As we mark International Womens Day 2018, what do we know will help us #pressforprogress?

8 March, 2018
Fleur Bothwick

On International Women’s Day (IWD), I am struck by the amazing amount of activity planned to mark the day, locally, pan EMEIA and even globally, both internally and externally.  We also celebrate this year that it is 100 years since women over 30 achieved the right to vote alongside men in Britain.  We can also see female leaders in many walks of life including the police, politics and even most recently, hosting the BAFTA’s.

Yet the World Economic Forum tells us that gender equality is still 170 years away despite the fact that, as they say, ‘enabling women and girls represents the single biggest opportunity for human development and economic growth…. equality for women in the labour force would add $28 trillion to the global economy by 2025’.

One of the reasons they cite is the ‘ongoing challenge of the ‘boys club’, like an old, outdated golf club’, so I was interested to read about Britain’s first women-only members’ club which launches tomorrow to coincide with IWD.  Apparently they have been inundated with applications and their aim is to build ‘a community and a supportive environment to help change the economic landscape for women.’  So I wonder what is different between The Allbright and a male only golf club? 

I guess a key difference you would say is that many significant business decisions are made on the golf course which by default means that they are being made by men, not women.  I can see that the Allbright’s community would feel empowering and the atmosphere/environment of an all-female venue is certainly different from a mixed venue.  It doesn’t though give the women a voice in the board room or a seat at the table which surely is what we are working for.

Engaging men in the conversation is not new at EY – in fact we published a study of different male champions ‘making the mix work’ to mark IWD in 2014 (which you can find on our D&I app).  It is though something that some organisations seem to be only recently thinking about.  Take for example Deloittes in the States whose approach was described as their ‘radical attempt to reframe diversity ‘.  They decided to disband their women’s network to focus on men being part of the conversation.  I can’t see why they had to be so radical – why not engage the men in network activity.  In fact at EY in the UK, the co-chair of the highly successful women’s network is a male!

I totally agree that to accelerate progress we need to engage men in the conversation, but we need to do a lot more on multiple layers. We need to set targets and establish robust accountability.  We need to do a much better job of identifying potential and then pro-actively managing it.  We need to move our focus from putting managers through a sheep dip approach of inclusive leadership training and start identifying processes that we can change to solve for the impact of unconscious bias (and sometimes conscious bias!).

A really good read I came across recently was a piece of research sponsored by BP, done by Kirsty Bashforth at QuayFive (@Spotdiffuk).  They wanted to look at the factors that were most influential when women and men make their career choices and how they differ by gender.  Differences emerged in how men versus women defined success, where they looked for support and guidance and how their aspirations and ambitions played out.

Tomorrow we are being asked to #PressforProgress as part of the fight for equality.  What can you personally commit to – perhaps ……

-make sure that credit is given for another women’s contribution

-identify ways to make women more visible

-assume women want opportunities until they decline

-question assumptions about women

-question any lack of women’s participation

-challenge statements that limit women

Lets also not forget intersectionality which we don’t often hear about when talking about IWD – what about a woman that is black – does she think first about her ethnicity or her gender.  I was at a great book launch this week for Racism at Work – the danger of indifference by Binna Kandola.  One of the panel members said that she thought first about being black.  Let’s also celebrate women with a disability, older women, lesbians and anyone that identifies at Trans+.  As we commit to #pressforprogress, let’s unite as a broader community with the one aim of inclusion for all.