Changing the lens: 5 ways reframing your thinking can empower women in the workplace

At The Marketing Store, we’re in the business of ideas. Our people are our greatest strength, so inclusion is really important to us and at the heart of everything we do. 

 

We have been recognising International Women’s Day for a few years now, but this year we took our celebrations a step further and hosted a panel discussion focusing on the IWD 2020 theme of #EachforEqual.

 

Alongside our business director Emma Maynard, I chaired a panel that included a plethora of kick-ass women from across the industry: Aarthi Thanapalasingam, VP of HR Technology at Thomson Reuters, Naomi Bassey. an independent, award-winning designer and brand consultant, and Liz Brown. Associate Creative Director at HeyHuman, a creative agency that specialises in behavioural science and neuromarketing.

 

We discussed everything from equal pay to childcare, with a view to understanding how we as individuals, could collectively change our thinking and our actions to support all women, both inside and outside of our own organisation.

 

Here are 5 things we learnt:

 

1. Look at what women DO bring, not what they don’t.  

Often women will only apply for a job or go for a promotion if they feel that all of the requisites of the job description apply to them. Men, on the other hand, tend to apply for the same role with only 50% of the relevant experience. It’s one of the many factors that mean that the odds are stacked against women when it comes to landing the top roles.

 

In order to counter this conservatism, our panel argued that women (and the organisations they work for) need to change the lens through which they view their own ability, thus challenging the school of thought that you don’t have a place in an organisation because you aren’t a particular gender, ethnicity or age. Instead, think about the things that do differentiate you and how that unique voice and experience could benefit your organisation in ways that those who are in the majority cannot.

 

Pay homage to your experience. Embrace your differentiators and own the space you’re in.

 

2. Gender Pay Gap Gender Wealth Gap

The Gender Pay Gap is still a massive problem in our industry. While there have been some great steps taken by the Government such as ensuring businesses publish their pay gap figures publicly, the lens needs to be shifted to include other factors that mean that women are still worse off than their male counterparts. This is where the Gender Wealth Gap comes in.

 

We shouldn’t just be thinking about what women earn but what they do with that money once they earn it. In the UK, there is a £15 billion gender investment gap influenced by a range of factors: how money was socialised as a child, having time off to raise children, and confidence with money and investing.

 

Don’t just think about the pay gap, think about the wealth gap and adjust your salaries accordingly.

 

3. Rethink traditionally ‘female’ roles

As an HR professional, I am constantly asked “Why is the people team only female?”

 

It’s not from lack of trying—we’d love to have more men on board—but HR roles have traditionally been seen as ‘pastoral’ or ‘motherly’ rather than strategic and as such, men don’t think it’s for them.

 

As a people-centric industry, it’s important that we challenge this stereotype and the broader thinking around ‘female’ traits that has been driven by what’s taught in the home, at school and even in wider society.

 

At the Marketing Store, I’m proud to say that my role—people partner—is considered a highly strategic one. Who else in the organisation knows exactly what each team’s strengths are, how it works, what they care about and who the rising stars are? In the business of ideas, this kind of insight is invaluable to leadership.

 

Empathy is a strength, not a weakness.

 

 

4. Change your perception of what gender is

We opened the panel with the question of ‘What is, in your opinion, a 21st Century Woman?’ and I want to share quotes from to of our panellists—Emma and Aarthi—on what this meant to them:

 

“I think she is a confident individual that is not defined by being a woman but by her own individuality… and not defined by a gender stereotype” – Emma

 

“What defines a 21st Century Woman is choice – choice of careers, how you want to represent yourself – we have a real opportunity to advocate in spaces where there is still opportunity to move. For male allies in the room, if you have a voice and help the women around you” – Aarthi

 

This lesson was simple. Don’t think about gender in binary terms. Anyone who identifies as a woman deserves the same consideration.

 

5. Change the lens of those around you

We spoke about having ‘radical candour’—direct but empathetic conversation—with leaders and teams in your business as one of the best ways to drive change.

 

As leaders, it’s ok not to have the right answer but it’s vital that your door is open. We asked our audience to think if they were an ally to someone already or if not, could they offer to be one?

 

Be generous with your experience or privilege (whatever form that may be), that is how we will make real progress.

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