and launching campaigns like “I_weigh” after she had enough of the media always shaming female celebrity bodies in articles. There are lots of equality campaigners out there and they become more powerful if people support their causes.
Every industry will have slightly different challenges around equality in the workplace. Working in marketing, I have become increasingly concerned about female representation in advertising. I strongly support the work of “The Representation Project” who created the almighty “Miss Representation” a film and now a great social account that strongly encourages equality in the media. They are responsible for the #notbuyingit a powerful mechanic. A great example of its power was the boycott of this advert that shockingly was released just last year.
The #notbuyingit worked and the brand were forced to take the adverts down and apologise for getting it so wrong.
However, while I was swearing to never buy a Mariners watch, again I saw an ad that I had never seen before showing a woman who looked like she was buying her own watch (shocking I know, but the luxury goods industry still perpetuates the rich man and beautiful woman being treated vibe).
Patek Phillipe were interviewed regarding this campaign and call it the “non Trumpian view of women” which made me like it even more. Bravo Patek Phillipe you are associated with a different type of hash tag and that’s the #goals one!
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