From the fringe: 4 steps to making gender equality at work work
The demographic attending the fringe event on ‘Working women: is gender equality beyond reach’ at Conservative Party Conference was noticeably different to that of the conference as a whole, as a panel including former Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan MP and the columnist Rachel Johnson came together to discuss how to bring about true gender equality in the workplace.
In a discussion that ranged from personal anecdotes about the challenges women face (including a message from Rachel to her father Stanley not to ‘just listen to the big boys in blue suits’ as he decided to find her brothers Boris and Jo rather than come to the panel) to a word of warning about the potential impact Brexit might have on women’s rights, the panel identified a number of steps people and businesses could take to help improve gender equality at work:
- Don’t just implement initiatives from the top and expect them to succeed – senior leaders need to make sure that, when they take steps to tackle equality in their workplace, they are making sure that these trickle down to all line managers, as it doesn’t work to introduce flexibility as policy if this isn’t being reflected across the company.
- Talent spot – it’s often said that, when looking at a job description, women look at a list of skills required and don’t apply because they are missing one or two of them, where men would just go for it. This may well not apply for all, but to make sure confidence isn’t holding great people back, look out for talented people and encourage them to put themselves forward for this.
- Rethink the language used when discussing mums and work – the panel were unanimous in finding the fact that mums who don’t work are described as ‘economically inactive’ deeply disheartening, implying that they aren’t contributing and ignoring that many would love to be working but can’t juggle pay with the cost of childcare (also noting that childcare should be seen as a parents’ issue not a women’s issue).
- ‘Outlaw golf’ – maybe glib, but think about the traditional work bonding activities that are often male focused and find ways to make sure they aren’t unintentionally excluding women.
- Get to the end of the firsts – thinking about the ‘first woman’ to do this or that encourages people to think of this as against the norm. With so many strong female leaders in the public eye, it’s time to stop thinking about them being the first and instead one of many.
By Charlotte Nathan