Happy International Women’s Day!
A very Happy International Women’s Day in this auspicious year of the #Vote100 celebrations and campaigns. We will also see mandatory gender pay reporting, which starts next month, coincidentally in this centenary year. 2018 is proving to be a thought-provoking and challenging year so far.
Do we still need to celebrate International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day is still very much needed and brings women from around the globe together through momentous projects, plans and activities. There are commonalities in relation to life stages, trends and challenges that affect all of us as woman. From workplace gender-based harassment, the glass ceiling and effectively working for free from 10 November in the UK each year. These are all essential issues that workplaces and society must address. With a sense of urgency too, as it doesn’t make moral, business or economic sense to let this drag on any longer.
Including all women
Of course, we are not just women, that is to say it is not our only defining factor. We are Black, dual heritage, disabled (visible and invisible), Trans, single, married, in a partnership with people of the same sex, opposite sex to us or anything in between. The likelihood we could have caring responsibilities for elderly and/or young dependents or we may be child free. I could be we have traditional or non-traditional faith beliefs, have varying political views and differing levels of financial security. It is imperative to think about women from all walks of life when workplaces create initiatives, policies and projects to improve work environments.
Unconscious Bias and Group Think
Even when the intention is positive, group think can set-in. Unintentionally, organisations see things from their own perspective. As the famous quote from Anais Nin illustrates:
“we do not see things as they are, but the way we are”.
Workplace Policy Examples
An example is flexible working policies to support women with children. There is no doubt that this is essential, benefiting individuals and workplaces alike. It drives up productivity, loyalty and increases staff retention. This results in higher outputs, profits and reduced costs: win-win all round. However, extensive discussion about child care is not matched with extensive discussion about elderly care. Elderly care is often unpredictable, with no set school pick-up times.Care needs can be erratic with emergencies arising more regularly. Even though there is more talk of men and caring responsibilities, caring is still very much viewed as being in the woman’s domain. It is easy to focus on a one size fits all model, but the conversation needs broadening out.
What does this mean in practice?
In practice this means working with your staff networks, employee resource and affinity groups to reduce any blind spots in relation to policies, practices and projects.
- Staff networks are partners to any organisation and can provide constructive challenge. Collectively they could maintain a bird’s eye view to ensure a well-rounded approach is taken.
- Review staff survey results to discover pockets of disengagement. Often, technicians, security and estates staff will not be at a desk all day and are less likely to respond to e-campaigns.
- Arrange focus or action inquiry groups to establish what will work and get staff to participate and engage. Do note, however that managers and team leaders will need to respond to the results and suggestions.
- Create opportunities for staff from all areas of an organisation to connect, talk and understand each other. Effective ways to do this are through work shadowing or reverse mentoring. I have seen shifts in the way staff view each other after an initiative like work shadowing takes place. Both at an individual, team and organisational level.
So, as I once again wish you a very Happy International Women’s Day, I ask you all to keep learning. Find out more about one another, our struggles, our joys, our pains and our ambitions. We are all women, but one size does not fit us all and that is our collective strength and something to celebrate now and in years to come.