Following on from the International Women’s Day…
In the past three weeks, I attended an equal number of events promoting equality at the workplace and advocating the benefits of a more balanced workforce (which by the way is unquestionable).
Topics discussed included female entrepreneurial struggles, key gender differences, leveraging women’s strengths, exploitation of female sexuality in advertising, careers vs. starting a family, and the role organisations can play to support working mothers.
As a great supporter of equality inside and outside of the workplace, I was pleased to be able to attend those events. I listened to many inspirational stories and learnt about the ongoing struggles for happiness. Marrying personal goals with career aspirations is rarely easy, and having those women so openly sharing their stories was truly encouraging.
Not only to all of the female attendees, but also to the handful of man in the room (on average 5 men to 40 female, not a great ratio, unfortunately).
As I was sitting there listening to the speakers and taking part in various group discussions, I could not stop thinking: and so what?
It was just like listening to a group of part-time working parents venting about being misunderstood and mistreated by their full-time colleagues and bosses.
There is a strong benefit for bringing similar groups together (here part-time working parents), as that creates the environment for sharing experiences, finding solutions and nurturing innovation.
But is this enough to make a sustainable change? I am not so sure.
There should be a room for everyone and anyone who wants to be part of the group. As a HR specialist, I have had the pleasure to work with a wide spectrum of people over the past decade, and I believe that a huge part of my success was the ability to develop my natural talents for curiosity, inclusiveness, openness, and innovation. For example, I am not a parent myself, but feel confident debating issues facing parenthood as well as advocating for those of us whom are childless. Regretfully, a lot of us tend to forget that the coin has two sides.
Returning to women’s position in the workplace, I will continue providing my support to anyone campaigning for balanced and equal workplaces, despite of their differences, including their gender.
I think that there is an important role networking events have to play in promoting equality between the genders. Nevertheless, I believe that the crucial ingredient for a healthy debate is a balanced panel – one that includes the above mentioned two sided coin, so that the conversation can be truly rich, and then continued long after the event draws to a close.
Have a look at the quotes from two of my friends I recently talked about the subject with, one from a male and the other from a female (it should be easy to guess who said what):
‘I don’t want women in my meetings because they always talk about clothes and drinking wine.’
‘I dread another meeting where I have to pretend football matters to me, and trust me it doesn’t, but I have to go with it, if I want to keep my position.’
Both sound totally silly, and yet, are still present in our offices. True progress can be made only by embracing our differences, individual characteristics and having balanced discussions. So that we can tap into our natural talents within a supportive and encouraging workplaces.