Women at The Top

by | Mar 18, 2013 | Blog, Jessica Chivers, Motherhood, Workplace Psychology | 0 comments

Hilary_Devey-300x181Hilary Devey is back in the media today (18/3/13) and so I re-publish this post that was first published on 7th September 2012. My back is up after three minutes of Hilary Devey on the BBC’s two-parter “Women at the Top” (whaaaaaat?I’m screeching in a restrained, forehead wrinkling kind of way when she makes a throw away comment about women not wanting the top jobs enough or some such) so I press pause and take Hanif Kureishi’s Intimacy to bed with me. I go via the kitchen, flick open my Mac and seek views via the Mothers Work facebook page as to whether or not I should pursue Hilary’s documentary tomorrow. The responses are mixed. Naturally I come to the conclusion I must, it’s my subject after all and she’s probably been told to throw in a few incredulous remarks at the beginning to grab the viewers’ interest – this is TV not Radio 4’s The Moral Maze I remind myself – so I must move past that and carry on. Hobson’s choice is what I come back to it at 5 mins 27 seconds – given the choice would you choose a place on the board or a child? Aaaah, the wrong question Hilary, ‘please stop’ I inwardly scream and then she redeems herself with one pithy remark: “What I would really like to see is employers and females to have the best of both worlds. I’m not going to keep females out of my workplace simply because they want to develop the next generation of children. That’s wrong.” Nice one Hilary, I’m with you and my attention is yours for the next 53 minutes. Ceri Goddard, CEO Fawcett Society, is up next telling us at middle management level in the UK 70% are men and  30% women. Senior managers and board positions  = men 83%, 17% women. She’s right that women still do the vast majority of childcare and care of elderly relatives in the UK – shame she doesn’t offer any suggestions about how we get that to change. It may very well have been edited out and if you are interested then do talk to the Equality & Diversity people in your organisation about inviting me in to run my signature talk Loosening the grip of the Triple Bind. Ceri thinks that the old boys network is very much alive and kicking and the problem is down to men recruiting in their own image, i.e. other men – recruiting what they know. Yes Ceri, we need to change the workplace and we’re definitely not moving fast enough but what are your suggestions for how to do it? There are bound to be a few hundred people watching who would lap up any case studies of employers whose trumpets are worth blowing at this point. Show the backwards lot how to get themselves in gear! At this point I’m thinking – given the conversation I had with the Diversity Director at a large multi-national this week – let’s hear what the men have to say. We know the majority of bright minded, switched on women think it’s a gross waste of talent but what do young men think and what are they going to do to help their female colleagues? No time to linger on that thought though. Cut to Geraldine Hughs of Proctor & Gamble who tells us P&G had been leaking female talent at an alarming rate – 95% of female talent who’d left her business had gone to another job because they felt working at P&G wouldn’t fit with the style of working they could anticipate wanting to have in the future (code for when they have babies I think). P&G’s answer was to train all staff in appreciating the difference  between male and female styles coupled with a change to embrace flexible working at all levels of the business. The leaky pipe has been fixed and she can rightly beam with pride at what’s been achieved: 50/50 male/female in the most senior positions. Now that’s what I call seriously committed. Next in this beautiful televisual assiette is an exercise designed to show mixed teams are more successful than either all male or all female. Off the screen and in my head there’s a thought around how many years it’ll be before male UK business leaders look back and laugh at themselves for being so ridiculous. “Can you believe in 2012 women only had a 17% representation in the upper echelons of business? Golly, weren’t those chaps foolish back then?” And so to the question of how bearing children affects the career dynamic. The triple bind of working motherhood was brilliantly demonstrated between 37 – 53 or thereabouts minutes. We see Paula’s story and she perfectly represents any of tens of thousands of women. And where the bloody hell are the men I’m thinking again? Why haven’t the TV producers grabbed some men to thrust in front of the camera to justify what they’re doing and not doing? I come back to the idea that for change to happen we have to have men wanting to be as involved with their children as women. When men want part-time work, change will come quickly. We have to normalize the combination of work and parenthood – both men and women getting involved with sorting out school bags, attending play dates and designing meal plans. Children are not a woman’s problem; breeding is a societal ‘problem.’ I haven’t learned anything I didn’t know already but I’m overjoyed my drum-banging has been amplified by Hilary and the BBC. Whilst I’m hoping this 60 minute showcase has stirred a significant number of corporate minds who weren’t thinking, talking and walking gender balance sense already, the most powerful bit for me was watching Ms Devay show us how to critique a job ad. “Yes, I can do that, check ….yes, I can do that…check, yes, I can do that, check.” Not a shred of doubt in her mind. Women, we need to be much, much more like that because we’ve got a significant contribution to make and it starts with us believing it. Found this interesting/relevant/useful? You might be interested in my work with The Talent Keeper Specialists– www.talentkeepers.co.uk

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