Female business leaders from across the UK came together in Birmingham this week for an inspirational roundtable discussion to mark International Women’s Day (8 March).
Since 1911, International Women’s Day has celebrated the achievements and strength of women worldwide. This year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity and encourages people to imagine a gender equal world, free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination – and this was the theme of the roundtable, Tribera Talks.
Creative agency Tribera, based in Birmingham, were the roundtable hosts and were joined by female representatives from big brands like Eon, Midea, Shakespeare Martineau LLP, St James Place and Baxi. At the event, attendees were encouraged to share their experiences and discuss the key issues affecting women in the workplace, with shocking stories being shared of experiencing inequality on many levels.
Even though every person had managed to progress to c-suite level, there had been many struggles to feel included by their male peers, to be paid fairly and not subjected to sexual harassment. Thankfully, it was believed that improvements had been made in the last 10 – 15 years, mainly attributed to HR actioning effective consequences for employees and instigating zero tolerance policies.
Forced disclosure of pay inequities was seen as a positive thing to create a level playing field, however, forced quotas to create diversity and inclusion on boards and management teams was seen as something to watch as this could create more issues if women are not as qualified as male counterparts for a role and would be counter-productive for businesses. The aim should be to increase the talent pool of women that climb the ladder by ensuring effective mentoring and sponsorship.
One of the main issues cited at the event was women going on maternity leave to have children. One participant voiced this as “career suicide” in some of the corporate environments they had been in and it was widely agreed that more work needs to be done.
A real barrier for women returning from maternity leave is high childcare costs in the UK. The shared parental leave policies now appearing were applauded but it was acknowledged that we need to make a cultural shift in the UK on accepting that men can take longer term parental leave and share the responsibilities.
Participants had also felt the need to hide pregnancies, whilst others had tried to return to work part time but were still expected to work full time and have the same level of output but on reduced pay, pushing candidates to remain full time as the responsibilities for the role remained the same.
The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic were discussed, with women generally taking more than their fair share of childcare, home schooling and covid-related redundancies. However there were some clear positive changes, with a shift to hybrid and flexible working, enabling men to be more involved with school runs, evidenced by the clear change in demographic at the school gates.
It is important to note, there was a lot of support for male counterparts who were seen as strong allies and although at times it was subtle gestures, it hadn’t gone unnoticed and was greatly appreciated. These were the men who had stood in solidarity by sharing childcare responsibilities and collecting children if they’re poorly, but also rearranging their meetings or volunteering others for tasks if they are aware of someone who may have issues with childcare.
In the workplace the men who go out of their way to call out inappropriate comments, happy to take minutes in a meeting and do the drinks round and ensure that women get credit for their ideas were held in high esteem and play a big part of the future solution.
The days of women competing with one another for that one board seat are over and only by offering unwavering support for each other’s progress can we push the dial to equity even more and pave the way for a brighter future for the next generation of female leaders.
The roundtable event was facilitated by Fran Nolan, founder and managing director at Tribera, and a passionate advocate for women’s rights.
She says: “Throughout my career, I’ve been committed to raising awareness of inequalities women face in the workplace and push for change for women leaders of the future.
“Our roundtable event was a great way to bring together women I admire from all backgrounds and provide a platform to discuss the most pressing issues impacting women in the workplace today.”
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