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Two things that need to urgently change for women at work

In my previous blog I introduced PWC’s survey entitled, “What has to change for women at work?” I was gratified to note that there are a lot of positives to be taken from this year’s survey;

  • 82% of women are confident in their ability to fulfil their career aspirations,

  • 77% feel confident in their ability to lead and

  • 73% are actively seeking career advancement opportunities.

This is good news and a significant step forward for the gender agenda.

PWC has identified three key elements which still need time and attention, the first of which I discussed in my previous blog on trust and transparency. https://bit.ly/2p62Zdv

The second is a subject raised by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) in “Lean In”, and developed in her latest campaign entitled #MentorHer. I spend time encouraging women to identify mentors and sponsors.

Almost always I recommend a male sponsor, since they are well positioned to help key women navigate the career lattice and gain promotion.

An unintended consequence of the #MeToo movement (a campaign where women were hoping to put an end to sexual harassment at work) is that according to LeanIn.org, “about a third of male managers are uncomfortable participating in work activities with women, including working alone with women and mentoring women.  Presumably these men are afraid that their friendly interactions with women will be misinterpreted as romantic interest or sexual harassment”.

So we need to work doubly hard to get women the strategic support they need, where men don’t back away out of sheer fear. We need dedicated mentors and sponsors of both genders both in the workplace and in broader society.

Finally life, family care and work or what is commonly called work-life integration, was identified as the third theme. It seems that, “flexibility alone is not the issue”. The evidence is that employees do not take extended periods of leave (including maternity) precisely because they believe it will hurt their careers. And this does not only apply to millennials or expectant mothers;

“Caring for ageing parents or pursuing spiritual quests are also key motivators for wanting an increased leave of absence.”

This fear was magnified in Asia where, “the majority of our respondents from China (97%), India (96%) and Singapore (93%) who mirrored the global response that work/life balance and flexibility is important to them, also said it is not available in practice and, further, people who work flexibly (reduced hours or job sharing) are regarded as less committed to the organisation.”

Having worked in Singapore I can well believe it! So my challenge to leaders is to model the way;

  • Take your leave when leave is due
  • Don’t be the first to clock in and the last to clock out – measure outputs rather than ‘presenteeism’
  • Finally introduce parental transition coaching where parents are taking maternity/paternity leave. Offer them ’keep in touch days’ to ensure that they don’t lose touch with the business, but let them honour their commitment to building their new role as a parent
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