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IWD: Three actions for 2020

#eachforequal, this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), is a great reminder of the role we each have to play in helping to achieve gender equality. We share three simple actions anyone can take at work to help build a more gender inclusive workplace.

The IWD official website says, “We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviours and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society.”

The first IWD was held in 1911. It was a result of women coming together to demand better working conditions, voting rights and end discrimination. No one organisation or charity owns IWD. That’s important because it works based on individuals across the world all making small actions for the benefit of all women. Everyone contributes their part to changing the bigger structures in society. Instead of thinking about how we can shift the bigger picture, we can look at how to make a small difference, contributing in our own way to moving the needle.

Mind the 100-year gap

The World Economic Forum estimate that it could take as long as 99.5 years to achieve global gender parity. In the UK, the average gender pay gap is 17%. Depending on your industry it could be more than 40%. Dentistry, for instance, is an area where a man can expect to earn almost £14 per hour more than a woman.

There is huge disparity in the types of work men and women do and the roles they are expected to fill. At the chief executive level, only 27% of jobs are filled by women. Whereas almost 93% of PA and admin positions are filled by women. Presumably supporting some of the 73% of men working at executive level.

And post the working years, when women have reached the age of retirement, we find that our pension pots are on average a fifth the size of our male colleagues’. Studies have found that the pension gap is more than double that of the pay gap. People’s Pension call this a ‘motherhood penalty’ and the explain that: “This issue is only likely to be resolved when men take an equal role in parenting and take equivalent time out of the labour market. The means of engendering a massive shift in societal attitudes to parenting.”

Everyday things

Gender inequality doesn’t start in the workplace, but our working environment can play a big role in influencing our career aspirations and progression prospects. There are simple actions we can each take to help build a more gender inclusive work environment where men and women can equally benefit from healthy and constructive working practices. Below we share three things we can do at work.

1. Join a network

Is there a women’s network or gender network in your office? If so, sign up to it. By attending events you can learn more about some of the issues and barriers women in the workplace face. If you’re female then you can open yourself up to new connections that can boost your career prospects and get tips about navigating career progression in your particular place of work. If you’re male, you may find that there are, understandably, some female only events, but there should also be plenty of open events and ways to show your support and educate yourself on gender issues.

2. Call it out

We’re all guilty of it at some point. Little comments that sometimes are just jokes, but reinforce the negative stereotypes that hold back men and women. If you see microaggressions in the workplace, then call them out. Do this in a constructive manner, it doesn’t have to be confrontational and doesn’t have to always be out in the open. Calling out inappropriate comments or behaviour can be especially important where the victim may not be able to do so themselves. Some basic examples might be team members talking over others or making jokes about leaving the office early because someone has to do a school pick up.

Research has shown that microaggressions, although they're seemingly small and sometimes innocent offences, can take a real psychological toll on the mental health of their recipients. This toll can lead to anger and depression and can even lower work productivity and problem-solving abilities. They can also make a work environment feel more hostile and less validating and perpetuate stereotype threat (the fear of confirming existing stereotypes about one's group, which can have a negative impact on confidence and achievement).

3. Share the office housework

Known as non-promotable tasks, there are jobs in the office that need to get done but aren’t going to drive company revenue or be factored in annual performance reviews. These are tasks such as taking meeting notes, organising a team social or training new hires. Women tend to the ones in the office that get stuck with these roles. Sometimes we volunteer, but oftentimes we’re simply expected to take on this extra burden. There are some benefits to these tasks, such as the opportunity to expand your network or develop new skills, but these tasks also take away time from the work that will get recognised in annual performance reviews and promoted.

So, if you’re a male and notice that the office housework is unfairly sitting with women in your team, why not volunteer yourself. And if you’re the team manager, ensure that you can see a fair distribution of non-promotable tasks. Research shows that women are expected to volunteer more for such tasks, and so are asked more. And where as men aren’t penalised for saying no, women may face repercussions for doing the same thing. In which case, it’s not up to women to turn down office housework, it should be that they simply aren’t ask more in the first place or expected to volunteer to do so.

Not just a day

Although International Women’s Day is just one day, the discrimination and impact of inequality is felt daily all around the world. So, in-keeping with the 2020 theme of Each for Equal, let’s try and play our own role throughout the year, to help build a more gender equal work. So that hopefully we won’t have to wait a century to see gender parity, and we can see men and women thriving in their roles at work and at home.

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