Last week’s Baker McKenzie and Women’s Agenda report from the roundtable event in Australia has provided our team’s inspiration for reflection. The report outlined what organisations and leaders can do to improve the culture to support equality, but it also challenges everyone to consider how they might be able to apply these measures within their own workplaces.
We have all pulled out 1 idea from the report that we feel we can identify with and commit to working on:
For me, there’s an eye-opening quote where a male managing partner in a law firm openly talks about how ‘the careers of men are often aided through the sacrifices of their female partners’. I guess we know this already, but it reinforces to me that workplace gender diversity is truly a male and female issue. Hence the people we work with need to realise that our work with dads/men is just as important as our work with mums/women – this is something I will continually promote in all the conversations I have.
‘Shift the profile of women...give women a voice and the confidence to use it.’ I think the suggestions are spot on and apply to both men and women who want to progress in their careers. In coaching I often come across lack of clarity about personal brand and it is often viewed in terms of bragging about oneself, whereas, it's really about what you can do to serve, inspire, and look after others. How many of us would fly with an airline we didn't know or trust? Also, celebrating the profiles and stories of successful women (and men) also keeps the focus on the fact that women are equally as successful as men. On the 'how' to be successful - what are we as a company valuing, and what qualities and achievements do we most admire in others that transcend personal background?
“Shift the cultural expectations through conversations”, jumps out for me, especially the paragraphs; “certain assumptions continue to be made about the ambition levels of women, particularly those working part time, flexibly, or have young children at home. Everyone has priorities and interests outside of work. Understanding this can help colleagues to better support and appreciate ‘out of work’ interests their managers, team members and direct reports have, instead of making automatic assumptions about them.”
What struck me is the omission (not just in this report but generally when discussing flexible working) of caring responsibilities and the impact on career. Women are not only more likely to be taking on the primary care role in terms of motherhood but also of caring responsibilities for relatives – at whatever age, children through to grandparents - who are ill, elderly or disabled in some way. I spend a lot of time advocating for other families who have autism in the family, and I often hear that parents are embarrassed to mention their caring responsibilities when asking for flexibility at work as caring roles are so misunderstood by their employers.
The skills that a carer develops - such as advocacy, tenacity, resilience, time management .. to name just a few! - are incredibly beneficial and transferable to their roles in the work place. Carers are undervalued due to lack of understanding by employers as to what their caring responsibilities entail.
The challenge is one both men and women are involved in. Assessment of performance and promotion is, as much as we can make it, an objective thing. Yet our decision making is riddled with bias. Lots of work is going on to strip bias out of recruitment to ensure diversity, inclusiveness and arguably more importantly, not missing out on talent that isn't from a top tier uni. The results are promising, in which case why aren't we trying to remove the bias in performance and promotion?
For me the areas I can influence (as an external coach and successful female business woman) are things I am already doing and will continue to do so.
Shift cultural expectations through conversations:
I am always willing to challenge appropriately any comment/behaviours /assumptions which are subtly undermining professionally and socially.
I am virtually 60 and continue to do free weights. I am more than happy to ask if I can ‘jump in’ between sets when the men are monopolising a machine / area of the gym. Very few women do weights – and I think this is all around cultural expectations.
Equal Pay: I am willing to negotiate what I think I am worth. This is about more responsibility for my own finances and challenging myself to ensure I charge the market rate as I observe male coaches often expect and negotiate more remuneration for their time.
For me, addressing the Gender Pay Gap is a priority. I used to think that this was mainly due to more men in higher paying senior roles - which is another problem. I hadn't thought about it on a like-for-like basis. I'd be really intrigued to see more results pay audits and what these would show for males and females who do exactly the same job within an organisation.
Moving forward, I endeavour to ask my clients if they have carried out a gender pay audit on those doing the same role. If not I will encourage them to do so and then rectify it if there is one….it might sow a few seeds.