I recently saw an invitation for a corporate event that was designed to encourage and support gender equality in the workplace. It asked senior managers to bring a woman of potential along to meet other senior managers and other women of potential.
While I applaud the desire to assist the gender equity ‘cause’ it actually left me feeling a little bit pissed off. Why? Because it was at 5pm to 7pm at night.
Now in my experience these are the hours that many (I hesitate to say most) women find difficult to attend work events. At this time, many of the professional women (I know anyway) are off picking up kids, preparing dinner, putting on a load of laundry and managing their elder care, child care, spousal care, pet care, home, extended family care and/or (even) volunteer care responsibilities.
While I appreciate that not all women have this responsibility load – many, many do.
Women, if they can attend such early evening timed events, often have to undertake a super human effort to juggle things so that someone else is taking on these responsibilities for that evening. They are exhausted by the time they get there, and the last thing they feel like doing is popping on their lippy and showing that ‘they deserve a space at the potential table (or in this case – event).
So this left me thinking. What IS IT that so ruffled my feathers with this idea? What IS IT I as a senior executive woman really want to see change in the workforce to encourage other women to succeed?
What I came up with is that I would really like senior managers to spend their time and energy addressing the core fundamentals in their own organisations that make it difficult for women to perform at their best (rather than attend events, and be ‘seen to’ be supporting the cause even if it is a great networking event for a small percent of amazing women).
I wondered, in all the hype and marketing positioning around this issue, if they even knew what these core fundamentals were.
Now I don’t pretend to be an expert on gender diversity solutions. Afterall, there are Bachelor Degrees in this area, PhD theses on this topic and a wealth of really well qualified experts in this field. Many no doubt who will disagree with me but I am a woman, a carer, a HR person of some years and someone who has worked in Corporate for a long time so, dear senior manager, here are my top 5 things to think about doing before accepting the event invite:
1/. Review your payroll.
Review your payroll and see where your female employees sit with regard to their salaries against their (male) peers. The WGEA Agency suggests Australian women are paid about 15.3% less than their male counterparts for the same work in 2017.
Give me equal pay over a corporate invite anyday.
Introducing me to people of influence and giving me a promotion so that I can stay 15.3% less than my new male counterparts in my new role– actually doesn’t appeal that much. Just saying.
2/. Embrace flexibility.
Do not under estimate how valuable this is to your female workforce. Set core hours and then leave a range flexible. Be clear on the individual’s deliverables and let.them.go.
Working women, in my experience are power houses. Determined, driven, love to work and contribute but they need flexibililty so they can deliver in ways that work for them and their other responsibilities.
Embracing flexibility is more than a policy in your HR handbook. It is the organizational culture that you as a senior manager drives.
Recognise it, praise it, and be mindful of the practices in your organisation (simple things like setting meetings at 8.30am) that prohibit women exercising this flexibility.
3/. Treat your female workforce AS equals.
Have a long hard think about whether you are carrying your own stereotypes about ‘women’ in the workplace.
I recently had a hiring manager want a ‘male’ for their next recruit. It took all my strength not to face slap him. His view was that another woman in the team increased the risk of more ‘trouble’ and ‘were harder to manage’. Implied was that all women were high drama, unreasonable, difficult to please and couldn’t work with others.
Here’s the rub – no buddy – it’s 2017 – you are just behaving like a crap people manager. And you are projecting the blame of this on to 50% of the population. In my view, your organization suffers with this level of managerial capability and attitude.
4/. Encourage personality diversity training in your workplace.
Notice I didn’t say gender equity or gender management training.
I said Personality Diversity Training.
What is this you ask?
It is where managers learn to manage different personality types, different work styles and individuals at different levels of capability and experience.
Because there is a lot more variables to an individual’s work performance than whether they are male or female. Training managers to bring out the best in each of their people by tailoring their approach to best suit them as individuals is GOLD.
Notice what I have done here? It’s no longer about gender. It is about sound people management practice that benefits everyone.
5/. Be open minded and listen to your female employees.
Listen to what barriers the women in your organisation face to achieving the performance they feel they are capable of … and fix it.
So there you have it. My “What Women Really Want At Work”. We don’t (really) want introductions (via events or otherwise) into the male oriented workplace AND we don’t want to be ‘facilitated’ into the man’s workplace which institutionally suits the needs of men. We want the workplace adapted so that we can work in it too and give our best. 1 – 5 talks to fairness, good HR practice and progressive people management behaviours – it isn’t much really. Is it?
Kris Reynolds is an Executive Coach and Human Resources Practitioner located in Melbourne, Australia. She is contactable on firstname.lastname@example.org.