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Beware! Women at Work

women at work road sign

The theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2017, is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”.

The world of work is changing, with significant implications for women. On one hand, technological advances and globalization bring unprecedented opportunities for those who can access them. On the other hand, there is growing informality of labour, income inequality and humanitarian crises.

The United Nations observance on 8 March is calling for all to Step It Up for Gender Equality towards a Planet 50-50 by 2030 by ensuring that the world of work works for all women. See more at Unwomen.

Oasis Co-director Claire Maxwell blogs on how to release the full potential of women in the world of work:

In the 1980’s, earnest attempts were made in the Local Authorities I worked in to take positive action on behalf of women. We learnt to say ‘no’ more forcibly, whilst raising our eyebrows at the impossible concept that attending these workshops would, in any way, affect the institutional sexism that was rife in our world of work. We knew then, and still know now that ‘it’s the stuff you can’t see which is the real problem’.

Fast forward and in talking through the thematic for this blog with four experienced, wise women leaders, two key themes emerged: firstly, a strong belief that contemporary, values-based workplaces have to work well for men and women. The culture of a healthy and forward-looking organisation is based on unlocking the full potential of all.

Our second theme focused more on the personal and the recognised, well developed tendency amongst us all to systematically underestimate our abilities. Borne out not only by personal and shared experience but also by recent data. For example: 57% of men are likely to negotiate salary when going into an organisation, whereas only 7% of women would. This characteristic repeatedly affected how women approached work opportunities, particularly if they had to be sought rather than offered.

In my experience of work and life, voluntarily diminishing capabilities and experience is a reality. As a way of counteracting this tendency, Susan Ralphs, Managing Director of The Ethical Property Company, offers her top tips to women in the workplace:

  • Listen when complimented – even write it down – believe it.
  • Be open about your uncertainties, this ability is a strength not a weakness.
  • Surround yourself with a network of supportive, strong women – use them.
  • Don’t lead like a man, relish the difference.

To this list, Mary Godfrey, Director of Change and Performance at BTG adds:

  • Work with an Executive Developer, someone who can remind you occasionally that you didn’t get to where you have got to by accident.

And of course, whether you agree with her or like her, Sheryl Sandberg urged women to ‘Sit at the table’, ‘Don’t lean back’.

If the full potential of women is to be unlocked in the world of work, then change must continue to happen on the three levels of: ‘I’: the personal, ‘We’: the organisational and ‘All of Us’: the political. It can happen collectively or separately, on all three levels or just one, be sustained or intermittent. We can be pioneers or a pirates, it doesn’t matter where we start as long as we do. The important thing is to keep on going – we can do this!

With my sincere thanks to: Susan Ralphs, Managing Director, The Ethical Property Company, Mary Godfrey, Director of Change and Performance at Bettys & Taylors Group, Alison Reid, CEO, Community Dental Services and Angela Lockwood, CEO, North Star Housing Group.

[panel colour=”blue”]The Oasis Real Leaders programme launches in 2018. If you are interested in exploring your leadership questions in your own context, developing yourself as a leader or developing leaders in your organisation, please take a look at the prospectus, email us or call us on 01937 541700 for a conversation about how we can help.[/panel]