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What’s really holding women back at work? by Catriona Cookson

International Women’s Day has been celebrated on March 8th since 1913. With the World Economic Forum predicting that the gender pay gap won’t be closed until 2186, this is an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review from two professors and their work with a global consulting firm. Retained by the firm to investigate why women were leaving and why they weren’t making it to partner they set about interviewing staff and gathering the data.

Most of the narrative around this assumes the long hours required to reach the highest promotions don’t fit with women and their family life and so their career stalls.

Is this really true? The professors found that the long hours culture was as much a problem for men as for women, and there was virtually no difference in the staff turnover rate between men and women. Women were held back because unlike men they were encouraged to take accommodations including part time working and moving to internal roles. In an attempt to promote the careers of women, this didn’t solve the problem, it actually perpetuated it.

The real culprit they found was a culture of long hours, of overselling and overdelivering, of having consultants produce so much work, some of which was unnecessary. This affected everyone but had a disproportionate effect on women.

Well, needless to say the leaders at the consulting firm didn’t respond well to this …an uncomfortable truth is one they are used to delivering to clients but doesn’t sit well on their own doorstep! The professors hit a brick wall – the leaders of the firm could deflect responsibility for the lack of women partners on the grounds it is inevitable, men could justify the sacrifices they made in family life as inevitable and vice versa for women ……and all the while the long hours culture goes unchallenged.

There’s a lot more to take from this article, and it’s well worth a read. Its conclusion is a sensible one – what holds women back at work is not a unique challenge of balancing the demands of work and family life. It’s a general culture of corporate overwork in which women pay higher professional costs. To make working life better for women, we need to also make it better for men. Men need to work reasonable hours, take their paternity leave, and their shared parental leave. In doing so, their own working experience is enhanced, their families and friends will see the benefit and in turn, there’s a greater opportunity of workplace equality for women.

Is this achievable? …..there’s no reason why not …..but EVERYONE has a responsibility to make it happen.

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Extremes of the Gender Gap: Automation and Role Models – by Tariq Siraj

It’s International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th March – a day to celebrate the incredible progress that has been made in so many areas. However, it’s also a good moment to take a look at what still needs to be done…

Apparently we’re over 100 years away from true gender parity in the global economy according to the  World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report. Whichever metrics one prefers to use, that is a grossly high figure.

At one end of the scale is education where it is forecast to take just 12 years, while at the other end we are still over 250 years away in the area of ‘economic participation and opportunity’ where things have actually regressed from the previous year.

The revolution of higher and higher female participation has taken place alongside a tech revolution whereby more and more roles at the lower levels become subject to automation. Female participation numbers are also still very low in areas with the greatest wage growth such as cloud computing (12%), engineering (15%) and data & AI (26%).

For these reasons among others, Malayah Harper and Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen – two of the world’s leading women’ rights champions – push the idea that feminist leadership holds the key to true gender equality. The explore the development sector specifically, but essentially argue that cultural transformation is key; tackling the roots of sexism and creating a set of feminist principles to operate by.

This is a delicate balancing act. Positive discrimination which can be damaging in its own right, but the ‘role model effect’ is clearly important – not just as a way to inspire participation, but also to clear a path for progression.

Achieving the actual participation is one thing, but having something achievable and meaningful to aim for is becoming even more important.

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Photo: UN Women / Ryan Brown / CC BY-NC-ND

More investment isn’t simply the answer. A different approach is needed…by Tariq Siraj

Boris Johnson sat down with a host of African leaders at the UK-Africa Investment Summit last month and the emphasis at these things is always to throw out huge numbers and make bold promises.  Well, as genuine and well-meaning as that might be, there is a growing feeling that it’s not the actual investment number itself but the where and how that matters most.

As the problems and needs of the developing world become ever more challenging and complex, the solutions have more nuance than just bigger headline numbers and ‘more, more, more’.  In Africa, for example, 20 million new jobs need creating (double the rate of the last 5 years) just to sustain current unemployment levels.

As this article very well points out, social progress needs to be the motivator – not just jobs and dollars. A genuine high social impact initiative is simply a higher impact initiative. It helps the poorest more directly (ie those who need it most) and these type of investment are also the most sustainable, long-lasting and far-reaching.

- Tariq Siraj

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How to “Get Your Life in Order” (GYLIO) by Davey Peyton

An interesting article, especially whilst everyone is stuck inside watching rain and snow fall sideways in the UK, from the BBC on the practice of GYLIO and how it can help shape your day to achieve more with less stress. It focuses on life admin and reducing your burden through a series of small changes.

We all have busy lives filled with more boring life admin than anyone wants to deal with. Whilst scrolling through I found myself remembering the staggering amount of time I waste by procrastinating over these things whether it be sorting bills, doing housework or organizing your personal life.

Unfortunately, you can’t simply offload most of these things, without paying someone that is, but one thing you can avoid is slogging through job boards, formatting your CV to look perfect or dealing with too many online assessments. Drop us an email or gives us a call and let us take the stress out of finding your next role so you’ve got more time to focus on everything else.

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Learning at work …”Nothing that matters is ever learned with ease” by Catriona Cookson

Gianpiero Petriglieri is an associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD who has spent many years coaching and teaching individuals and developing learning initiatives for clients. His articles are interesting and engaging, always worth a read. A recent one on learning at work caught my eye.

All major businesses (and smaller ones too) stress that learning and development of staff is key to business growth. Yet as Gianpiero outlines in his article learning at work can be complicated. Perhaps some of the disquiet arises from the fact that a lot of training can now be done online, flexibly at a time to suit the individual. So far so good ……but learning IS work and should be accommodated in the working day rather than the individual feeling obliged to do in his/her own time.

And what about the fact that learning can be difficult and challenging sometimes generating at the very least ambivalence and even resistance……what if you don’t like the subject or can’t do it. We’d all do well to remember “Nothing truly novel, nothing that matters, is ever learned with ease”

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