Today, 8th March is International Women’s Day and the theme is #BeBoldForChange.

#BeBoldForChange is needed.  There are many deep and troubling issues facing women around the globe – some as fundamental as the right to education, the right to self-determination or the very right to life itself.

In contrast, we have much to be thankful for here in the UK. However, we are still far from where we should be. Let’s take a look at a few of the issues affecting women in the UK and western workplaces.

Women in Sport

  • Only this morning, the BBC reported the number of women getting jobs at UK sporting bodies had fallen 6% since 2014 – and a Women In Sport survey found under half of Britain’s sporting bodies were meeting Government guidelines.

Gender Pay Gap

  • The World Economic Forum recently predicted the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186 (Global not UK figure). Staggeringly, but not surprisingly, on current retirement ages, girls born today will retire without the gender pay gap closed.

Working Mothers

  • According to the IFS (2016) mothers who return to work are paid up to 33 percent less per hour than men thanks to their restricted opportunities for promotions and pay rises,
  • Research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that around 54,000 new mothers may be forced out of their jobs in Britain each year as a result of maternity.
  • 1 in 5 new mothers experienced harassment or negative comments from their colleagues, employer or manager when pregnant or returning from maternity leave (Department for Business Innovation and Skills).

Sexism

  • The BBC found that more than 40% of elite sportswomen in Great Britain have experienced sexism but only 7% have reported it (2015 Women’s Week survey).

Harassment

  • 40% of respondents in a Bar Standards Board report “Women at the Bar” (2016) had experienced harassment. 80% of those experiencing harassment did not report their experiences.

On the above two points, you have to ask: if professional sports women and women who have studied advocacy for 6 years find it hard to raise concerns – just who can? And it’s not just women in these roles who have experienced issues – a recent survey carried out by the TUC found that more than half of all women polled felt they had experienced sexual harassment during their career. (TUC Report: Still just a bit of Banter? Sexual Harassment in the Workplace in 2016).

How to #BeBoldForChange

Clearly, we have a massive problem of widespread discrimination against, harassment and lack of fair treatment of women in the workplace. How do we solve these problems?

The following are steps we could all take to reach a resolution:   

  1. Measuring where you are. If you are doing this, it needs to be done in a way which will provide a true starting point.  Even with the best of maps, your destination is hard to find if you don’t know your starting point.
  2. Recognition of a problem – including the true size of a problem. You have not recognised a problem if you acknowledge a cube of ice shortly before you hit an iceberg!
  3. Acceptance that you are part of the problem. Too often problems are recognised – but then deflected – “Oh yes, there is a problem, but not in our sector/company.”
  4. Understanding the need for change. I would hope that most people reading instinctively recognise that this need to change. It must change.  The law requires it to change.  Even if none of that convinces you, go and read about the financial benefits of getting it right (and costs of getting it wrong).
  5. Devising a plan for change. This includes meaningful timelines, clear steps to progress, owners of those steps, candid ways of meaning change and timelines.   Meaningful timelines are not, in my opinion, ones which give delivery after most of your workforce are retired.  Action should be in months and small numbers of years – not large numbers of decades.

So, my question for you today is what is your commitment to #BeBoldForChange?

 

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