Respect at Work
|Posted on 4 March, 2020 at 13:15|
This Sunday (8 March) is International Women's Day (IWD), what a great reminder to celebrate us as women and applaud all our successes and achievements. Today I was privileged to speak at a lunch of amazing business women, so for this blog I am sharing some of that speech.
The theme for IWD 2020 is #Each for Equal, so quoting straight from the IWD website:
'An equal world is an enabled world.
Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.
We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women's achievements.
Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world.
Let's all be #EachforEqual.'
I love this picture of the first IWD march in New York in 1911, I made the decision to not speak about the timeline of IWD and all of the past milestones today but please do your own historical research because our journey is full of brave set-backs and victories.
Today I spoke about bias and of our role to challenge bias and stereotypes in our workplaces and in society.
Many years ago, I started an apprenticeship as the only female in a workplace. I was 19 y/o and feeling great, being the only female didn’t concern me, I hadn’t even really thought about it… until… the day that I found the betting book that contained the odds for every one of the 20 male staff as to who would sleep with me and when. I was also told (often) by management that I would never be as good as the boys.
I never spoke up, not once – I fought a silent fight, worked hard and won best first year apprentice – but still I was never truly equal. In fact, I was told that I had only managed good marks because females find study easier – still I said nothing.
I think of stories of other women. A friend of mine (also the sole female in her team) fought for her acceptance by baking and cleaning. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this and I applaud muffins and cakes made by someone else but looking through a gender bias lens I couldn’t help but cringe whenever she talked about it.
So please, take a second to think about any gender stereotypes at your workplace.
Who takes the tea-towels home to wash?
Are there mugs like these proudly displayed? Do you take pride in being known as the ‘bitch’, ‘gossip’, ‘drama queen’, is it a badge of honour?
What are your conversations like?
We are all capable of falling into bias traps, our minds take shortcuts to where stereotypes are the default. But do you challenge stereotypes and call out gender bias? If you hear a female colleague referred to as a bitch do you ask would a male be referred to in the same way?
At some point in my journey I realised that to do and say nothing I was in fact condoning the bias, and as a teacher, a daughter, a mother I have a responsibility to strive for the equal, non-biased future I believe in.
Being aware of bias, however, is not enough, we need to recognise, stop and challenge stereotypical beliefs and actions. So, congratulations to everyone who actively practices being a great ally, building each other up and encouraging respectful collaboration and support.
Equality for women in the workplace has come a long way but I think we can and should always challenge ourselves to do more.
When we look at the past we might think ‘what were they thinking’; my mum surprised me a while back, there was something on the tv about the #me too movement and mum suddenly said ‘oh, why are they all making such a fuss now’, ‘this was years ago, what does it matter?’. I nearly fell off the chair, I guess I had just assumed that my mum, who was part of a generation that had to leave work once she was married and had few rights, would get it. But when we talked, I think she was somehow blind to the issue and impact of sexual harassment. So, I wonder what might we be blind to today? What are the things that we accept that future generations will be shocked at?
Yes, we’ve come a long way and that is cause for celebration, but as women, let’s be advocates for ourselves and our female co-workers, not just for IWD but every day. And as people of all genders let’s challenge ourselves to be better allies, let’s practice building each other up and encouraging respectful, collaboration and support.
Because we’re all responsible for our workplace culture and we all have a part to play in the fight for a better more inclusive society.