Reflections on International Women’s Day 2018

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Reflections on IWD 2018

Having attended a number of women-focused events today on International Women’s Day, one in sport and one in the tech/digital sector, I thought I’d quickly share my key takeaways and points for action.

  • By many key metrics, we are going backwards. Numbers of women on boards and in senior leadership positions are either declining or flattening. This is a concern.
  • Shocking, lazy sexism still persists – many men (and some women too) are not aware they are propagating gender stereotypes or bowing to a herd mentality.
  • There is a general view in the wider population that women have jobs and men have careers.
  • Flexible working exacerbates the gender pay gap – certainly means that women lose out on benefits built up over long tenure eg pensions.
  • Many women feel frustrated and powerless to combat discrimination – they either conform or opt out. Few want to be labelled a trouble-maker by openly challenging it.
  • Reform starts at the top but it must go deep. Box-ticking helps no-one.
  • Men get it too. There are many enlightened male leaders and their support of the gender equality movement at work is vital. Women cannot keep talking about it in a stand-alone ‘networking group’, all furiously agreeing with each other. (Indeed, at one event I attended, the impact of a man calling out the behaviour of his fellows was far more powerful than a woman saying the same thing. The former left the men in the room feeling far more uncomfortable.)
  • This is not a new issue. We’ve been here before at many times in our social history. However, there is a feeling that 2018 might be the start of a meaningful – albeit gradual – transition.
  • We need more days like these.

What can EVERYONE do about it?

  • Continue to make diversity (of all types by the way) an open discussion point in the workplace.
  • Call out sexist and discriminatory behaviour, loudly.
  • Encourage employers to offer shared parental leave. Men are much more empathetic about the detrimental impact on their careers of taking time off to look after their children when they’ve done it themselves.
  • Women must be more forthcoming about what they want – ask for that promotion; use maternity leave to learn a new skill; refuse to accept that being a mother makes you less good at your job.
  • Women must champion other women but senior male sponsors must put their reputations on the line for rising female stars just as they might for a coming man.
  • Let’s make every day International Women’s Day. It shouldn’t need a special day.

Ashling O’Connor is Partner at SRi, focused on the Media, Digital and Content Space. To contact her directly, please click here.