An inclusive vision for equality

Our CEO Tamara Gillan reflects on Women’s Equality Day and shares her view that the only way to secure equality for all is through collaboration.

Today is Women’s Equality Day, celebrated in the United States to commemorate American women securing the right to vote back in 1920. It is a celebration of this right but also a chance to reflect on the continuing efforts towards equality.

 

We have seen equality making great strides; from the better representation of women in senior political and corporate roles to the reduction of the gender pay gap to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment. However, as President Nixon said on Women’s Equality Day in 1973 “And yet, much still remains to be done.”[1]

 

Last year being the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, Liberal Democrat MPs Layla Moran and Stephen Lloyd called for the UK to have a Women’s Equality Day. It is important for us to recognise inequalities and reflect on them to ensure that change is made for future generations. And yet I feel that in 2019 we need to aspire to an inclusive vision for equality, one not specifically tied to gender.

 

Despite progress for LGBT+ diversity and inclusion, experts say figures show there is still ‘a long way to go’.[2] There are major businesses leading the way in showing support for LGBT+ issues such as Barclays who sponsored and took part in over 25 Pride celebrations around the UK. However, One in three FTSE 100 companies failed to mention LGBT+ diversity issues in their latest annual reports. All communities need to be represented, with diversity and inclusion on everyone’s agenda to ensure equality for everyone.

 

Men too can suffer from discriminatory behaviour, evidenced by the minimal uptake of shared parental leave in the UK with the Department for Business estimating it as low as 2% in 2018[3]. Whilst some companies such as Aviva treat mothers and fathers equally, offering them the same entitlement. Research conducted by law firm EMW suggested low take-up was partly due to cultural stigma for men that “they might come across as less committed to their job if they ask for leave.”[4] Also there are financial penalties deterring parents from sharing leave with calls that the Government introduces a standalone period of extended paternity leave for fathers.

 

Changing deep-seated attitudes takes courage from everyone. My company Cherry London, the strategic commercial relationship-building marketing company, has progressive parental policies and I fully champion my team playing an active role in their families lives. Yet I found myself sneaking out of the office, honouring misconceptions established in earlier times about the role of ‘the boss’. I realised my error, my role was to lead by example, so that the parents on my staff felt fully accepted and supported balancing their work and family commitments.

 

Equality requires words and actions. We all need to own it. Own our part in it. Particularly those in senior positions who can set the stand – if you want to take full parental leave do so, be brave enough to announce your leaving early to go to sports day. Your actions will help drive acceptance through practice.

 

The only way to secure equality for all is through collaboration. LeanIn.Org have been conducting research into working relationships in the #MeToo era. A depressing finding is that men are pulling back from supporting female colleagues with “60% of managers who are men are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together.”[5] Things are moving in the wrong direction. LeanIn.Org point out that mentorship is critical for women to succeed and secure the opportunities they need to rise through the ranks: “We all benefit when a colleague shows us the ropes and sponsors us for new opportunities—particularly when they’re more senior, as men often are.”[6]

 

Organisations with diverse leadership realise higher profits.[7]  Frankly, we all need to try harder to challenge bias for the benefit of all. Inequality is a persistent problem at an institutional level and for future generations to flourish we all need to work harder to ensure that factors like gender, race, sexuality, background, etc. are irrelevant when it comes to individuals reaching their potential.

 

The only way to drive real change at an institutional, cultural level is collectively. We all need to continue to reject oppressive representations and own our part in making changes. We can make great strides together as change is clearly still needed. But we have to work collaboratively on the path to equality.

 

 

Tamara Gillan, CEO of Cherry London and Founder of The WealthiHer Network.

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_Equality_Day  1973 Proclamation by President Nixon, The American Presidency Project.

 

[2] https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/third-ftse-100-firms-fail-include-lgbt-annual-report

 

[3]https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43026312

 

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43026312

 

[5] https://leanin.org/sexual-harassment-backlash-survey-results

 

[6] https://leanin.org/mentor-her

 

[7] LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey survey, March 2019.

 

 

by Tamara Gillan

CEO of Cherry London and Founder of The WealthiHer Network

tamara@cherrylondon.com