Dismantling The Gender Balance Issue At Work 0

Dismantling-The-Gender-Balance-Issue-At-Work

“It’s all about a range of choices for both genders. I’m convinced that in 2018 we should be committed to Gender Rebalancing and for that to happen we have to make professional and societal changes, because if we don’t change now, 2040 wouldn’t be very different from 2018!”

– Ruth Cornish

Having both a professional and a personal interest in this topic, I read a lot of articles about how women should be able to take career breaks and then return flexibly so they can play a bigger role in their children’s lives than their male partners.

Many agree earlier on in their relationships that it will be their husband who will have the important career that pays the majority of the bills. So he will remain full-time and the women will take time off and let their career take the hit. This now seems to me to be a decision driven by gender and the past (what women used to do) rather than the world we are in now.

When I did my CIPD (IPM) dissertation way back in 1996, it was on the topic of men and women in accountancy and how their careers progressed or didn’t. As head of graduate recruitment for a large accountancy firm, I’d had to introduce special measures to ensure that we didn’t make the majority of our offers to women. Of course, I wanted as balanced an intake as possible just as any leader would because the benefits are well known.

As part of my research, I surveyed the top 50 firms and got answers back from most of them including the entire top 10. It was all hard copy in those days and I got a lot of posts and had to analyze it all in the office after work and at the weekends, as we didn’t have computers at home either!

Predominantly my conclusions were, that there were very few female partners because they had many more choices. Society and indeed business accepted (and often expected) that they would take time out to care for a family and then to return part-time or do something different often at a lower level or just remain at home. There were not the options in those days to share parental leave for any employee or (regardless of gender or the reason why) to request flexible working.

“Society and indeed business accepted (and often expected) for a long time that women would take time out to care for a family and then to return part-time or do something different often at a lower level or just remain at home.”

Many would say that there still aren’t those opportunities for men now but I’d disagree. I fully agree that working parents should be able to take time out and return. I agree that we should not expect more or less from someone because of gender.

But I don’t agree that women are the only ones that can care for children or run a home or make a meal. I do acknowledge that in the past people honestly thought that. Then women got the vote (100 years ago) and we brought in Equal Pay legislation (1970). But the legislation doesn’t change hearts and minds. So what is going to?

I’ve had three children and taken little maternity leave mainly due to economics. Many companies still only offer statutory maternity pay which might work if you have another big salary coming in but doesn’t if you need the money. These days my husband is the primary caretaker but also works part-time in our business as happens in so many families. But more common is the fact that man is in charge and his wife does the admin.

I understand men want different choices about how they live and work, in the same way, that women do. So many don’t work full-time now amongst men and women. I feel it’s all about a range of choices for both genders. I’m convinced that in 2018 we should be committed to Gender Rebalancing and for that to happen we have to make changes. As is evident in my CIPD study 22 years ago, not much has changed! So if we don’t change now, how do we tackle the gender balance in the workplace, someone else could be writing a similar blog on linked in 2040! Which would be depressing.

I’ve never come across an employer that has intentionally and deliberately treated women badly. Of course many expect less of women with regard to their ambitions and many women expect less of themselves and their own career prognosis. Particularly when they negotiate salaries, which is often the start of the gender pay gap. But that is easy to rebalance.

Many companies with very well-meaning Diversity Action groups will have to set a target around women returners or women working part-time. But I feel that we need to level the playing field and stop focusing on gender if we want to stop gender bias. And gender pay gaps. Genders rebalance will then come along all by itself.

For starters, let’s start talking about ‘working parents’ rather than working mothers (we never hear the term working fathers in the workplace) and ensure that any flexibility or support is offered and made relevant to everyone. Its equally important that we do support women in fulltime senior roles as they often get totally ignored by senior management, HR and Diversity Groups or are constantly begged to lead. Diversity initiatives and help others when no-one helped them. Let’s get the balance right here as well. Gender rebalancing needs to involve everyone!

“Many organizations expect less of women with regard to their ambitions and many women expect less of themselves and their own career prognosis. Particularly when they negotiate salaries, which is often the start of the gender pay gap. But that is easy to rebalance.”

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