An Equal World Is An Enabled World

d&i strategies gender diversity managing bias Mar 03, 2020

By Deborah Croft.

The International Women's Day 2020 campaign theme is #EachforEqual. 

An equal world is an enabled world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.

We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women's achievements.

Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world. Let's all be #EachforEqual.

What does “equal” look like in your organisation?

How consistent are your leaders in their actions and behaviours around empowering employees to have a caring role (e.g. be it looking after children, ageing parents, themselves, others?) and a career? 

In most organisations and in society, there is still much work to be done to challenge stereotypes and biases around the role of the carer. When we think of caring, most think of a female.... it's the mum who picks up children from school, receives the phone call from the childcare, looks after her ageing parents, performs the house chores etc

This P&G India advert “Share The Load" always moves me and captures the story perfectly. 

As mentioned already, the IWD theme for 2020 is an equal world is an enabled world.

Historically, measures have been taken to “fix” women in a bid to progress more women into leadership, to create a gender equal world.

Yet this hasn’t been successful. Why?

Because equal attention has not been given to building an enabling ecosystem that supports equality between men and women. 

If the levers to integrate personal and professional lives were “equal”, we would see far greater progress in creating a gender equal world.


Let’s take a lever close to our heart in Thriving Talent.

#1 Equal parental care

How can this change challenge stereotypes and fight biases?

When you make this equal for both parents (AND you educate and recognise your leaders to fully endorse and champion it), we typically see the following outcomes:

a) Stereotypes are challenged

The second parent is recognised as an equal contributor to family life, and if encouraged to fully use their parental leave, research has shown that they will continue to feel empowered to ask for what they need. This allows them to be a hands-on parent and a successful professional.

In Switzerland, there is still so much stigma and judgement around a father being an active carer. As of the date of this article, this is reflected in the Swiss federal legislation, with no law granting fathers the right to paternity leave.

And what if there are two fathers in a family, who have a child?

It is even more complicated for same-sex parents, where company policy only supports a stereotypical heterosexual family unit.

What happens if your wife is the birthing mother - as her wife, do you receive “parental leave” or is that dependent on your manager ...and are you brave enough to even ask?

b) Bias is reduced

Bias is reduced during the recruitment period.  Managers realise that they will be impacted by parental leave irrelevant of who they hire. Therefore, women in their late 20s/early 30s are less risky to hire! 

c) Families are stronger

The number of dual-career families grows every year. The challenges that arise when both parents are juggling professional commitments and homelife are well-documented.

These challenges are exasperated when families work and live away from their extended family and close friends - feelings of isolation, overwhelm and failure often arise.

This is why attrition following a maternity leave can be as high as 35% in Europe.

What is harder to quantify of course is the “invisible attrition” when women opt out of leadership as it feels too much when the primary carer.

Evidence also supports the fact that when both parents have been the “primary carer”, with both being able to use their paternity leave, they feel more connected to the child and also have a better understanding of the world of a “stay at home parent”. The result?

Better empathy and understanding between the parents; plus the mental and practical load is shared between both parents! 

Let me talk about another lever which is critical for a healthy and empowering ecosystem.

#2 Working smartly & offering flexible work options

Is your flexible working  #EachforEqual?

Or is the right to use flexible working based on unwritten, stereotypical rules of a hierarchy of needs?

What do I mean?

Is it more acceptable for a mother to ask to work reduced hours and in doing so, has this just kicked her out of any leadership opportunities? 

This is a probable risk when companies still work on out-dated principles and the dominant belief is that that you cannot be a leader and work less than 100%. (If you recognise this in your own company, do let us know and we would be happy to share our research paper where we bust this myth in Switzerland)

Or is it less acceptable for an employee who has chosen or had it chosen for them, to not have children, to ask for what they need?

Do leaders demonstrate that working flexibly is also a choice at leadership or is this a rarity?

What is the opportunity for you and your organisation to broaden perceptions?

An equal world is an enabled world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.

So, what about my responsibilities?

I often say to my girls, Olivia and Alexandra (aged 14 and 11), that we can choose our thoughts and our reactions, even if sometimes that may mean digging deep to seek out new perspectives and apply the “2% what if?” rule. 

I’ll have “choose your lens” written on my gravestone I am sure 😊 and although it’s what I stand by, it’s not always easy to honour.

As co-founder of Thriving Talent, with Natalie Wilkins, I’ll continue to strive for the changes we want to see, to help organisations create greater inclusion, so that men or women don’t need to choose between a career and a caring role - whatever stage of life they are at.

Of course, caring and career is not always the prioritised in a company's budget, but I hold onto the thought that “no today is not a no tomorrow” and we mustn’t give up! 

Finally celebrating women’s achievements - if I look to my circle of female family and friends, each and every one of them can celebrate personal achievements, stepping into courage, overcoming challenges and being resilient to curved balls that life throws at us.

Olivia and Alexandra are lucky to have so many inspiring role models in their world!

If you have read this far - thank you; and if you would like to explore the levers that enable an inclusive and empowering ecosystem for your employees, please do get in touch.

Together, we can make a difference.

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