Can there be gender equality at work?
We were recently thrilled to work with Bloom on an event which brought men and women together to talk about gender equality in the workplace. And also reveal some uncomfortable truths...
One of the best things about being at The Book of Man is that it enables us to make friends across a variety of areas all of whom are interested in change. We were therefore delighted to be approached by Bloom to co-host an event called ‘The Bridge: How to Close the Gender Divide at Work’.
Bloom are a professional network for women in communications and are a huge deal in bringing about gender equality in their industry. As an organisation which believes equality is good for men as well as women – in terms of mental health, fatherhood, and christ, just standing up for what’s right when it comes to equal pay – we were excited to collaborate on what felt like a landmark event. It was the first one where Bloom had invited men along and certainly there was a buzz in the room – after all, what can change unless we’re all talking together.
BOM Editor Martin Robinson co-hosted the event with Campaign magazine’s Nicola Kemp, who said, “The male archetype of success can alienate both men and women.” As men who have been on the receiving end of ‘Man Up’ Alpha arsehole behaviour throughout our careers, we heartily agree.
To discuss matters including that pay gap, sexual harassment and what policy changes can reap rewards, the pair were joined by panellists Sophia Durrani, Managing Partner at UM London (“The minute someone feels uncomfortable, that’s where you have to draw the line – that goes for men and women.”), Sarah Jenkins, CMO of Grey London (“Ask the awkward questions, that’s the only way we are going to create change.”), Xavier Rees, CEO of Havas London (“If you don’t like the leader, vote with your feet and go somewhere you do feel like you’ll be respected.”) and Will De Groot, Head of Insight at The Elephant Room (“Talking about women as a group can be quite reductive – we have to start understanding it’s far more complex.”).
The night also served as a launch for Bloom’s new initiative called The Exchange. This is a new type of cross-mentoring pilot inviting 20 industry-leading men to be matched with 20 Bloom women to break down the barriers contributing to the gender divide in our industry. It works by having the senior Bloom women mentor senior men on how best to retain female talent within their company and ensure a more fair, equal workplace. The men will mentor Bloom women on how to overcome the barriers to leadership in their own career. Good, right?
You can find out more details here – if you’re a senior, influential male in the communications industry you really should be a part of this.
Lastly, as part of the night, men and women were asked to contribute to Bloom’s legendary Booth of Truth, an anonymous confessional about what really goes on in workplaces, and what people really think. Here are some choice cuts from it:
“I am concerned that men either don’t want to face up to the issues of toxic masculinity; or have over-reacted and have lost their strength and sense of self.” (female)
“My business has only white male senior leaders. The atmosphere has become increasingly toxic.” (male)
“I found out last week that a male candidate was being offered a 35% higher salary than me for the same role that I do. My boss then admitted I was underpaid when I asked about my salary.” (female)
“Despite #metoo, there are high profile firings which had no impact on people’s careers. what message does that send?” (female)
“Other forms of abuse such as bullying, bias & personal attacks now seem to take a back seat. Whereas #metoo has sometimes taken on an unhealthy amplification.” (male)
“Satisfactory balance for mothers is impossible, feel you are failing at work and not reaching your full potential and failing as a mother.” (female)
“I’m 48 and I’ve never had a female boss. Lack of female representation at very senior levels is a huge problem.” (female)
“There is no support in place (no professional HR), and good women have and will continue to leave as we lack opportunity for growth.” (male)
“Outwardly, and consciously, we’re all very aware of gender equality and upholding it in our agency, however, I still see (and I am guilty of this too) women fulfilling really stereotypical roles in the office and in meetings (setting up, pouring tea etc) which I don’t think helps. So there’s still a lot of engrained division that’s not as obvious that needs to be overcome. And it’s these small acts that men need to be aware of as well, not just the bigger more obvious ones that are easier to call out.” (female)
“Women are allowed to say things that men aren’t. Women can say ‘ooh he looks well fit’, but if i said that as a man I would get in trouble.” (male)
“On a handful of occasions, I’ve encountered women being what I felt was inappropriately flirtatious in a way that would likely get a man sacked… Meanwhile, I’ve seen men who say one daft thing in one moment have it used to destroy their careers.” (female)
“A perception that females who validly need to experience a tough conversation can hide behind sexual bias unfairness instead. This restricts tough conversations.” (male)
“I think when everyone can be open and speak their mind everyone wins – but it has to be managed and handled right.” (female)
“I think that mostly this kind of thing is changed by empathy; appreciating other people’s PoV helps you establish an environment and behaviours which means there is no/ less fear” (male)
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