WORDS OF WISDOM
WORDS OF WISDOM
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Equality & Diversity is not only about gender, in this instance my viewpoint is from having conversations with women who are feeling extremely challenged working in predominantly male environments.
Here is an example: a conversation was started where a male colleague said “women who have children should not be given any special treatment at work, if they need to go home due to their child being unwell then perhaps they shouldn’t be working and should stay at home”. I appreciate this is one quoted comment but in the same environment it was noted as not unusual for inappropriate comments to be made by male colleagues.
It’s pretty sad to hear things such as this are still being thought, never mind said out loud.
How can we create a more natural acceptance of diversity?
We know that a balance of thoughts. Ideas and approaches bring immense benefits to any team and organisation, so what makes it so hard to truly implement a Diversity Policy, which is upheld at all levels across an organisation?
The Equality Act of 2010 came into force in October 2010. Employers have a legal obligation to comply with the Act. Most companies build their Diversity and Equality Policy on this statute to ensure they have effective policies and practices in place.
Unfortunately laws cannot change the way people think. It has long been established that people will do what they want if they feel that they can get away with it, they may not be ready for change, just because it’s the law. Years of a certain way of thinking can be hard to change, including conscious and unconscious bias, but it is possible. Sometimes we just can’t help being biased, it’s in our makeup: look at the person sitting next to you or across the aisle on the tube, what assumptions will you make about that person that might not be viewed favourably? Problems start to arise when these biases are played out into discriminatory actions.
For a Diversity and Equality Policy to work as intended our default way of thinking, if biased needs to be challenged.
Do you want more women working in your organisation?
A client recently said, her male boss wanted more women in the organisation and he asked what she thought could be done? Not wanting to speak up on some of the reasons she thought women might not want to work in the organisation, the conversation went mute.
This is a shame because we need to have more honest conversations between women and men on the subject, it might perhaps need a good communications facilitator but we can get to that later. I’m a big fan of honest constructive communication, which is most definitely a two way street.
Are you surprised when women no longer want to work in your organisation? Are you surprised you aren’t able to interest more women to work in your organisation? You just can’t understand why. You have a sound diversity policy, what you believe to be a healthy rewards package and fantastic secondary perks, so what’s going on?
Would your organisation benefit from greater diversity?
If you really want more women in your organisation, something will need to change at all levels. Your Diversity and Equality Policy will need to be an inherent value across the board and not just a tick box exercise.
I’ll probably get shot down for this but there are some instances where people just don’t know when they’re saying something inappropriate, this can also be the case in predominantly male environments, where Men become used to speaking and behaving in a certain way. Until a constructive conversation is had, they will not be offered the possibility of a different viewpoint.
Modifying language, attitudes and behaviours
How can language and behaviours be modified if we aren’t aware of the impact of what is being said and done?
Some of the women I have spoken to say things like “it’s a good job I have a thick skin” because they tend to ignore some of the inappropriate comments. For some women who don’t “have a thick skin” they prefer not to work in this type of environment.
If organisations want more female employees not just for their quota there will need to be some sleeves rolled up, research undertaken, fact finding and a few honest constructive conversations around what needs to change, rather than just attempting to tick boxes.
Whilst this article is about the challenges faced by women working in predominantly male environments, there are many points made that are relevant to any type of discriminatory behaviour in and out of the workplace.
To make this conversation a bit more balanced I would love to hear from some men for your opinion, so far I have mostly been speaking to women.
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