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I am particularly excited about the International Women’s Day 2020 theme this year – #eachforequal, as I’ve always been frustrated by the bystander effect when it comes to equality; that is the notion that demanding change is a job for someone else. This theme says we each have a role to play, and we all should pledge that gender discrimination stops with each one of us.
My favourite quote I like to use when talking to businesses about equality is by Lily Tomlin: “I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realised I was that somebody”.For me, I have always known I was that somebody – I was born outspoken, and have always stood up for my principles. I have never been happy that societal rules were different for me because I was female – I have lived life with the attitude that those rules need to be broken.But that’s not to say I’ve not been affected by gender discrimination myself, because I have, on numerous occasions. From being given the drinks order in a meeting because I was the only woman [but actually one of the most senior], to being winked at in meetings, to having sexual comments made to me in a room alone by my ex-boss, to being told I didn’t get a promotion because I was in “childbearing years”. And that’s not the half of it.But what was my reaction to all of these experiences? In most cases I spoke up and demanded better. In some instances, it did nothing – I lost my job and was struggling for money. In other instances, it opened people’s eyes. But years on, these things are STILL happening to so many women in our workforce.
And this is before we’ve even thought about the gender pay gap, looked at how the media portrays women, or the lack female representation in parliament.So how do we tackle this monumental issue?
1. All businesses need to put gender on their agendas.The theme each for equal is an opportunity for you and your business to act on gender equality. Create policies that ensure all staff understand their obligations. Let your staff and future staff know that in your business they will not be discriminated against. And if you need help, just ask us at ShireWomen.Not sure where to start? Ask yourself:Do you have an equal balance of gender in your workplace? Is there the same number of women in leadership and high paid positions as men? Are the women and men in the same positions receiving the same money and benefits? Do your staff understand what jokes, comments and behaviour is appropriate? Do you offer flexible working arrangements to ALL staff and encourage them to take it regardless of their gender?And remember, just because you’d never put up with it, or just because no-one has reported anything, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Business owners must understand that by taking a stance on this (regardless of whether you think your business has an issue or not) you are protecting those that aren’t in a position to speak up. You are also saying to your potential customers and staff that it this behaviour stops with you. It’s a powerful stance to take, and a much needed one.2. It starts with you, personally
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