This month I celebrate ten years at Talking Talent, working hard with my colleagues, clients and coachees to create a fairer and more gender diverse working world. International Women’s Day is a chance to reflect on the progress we’ve made, and to rev ourselves up: there’s still a lot left to do.
What has changed: There are more women on boards. It is more mainstream that people understand why diversity of thinking is so important. Crucially, the lack of gender diversity isn’t seen as another problem for women to fix by themselves. When Talking Talent started out, men didn’t join Talking Talent, other than our valiant co-founder and CEO. Now 22% of our workforce are male. Men who haven’t joined in yet - - remember, inclusion and balance is better for everyone, including you.
What’s still left to do? Before Christmas I was feeling pretty despondent. In my coaching work, I kept hearing stories of out and out discrimination. Like women on maternity leave being offered a package because ‘Let’s face it, you’ll never progress as a part-time worker’. Women being made to sign non-disclosure agreements, so that no one would find out what the company did to them. Women taking the package because they didn’t have the energy to fight any more and couldn’t risk being blacklisted in their sector.
What’s next: In the 2008 recession, women on leave and part-time workers were disproportionately hit by redundancy when companies downsized and resized. Use International Women’s Day as a prompt to get all over your organisation’s data. Track it. Get ahead of this impending backwards move. If you don’t like what you’re seeing in your place of work, if they don’t listen when you express your concerns, if you don’t get the budget you need, then leave. Vote with your feet. Go somewhere where they do get it.
The last ten years have required determination, energy, and grit, but (whilst it’s not 100% perfect) I’m lucky because my firm strongly promotes balance, and I get to work in a truly agile way - a way that’s focused on the outcomes I deliver rather than clocking hours.
The work I do is also synergistic; seeing my coachees go from strength to strength reminds me of how important the work is. I continue to be inspired by our clients – professionals working in Diversity and Inclusion, Talent and HR who try to make an impact on gender diversity and on inclusion more broadly, on minimal budgets; like using a feather to turn a tanker. I observe how many of my fantastic female coachees (especially from the big professional services firms) are saying, this treatment isn’t good enough, the pay gap stinks, I’m off.
Political uncertainty means organisational restructuring and shrinkage. We know from our anecdotal observations of the last recession that when margins get hit hard, working parents, women on leave, minorities and part-time workers are more vulnerable. Senior leaders in business need to take action: Inclusion is your responsibility. Stand up and be counted, take action, advocate.
My wish is that the pace of change will accelerate in the next ten years in time for my children hitting the word of work. I hope gender diversity stays at the top of the agenda in reimagined modern businesses where everyone can flourish. Here’s to making that a reality.
Nicola Jones, Global Managing Director, Client Relationships, Talking Talent