In a BBC TV documentary hosted by Gabby Logan, investigating sexism in Football, one prominent manager uttered this phrase, “Why do women bother?’ You might be forgiven for thinking that football is just a male anachronism and that the world of commerce in the UK has embraced the Diversity agenda…However, in current terms when my daughter enters the job market in 8 years…it will, statistically, take her 30 years to earn the same as a male counterpart. Her career opportunities will be severely hampered if she decides to have a family; not too mention the likelihood of facing blatant and unconsious sexism in the workplace.
I recently attended the Young Woman Engineer of the year award at the IET, which showcases young female engineering talent. The publicity and celebration is worthy and inspiring. These young women will serve as excellent role models for my daughter’s generation. But…. And there is a big but……
Countless reports, Lord Davies’s in particular, have highlighted the stark problem of Gender Diversity.. A “Everywoman Report highlights the challenge that female middle managers have in advancing in the workplace . Do these reports make any difference? Are my white middle aged (some) corpulent, comfortable male managers likely to do anything about it? What is going to make the difference for those of us with real influence to shift our thinking and begin to take action?
I am not being hypocritical because I am one of those I am shouting ‘J’Accuse’ at… Whilst the vogue in HR Management circles is to put the responsibility or career development back on the individual, we may have to ask the question are our own beliefs limiting certain groups? Are we actually creating the conditions for this generation of women to succeed? THe Recent “EveryWoman Report” report shows that attitudes of when Female Middle Managers expect career development and when the HR community think they want development are at odds. What will stop us as HR professionals creating limiting beliefs and therefore limited thinking on how to make this happen? Are we capable of this or do we have to wait for government intervention to move the agenda along?
It is very easy for this debate to become clouded by cliched debates about added pressure on business, or too much government intervention. However, when I look my daughter in the eye in 20 years time….what will I say? Sorry – the combined might of our creativity can send satellites to Mars, create drugs that combat Aids but we have not tackled a basic human right and a driver of economic success? As a parent I, and countless others are prepared to take on the education system to ensure our sons and daughters get the best attention and efforts and we have seen radical improvements, especially, in Girls’ performance at schools and universities during the last 2 decades.Driven partly by democratic pressure and a mindset change of teachers, because it was deemed a waste of talent, and lets not forget – Unjust..
Does our creative and reforming zeal elude us when we become key influencers of change in an organisation. In addition, are we so short sighted that we ignore the legacy we can create for the current business and future generations, by ignoring a sheer waste of talent because of decisions we are making collectively everyday?
As business people we see the workplace as the engine of creativity and the vehicle to solve real problems… In the UK we have made grudging changes to legislation and working practices. These seem to be hard fought but hard to embed and hanging by a thread. Our collective creative minds, reforming zeal and long therm thinking has not managed to come anywhere close to solving this talent challenge during the last 20 years and whilst there are lists of reasons…(business environment, we aren’t ready etc), they are all excuses. And in the meantime, our daughters and sons are shortchanged because of increased pressure on working mothers and lack of equality for fathers which results in a wasted talent, opportunity and ultimately injustice for boys and girls in future generations.
I wonder if my daughter will be writing a blog in 20 years time saying Why didn’t you bother, Dad?