Coronavirus: Could this be a turning point for better gender balance in business?

Coronavirus: Could this be a turning point for better gender balance in business?

Coronavirus has had an impact on all aspects of business operations. But could there be some positives that result from the pandemic. Joy Burnford, founder and director of leadership development company, My Confidence Matters Ltd and leading advocate on gender equality in the workplace, a writer, speaker and mentor asks whether this could be a turning point for better gender balance in business.

 

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is predicting it will take 202 years for the economic global gender gap to close. We want to see this tipping point brought forward.  WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report showed the UK went from 15th to 21st in a year, and its founder Klaus Schwab said "This year’s report highlights the growing urgency for action".

At the start of this year My Confidence Matters launched a campaign, inviting people to take action towards gender equality (#2020actions). The goal was to encourage 2,020 people (men and women) to commit to do one thing to bring the workplace closer to gender equality.

Simon Gallow, former Development Director at UN Women UK, supports our campaign: “One of the most important things businesses need to do is to reframe the narrative around gender equality so that we move away from considering it to be a women's issue to be solved by women. In reality, it affects everyone including men, whether it’s their wellbeing, their choices as fathers or their job opportunities for the future. If we reframe the narrative to include men, then in reality everyone truly benefits.”

Unfortunately, the campaign came to a rather abrupt halt in March, when everyone’s focus – quite rightly – turned to managing through the crisis and survival during these unprecedented times. So much changed overnight.  Organisations had to set up remote working for their employees, alter vital systems and processes, and parents were suddenly expected to educate their children from home.

Diversity and inclusion initiatives pretty much dropped off the business agenda and unsurprisingly the Government Equalities Office and the Equality and Human Rights Commission withdrew the requirement for companies to report their gender pay gap.

Over the past couple of months, like many others, my colleagues and I have been juggling ‘home schooling’, cooking, cleaning and running a business. Whilst this has meant a pause in our #2020actions campaign, it has also given us time to reflect on the impact this crisis might have on gender balance in business more broadly.

Last year, My Confidence Matters carried out a survey of 2,500 people and produced a report called ‘Career confidence and the path to leadership’. In the survey women said that the two most significant things that had had an impact on their career choices to date were 'Health and well-being' and ‘Lack of flexible working’.

What changes have there been?

Coronavirus has spread one thing we were not expecting: the immediate shift by organisations to enable employees to work flexibly, and from home.  We know that many organisations will not go back to traditional 9-5 office work, and many will want to keep this new flexible business model alive.  So, once we move on from 2020, could this crisis be a catalyst for the flexibility we’ve been begging for and give women and men more opportunity to find balance in their home and work life enabling them to be better at both?

Or is there a more fundamental cultural shift that needs to take place? This is a subject we’re passionate about and we’d love to hear your views as we explore this further with new research over the summer.

Flexibility is certainly not the answer to a more gender balanced organisation, but by ensuring employees are given a choice in how and where they work, it is a step in the right direction.

If you are passionate about keeping a light on gender equality once life returns to some sort of normality and would like to add your company to our list of 2020 action supporters, please do get in touch via joy@myconfidencematters.com. Or if you’d like to add your own personal pledge and help our small ripples create big waves, please visit 2020actions.com.

 

Here are some examples to inspire you:

“To champion men and women making the most of their full paternity and maternity leave. By helping men do things seen as "female" we create greater equality for all.”

“Be more involved in, not only advancing my career, but those around me as well.”

"To show that it's ok for women to be ambitious, to be heard, seen and recognised as equals. #becausewe’reworthit"

“To support 5 women to get a promotion or a new role that enhances their career potential.”

"To speak up whenever and wherever I encounter a colleague being treated differently because they are female"

“To mentor younger women to start their board career."

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About the author

Joy Burnford is the founder and director of leadership development company, My Confidence Matters Ltd. She is also a leading advocate on gender equality in the workplace, a writer, speaker and mentor. She has over 20 years’ experience, working for a number of corporates and start-ups and is an influential speaker and guest on podcasts such as NatWest’s Championing Women’s Voices and Pro Talks. She is also a regular contributor at Forbes.com on the subject of women’s leadership and confidence at work. Joy is also a busy mum (and now home-school teacher!) of two wonderful children aged 11 and 7.

My Confidence Matters supports organisations to ensure that the gender balance is addressed, inspiring women to become confident leaders. They deliver coaching and leadership programmes to help women accelerate to the next stage of their careers. As Curators of Confidence, they bring together a range of expert coaches, trainers and facilitators to support each of its programmes. They also pioneer research on the topic of gender equality in the workplace. Their latest research ‘Getting to Equal: Career Confidence and the Path to Leadership’ surveyed 2,500 respondents on the subject of women’s leadership and progression in the workplace.

Category: Expert Advice

Released On 8th Jun 2020

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