EngagementDiversity & InclusionThe tide is turning for women

The tide is turning for women

The issue of gender in the workplace is not new. Let’s face it, it’s been rumbling on for years, and it’s been a topic I’ve encountered multiple times during my career. The sad thing is, it’s one that we shouldn’t have to talk about.

When equal pay legislation was introduced in 1970, many people thought the issue would go away. Women were finally on an equal footing, or theoretically anyway. But this wasn’t the case, and I can say from personal experience that there have been barriers to women climbing the ranks.

Personal journey

For example, during my career I have encountered discrimination based on my gender. When I was a senior manager, I was made redundant. Not unusual by any means, and on paper, it looked above board. But, if you looked between the cracks you’d see I was judged differently, purely based on my gender, and I was pushed out to make room for a male colleague. Working in a heavily male industry, accountancy, at the time, I faced the challenge that to make Partner the expectations put on me far exceeded those of my male counterparts.

But this was many years ago, and the good news is I do believe the tide is changing. For instance, the traditional barriers which have discouraged women are now being eroded. Until recently, there was not the opportunity to take equal parental leave. Businesses are also introducing more family-friendly policies, including flexible working initiatives which makes it easier to have a work-life balance. This makes childcare easier, an issue which has traditionally fallen to women to solve.

We also need to address how pay is reported. The issues outlined above, such as childcare responsibilities and family commitments have prevented some women climbing the corporate ladder. Therefore, time is needed to even out the numbers, as statistically, there will be more men at the top now, which therefore skews gender reporting. Also, we need to look at wider sector macros. For example, the charity sector in which I work is female-heavy, compared to other professions, such as management consultancy, which are male-dominated. This in turn will affect reporting, so when looking at the argument we do need to rationalise the information.

C-Suite aspirations

So whilst it’s not yet truly equal, the gender situation is improving, in my opinion.  Yes, it will take time, but it’s better than it used to be, and I believe it’s actually the best time to be a woman in business. In my personal opinion, the glass ceiling will soon be shattered, and as firms introduce more policies to even the playing field, progress will come. I fully expect more women to reach C-Suite positions, as I have done, and I hope they don’t have to encounter the challenges I have. Additionally, outdated preconceptions about gender are dying out, and many seniors who have actively discriminated against women have retired, so we’re now facing a much more level playing field than before.

I will make one final argument though. Businesses should not promote women because they feel they ought to. I would hate to think I was promoted to CEO because of my gender, and no woman should ever be in that situation. Promotions need to be on merit. As more women go to university and have equal opportunities in the workplace the gender issue should start to even out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s about time that businesses actively encouraged women and did more to help them succeed, but we need to be patient, because as the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s awful to think that women in business have been treated as second-class citizens for so many years, but the tide is turning, and with initiatives such as International Women’s Day, the future looks bright as by talking and learning as we are now, past mistakes can be put to rest.

When equal pay legislation was introduced in 1970, many people thought the issue would go away. Women were finally on an equal footing, or theoretically anyway. But this wasn’t the case, and I can say from personal experience that there have been barriers to women climbing the ranks.

For example, during my career I have encountered discrimination based on my gender. When I was a senior manager, I was made redundant. Not unusual by any means, and on paper, it looked above board. But, if you looked between the cracks you’d see I was judged differently, purely based on my gender, and I was pushed out to make room for a male colleague. Working in a heavily male industry, accountancy, at the time, I faced the challenge that to make Partner the expectations put on me far exceeded those of my male counterparts.

Consider family

But this was many years ago, and the good news is I do believe the tide is changing. For instance, the traditional barriers which have discouraged women are now being eroded. Until recently, there was not the opportunity to take equal parental leave. Businesses are also introducing more family-friendly policies, including flexible working initiatives which makes it easier to have a work-life balance. This makes childcare easier, an issue which has traditionally fallen to women to solve.

We also need to address how pay is reported. The issues outlined above, such as childcare responsibilities and family commitments have prevented some women climbing the corporate ladder. Therefore, time is needed to even out the numbers, as statistically, there will be more men at the top now, which therefore skews gender reporting. Also, we need to look at wider sector macros. For example, the charity sector in which I work is female-heavy, compared to other professions, such as management consultancy, which are male-dominated. This in turn will affect reporting, so when looking at the argument we do need to rationalise the information.

So whilst it’s not yet truly equal, the gender situation is improving, in my opinion.  Yes, it will take time, but it’s better than it used to be, and I believe it’s actually the best time to be a woman in business. In my personal opinion, the glass ceiling will soon be shattered, and as firms introduce more policies to even the playing field, progress will come. I fully expect more women to reach C-Suite positions, as I have done, and I hope they don’t have to encounter the challenges I have. Additionally, outdated preconceptions about gender are dying out, and many seniors who have actively discriminated against women have retired, so we’re now facing a much more level playing field than before.

I will make one final argument though. Businesses should not promote women because they feel they ought to. I would hate to think I was promoted to CEO because of my gender, and no woman should ever be in that situation. Promotions need to be on merit. As more women go to university and have equal opportunities in the workplace the gender issue should start to even out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s about time that businesses actively encouraged women and did more to help them succeed, but we need to be patient, because as the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s awful to think that women in business have been treated as second-class citizens for so many years, but the tide is turning, and with initiatives such as International Women’s Day, the future looks bright as by talking and learning as we are now, past mistakes can be put to rest.

Author

Kath Haines is the CEO at CABA

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