Bring on International Women’s Day
Hello and welcome to issue 96, our International Women’s Day 2018 feature issue. It’s that time of year again when everyone readies themselves for a barrage of oestrogen. From the smallest grassroots organisation to the largest corporate – everyone wants a piece of the action.
I’ve been working on Womanthology for four years now and, being totally honest, International Women’s Day wasn’t really in my consciousness before that. I’d heard of it, I’d maybe notice the odd LinkedIn post about it but I couldn’t have told you what date it fell on without looking it up. I’d imagine lots of the other people are the same. But then of course, everything changed for me and I woke up – I caught the gender equality bug.
International Women’s Day is always a bit of amorphous mish mash of ideas and concepts. I’ve never found the themes terribly memorable or engaging. Can you remember the theme for 2016, or even 2017? No, neither can I. For 2018, the #PressForProgress theme will hopefully strike more of a chord after the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements have dominated the headlines in recent months.
Focus focus focus
If you do want to #PressForProgress though, my view is that it’s about being canny and focusing your efforts into a few specific areas. The whole gender agenda will wear you down and sap your energy if you spread yourself too thinly. Pick your battles. Map out a plan of action. I’ve come up with a list of ways we can all #PressForProgress without burning ourselves out in the process.
1. When I set up Womanthology, I had followed the work of a few organisations, and one of them was the 3% Community (which started out as the 3% Conference and is now known as the 3% Movement). I’d read about the founder, Kat Gordon’s work to increase the number of female creative directors in the advertising industry from the woefully low level of 3% and in a few short years the figure has shot up to 11%. Blimey. One of the things I love about Kat is that by virtue of her audience and the people she works with, the ideas are always creative and engaging.
So, my first suggestion as a way to #PressForProgress is adopt this approach for your sector. Here is wonderful PDF of 100 microactions that apply to the advertising industry. Why not take the concept and apply it to your own sector? If 100 things is a little overwhelming in the first instance, start with 50, or 25. The important thing is just to start.
Two heads are better than one, and more heads are better still so why not get together with your colleagues, of all genders, and make your own list? The 3% Movement is doing some cracking work more broadly. Do check them out.
2. If you’re based in the UK and you are employed by someone else, ask your human resources contact / department to sign up to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Working Forward campaign pledges to support pregnant women and new parents. Or better still, if you’re an employer, sign up yourself. It’s free.
This campaign was created on the back of the shocking statistic that 77% of women interviewed by the EHRC stated they had a negative or possibly discriminatory experience at work as a result of their pregnancy during their maternity leave or return to work. Shockingly, one in nine mothers actually lost their jobs.
Employers that sign up can expect to attract better talent and avoiding loss of skills and experience. It’s also great PR. Becoming pregnant and taking maternity or paternity leave should not be harmful to your career. This is where the gender pay gap is exacerbated, so let’s look at ways to remove the possibility of this from the system.
I spoke to the Equality and Human Resource Commission’s chief executive, Rebecca Hilensrath, back in 2016 and you can read the background to Working Forward here.
If you really want to go to town as you #PressForProgress you can also ask your employer to sign up to the Working Family / Family Friendly Working Scotland Happy to Talk Flexible Working campaign too. It’s brilliant. I’ve written about it before. Essentially, it’s a strapline for employers to show they’re ready to have a discussion about flexible working. It’s something they can put on job adverts so applicants don’t feel afraid to broach the subject at interview. Flexibility isn’t just for working parents, it’s for everyone. If you’re an employer then you can sign yourself up and it’s absolutely free. There’s even a lovely logo you can use. What are you waiting for? If you want to attract the best talent then you have to work at it.
3. Know your rights so in the event that you, a colleague, friend or family member experiences a problem with harassment of bullying, you’re not helpless. In the first instance, ACAS runs a free helpline, which you can call for impartial advice. Simply get in touch and they’ll provide you with clear and confidential guidance about any kind of dispute or query that you have about relationship issues within the workplace. It’s open to employers too.
Beyond this you may wish to consult a solicitor. Some solicitors will offer clinics where the first part of the advice is free. If you have legal expenses insurance as part of your home insurance policy this may be an additional source of support. If we all familiarise ourselves with the issues then we’re also in a much better position to support those around us and bring these problems out of the shadows and into the open.
Keep on keeping on
I read a headline today asking if we still need International Women’s Day, which seems to be a bit of a moot point to me. It’s been going since 1909 and it’s not just about trying to right wrongs, it’s also about celebrating. Will one day magically fix everything we’re unhappy with? Of course not. That isn’t the point. If you really want to #PressForProgress it’s about what you do every day, because gender equality is for life, not just for International Women’s Day.