2018 has marked a huge turning point around the issue of gender equality.
We’ve celebrated 100 years since the first woman could vote and the launch of campaigns such as #MeToo, Time’s Up and Our Time launched in May by Sadiq Khan.
“In London, only 7 of the Top FTSE companies’ CEO's are women”, says Sadiq Khan.
Yet, we are still seeing cases coming to light about inappropriate behaviour towards women in (and out of) the workplace, coupled with the war on gender pay.
I felt moved earlier this year at the IoD Open House listening to Carrie Gracie from the BBC, who even to this day, is fighting for fair and equal pay. A woman who has modeled not only her own, but her children’s values on the BBC - having been there over 30 years - now forced to turn on that very same establishment.
I am not sure if I have just been lucky, naïve or blind to some of the hurdles or obstacles (coined ‘hurdicles’ by me), faced by women in the modern workplace.
Probably the latter, but I feel passionate about supporting those women who are still facing and trying to overcome them on a daily basis.
An initiative I helped to organise earlier this year as a result of this, was an event where we invited 4 female experts, in their field, to come share some of the hurdicles they have faced in their careers in the hope they could inspire people to tackle their own head on! Our speakers were Alison Kervin, Debs Khan, Adizah Tejani and Jo Arscott.
Following this event, the top three hurdicles faced by women, in the workplace are highlighted below:
As women we are absolutely useless at taking a compliment without any self-deprecation or changing the subject.
It’s almost like our brains are wired that way.
Research shows that “across the board– regardless of culture or country, men have higher self-esteem than women”*. This lack of confidence can also manifest itself in the form of imposter syndrome.
The data shows that this is something which more commonly affects women, with 40% saying they experienced self-doubt at work versus 22% of men asked.**
So whilst we are starting to see more equality in the workplace, ironically women are being held back by their own involuntary sense of being not good enough! We must find ways to conquer the confidence barrier so this does not hold us back.
To quote Sheryl Sandberg; “Fortune does favor the bold and you'll never know what you're capable of if you don't try.”
Every month without fail as a woman, you have to deal with ‘that time of the month’.
There is nothing we can do. It’s our biology!
So why is it then, that in 2018 successful, ambitious women in companies worldwide are having to hide a tampon up their sleeve, or down their bra to go to the toilet?
Its diabolical on all counts, but yet to this day I have never experienced a company acknowledge and support their female staff during this time.
To put this taboo to bed we decided to launch a mockumentary in our agency for International Women’s Day.
Not only did we want to celebrate women in all of their glory and raise awareness. We also set about trying to raise money to support Period Poverty.
We even asked people attending our event in May to donate sanitary products.
We have now committed to offering sanitary products in our toilets, but I look forward to the day we see all agencies not only providing sanitary products but shaping benefits and flexible working around this.
Taking a career break
Whilst I haven’t experienced first-hand what’s it’s like to take a career break to have a family (just yet) I would say that it’s one of the things that has been put on the back burner longer as a result of my wanting to climb the career ladder.
And, despite huge efforts from the industry, there is still a stigma surrounding this. There is a fear that you may lose your status and or the ability to ‘rise to the top’ by taking such a big break.
This was a by far the biggest recurring theme for those people attending and speaking at our event.
The turning point is now.
As a woman fortunate enough to be in a senior leadership position, on the fringes of starting a family with my wife, I feel the future is looking positive. But it will only remain that way if we continue to speak out, bid imposter syndrome adieu and stand up for what is fair.
By Rachel Faber, business director, your favourite story