When Women Thrive… and when they don’t.

Photo by Tolga Akmen. Courtesy of Financial Times

This week the juxtaposition of two events struck me forcibly. You have probably heard about one of them.

Genuine Diversity

The first was some encouraging news. I was sent a link to an interesting podcast of a Davos breakfast meeting hosted by Mercer; it was called When Women Thrive. I’d never heard of Mercer before and you probably haven’t either, so this is what their Facebook says about them:

Mercer is a global consulting leader helping clients around the world advance the health, wealth and careers of their most vital asset — their people. We work collaboratively with our clients to transform strategy into practical actions that drive results.

They are also committed to having a genuinely diverse workforce at all levels in the business. Not in a lip service saying the right things way, but in a meaningful way. I first came across them when a connection on Twitter told me that she has worked for them for 29 years and for 21 of those she had enjoyed flexible working. She said it’s a great organisation to work for and sent me the link to the Davos Breakfast meeting. (Here is the link.) The session kicks off with a message from the CEO. These are some of the things he said in his opening address before having a panel discussion of 3 women to one man:

Research shows that only 38% of male employees are engaged in diversity.

80% of executive decison making is by men.

You cannot leave out half of the population and expect to succeed

It’s a man and a woman issue.

Great, I thought, this is just what we need. For businesses to be truly gender equal and diverse the lead has to come from the top. It has to be a strategic objective, managers have to be held to account for their actions.

Then Came the Misogynists’ Ball

The following day the story in the Financial Times broke about men at a fund raiser in London groping (among other things) the waitresses. It read like something from an Edwardian orgy. As Sophie Walker, leader of WEP, commented on Twitter :

Details from @FT Misogynists’ Ball story stuck in my head. Women {the waitresses} having their phones taken off them, given wine before being paraded, being escorted out of the toilets if they were away too long. Some of them shaking in shock. At least some men there spoke up – Ah no. They didn’t

You can read the full, awful account here. Reading it chilled my blood. I literally felt sick. It wasn’t just a one off event. It was much worse that that. This event was full of very powerful men. Men who shape our world, run our major businesses, have influence with government; you could buy a dinner with Boris Johnson, tea with the Bank of England Governor. These were men who have enough money to bid for Range Rovers in the auction, or to buy plastic surgery to ‘Spice Up Your Wife’.  Presumably men who are not committed to genuine gender equality. The MC gleefully called it ‘the most UnPC event of the year.’ It reminded me of a very senior woman I coached  who told me how humiliated she felt every time she went to her company social events, where scantily clad women were put on stage as dancers and blue comedians making sexist jokes were hired. She had never felt she could complain.

Hate Mail?

To be honest, I rarely get full on hate mail, nasty tweets, or anything too unpleasant. I do get messages suggesting that I ignore men, don’t like men, and why don’t I include men in my courses etc. I always reply to these messages, politely, and explaining that men don’t seem to have an issue with gaining professional success in this world, but women do. I am fully cognisant that we have an unequal society and many men suffer, too. However, in no country in the world do women enjoy full equality with men. That is sobering. I don’t think it’s a woman issue, or problem, I think it’s a huge problem for all of society and I want to do my bit to change the status quo.

I run courses for women only because that is what they want. I’ve tried it both ways. Guess what happened in the mixed groups? The men talked most and the women inevitably approached me privately afterwards for advice. (See this post for some research on that.) I happily talk to mixed groups, and coach men, too. However, as you can read elsewhere in this blog, centuries of being treated as second class citizens in the world has had a corrosive effect on women’s confidence. As a starter we need to build up the confidence of women.

So, the next time someone says to me why do you do women only events, I shall simply send this article. Because they are still needed.

My Next Women Only Event

I am running two seminars looking a communication. I have long been fascinated by differences in style of communication. In the world of work, the business style of talk has evolved from how men talk, inevitably. We were not present in any meaningful way to influence that. A lot of nonsense has been written (like women and maps and men and crying) but we’re not going there. We are taking an hour or so at each seminar to look at the proper peer reviewed research, and then an hour to talk informally about it and how it impacts on you. It’s not a moan session, we’re not bemoaning our lot. It’s an empowering session. We are taking an intelligent look at the observed differences and deciding for ourselves if that means we want to change our style. Knowledge is power. You will make an informed choice about how you choose to behave at work.

So, here are the details:

The first one is on March 6th and is called Understanding Menglish (or communication differences between men and women). Details are here.

The second is on April 17th and is called Women, Be Yourself AND Communicate Effectively. Details are here.


Posted on January 24th, 2018 by

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