trifle* talks: Women in the Workplace
On International Women's Day 2018 we discuss if work is working for today's women.
Today is International Women's Day and 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the start of women's suffrage in the UK. It has been a tumultuous couple of years for women across the globe and across industries in the light of the election of Donald Trump, the #metoo campaign and with all eyes on Hollywood after the depths of the Weinstein abuse case was unveiled. Women have the stage (literally and metaphorically) and the eyes of the media and the world are upon us….not always empathetically of course.
As a business founded and run by a woman and with a largely female work team, we at trifle* can easily forget that our working environment is not how all women experience the work place - our studio is empowering and supportive of everyone. We work with lots of great clients, many of whom are female, but they are often the facilitators and not the decision makers. In fact, a quick run through the projects of the last 5 years and there is an undeniable lack of women in the top jobs.
We deal with property developers & managers, commercial agents, landlords and project management teams daily and in 8 years we have not worked with one woman in these roles - that's across 75 projects. We've experienced varying degrees of scepticism, condescension, nepotism and sexism. Our Creative Director Emma states, "Just last week I thought I needed to take Ross (a male colleague) to a meeting with me as I felt the particular client and Landlord would not take the point I needed to make about a project seriously... fortunately I shook the doubt off, went alone and held my own. It's a concerning part of our day to day experience in the world of Commercial Design but we roll with the punches, stay human, keep honest and continue to do brilliant work." But enough about us…..
In August 2017, UCAS announced that 36% more university places went to female students (aged 18) than their male peers and this trend has been growing for a number of years. (Press Association/Guardian Aug 2017) So, if more women are getting the qualifications - why aren't they getting the jobs?
The general feeling of inequality in the 'modern' workplace and of course the wonders of the web mean that there are some great community sites for women to discuss their experiences at work. The Southbank Centre has been running a Women of the World event all week which included a day dedicated to Women in the Creative Industries which was purely to explore and discuss subjects such as: What should a working day look like to be more inclusive for women? Who are the most forward-thinking organisations taking action and what can we learn from them? And what will happen if we fail to diversify? We look forward to hearing the results of the day as the UK continues to lag behind the US and Australia when it comes to having women in executive roles (15pc vs 19pc and 21pc respectively). (McKinsey UK report / Telegraph Jan 2018).
One of the biggest global communities for women is the Lean In Circle founded by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. There are now over 35,000 circles in 160 countries so clearly women want to talk! Lean In commissioned the Women in the Workplace 2017 study with McKinsey & Company - this talked to 222 companies employing more than 12 million people and additionally 77,000 employees completed a survey that explored experiences regarding gender, opportunity, career and work-life issues. It is the biggest study of its kind and makes for some fascinating reading. Some key findings of the study were (this is US data but we're confident the trends are the same in the UK):
*The bar for gender equality is too low - 50% of men think women are well represented when 1 in 10 senior leaders is a woman. Worryingly 30% of women feel the same, so clearly, we need to work on our self-esteem.
*Women hit the glass ceiling too early - women are 18% less likely to get promoted than their male peers which has a direct effect on representation of women in senior roles.
*Women get less support to advance their careers - women are far less likely to be talking to senior management regularly and yet those that do interact regularly with senior leaders are more likely to be promoted and aspire to be top executives. In response to this Lean In is running a #MentorHer campaign to encourage more men to mentor women in the workplace.
*Oh…and we're still doing way more than our share of the housework.
Changes are afoot and there have been pledges from large multinational companies as well as the more contemporary and forward-thinking startups. The Times Top 50 employers for women report and awards in 2017 highlighted companies like Unilever, Sky, Ashurst and Barclays as award winners for gender equality. Similarly, tech companies like Pinterest, AirBnB and Twitter have made commitments to increase the number of female employees throughout their businesses especially in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) areas. (Forbes Nov 2016)
We'd love to hear your experiences of being a working woman today so please feel free to get in touch via our Facebook or Messenger page. Let's keep these conversations going.
Happy International Women's Day!