I spent the last three months planning our celebration of International Women's Day in my position as committee member of our Women's network. We got 150 amazing women in the room and had some great speakers and some great discussions. At the end of the event, I found myself asking 'What was the point of that?'. We all know what the challenges are, and we just seem to be discussing them in rotation without getting anywhere. How can we encourage men to be part of the solution? And how can we educate those that don't seem to get it?
The point KT, is that we need the men in the room fully invested, to flush the issues out of the system. Equality initiatives work when they are when they are driven equally. But not all men are equal. They effectively split into two broad groups. Those who see gender equality as a good and positive thing, and those that see it as a threat. We're afraid that we don't have enough time or fuel to set about educating those who are threatened. Let's concentrate our efforts on the good men, who in turn have a better chance of having a positive impact on the rest, who thankfully are decreasing as a cohort. We asked SONYA LENNON, founder of Another Mother World to share her learnings from the many events that she spoke at for IWD 2020.
SONYA LENNON, Founder Another Mother World, Designer, Workplace Equality Advocate.
I recently hosted and spoke at a slew of events for International Women's Day, all organised with the best intentions and authentic passion for change. Below, I've listed 5 learnings which I hope we be of use to KT and beyond. If I could change one thing with these wonderful events, I would ask every woman attending to personally, as in eyeball to eyeball, invite one male Ally for equality to join her at the event, a 50/50 room is what we're after here, not least so we can do some work around learning number 3.
1. FOCUS ON THE FUTURE NOT THE PAST.
No company or organisation of individual can say that they are perfect. There are always improvements to be made. We need to shift our focus away from the problems that women face, and have always faced, and start designing solutions. The Gender Pay Gap Legislation is coming down the track and that will foster a expanded sense of anxiety in the fearful. We are where we are right now. The UN sustainable development goal number 5 states that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Amen to that.
2. FOCUS ON FACT NOT FEELINGS.
There are some incontrovertible studies and publications to back up the case for gender equality in the workplace and representative decision making at all levels of our society. I've attached a reading list below. Focus on the facts, the outrageous incidences of women's needs being ignored through ignorance rather than malice, and the successes of women and men working together with mutual respect. Because, after all it's not just about you, it's about all of us. In advance of a recent event, I gave a very smart, very accomplished male MD a title to read. He told me with some embarrassment that he was not a reader. I sent him the title by email afterwards anyway. Six weeks later, with his significant progress through the book marked by the flyleaf, he took the stage and shared the facts with a predominantly male audience. If all books were like this one, he said, I'd read them all. That book is Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez.
3.FOCUS ON LISTENING NOT TALKING
Towards the end of a long run of events and faced with a room of mainly men I was met with a compulsion. The compulsion to not talk but listen. If we, as women, want to be heard, understood and respected and not have men make assumptions about our needs, surely we should afford the same respect to them. I took to the stage with the rather risky gambit of opening straight to the floor. I told them I didn't want to talk at them but rather listen to their concerns and respond to their needs. What did they want to know about advancing women's equality, that had brought them into a room for International Women's Day? The first question from the floor was this. 'How can I support my wife to get back to work after raising our two girls and how can I raise my two girls to know their own worth and fight what what they deserve.
If ever you needed proof that good men are out there, it was right there. My answer was that returning to work is super scary, no matter how accomplished you were when last employed. Get in touch with Dress for Success Dublin who can help you to package your message and yourself to succeed at interview, the supports are there, take them for free.
In relation to the girls, get them really comfortable talking about money. If more of us joined the dots between the careers we choose and the life we want to lead, we would make better choices. Money gives you those choices.
4.FOCUS ON INFLUENCE NOT FORCE
The greater you build your personal ability to lead yourself, the more influence you will exert on those around you, both up and down the food chain. If people respect you, trust you and admire your values, you are in a much better position to leverage authentic influence with them. You can't force someone to change their behaviour but you can encourage them by modelling the best behaviour yourself.
5.BE SMART, BE FIRM AND BE UNDERSTANDING
In work, we have challenges as women that men don't often face. This systemic problem will not be solved by 'fixing the woman', however, there are certain personality predispositions of which we need to be mindful.
Never play down your brilliance.
Never make choices only to please others.
Always have the generosity to see things from another's perspective.
THE READING LIST - Fact based information to make your case with confidence.
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