Working Transitions

"A Balancing Act"International Woman's Day 2019

This week, across the world people are celebrating International Women's Day – the theme this year is #Balanceforbetter.

Across all echelons of society, the race is on for balance and diversity - a gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in sport – the list goes on.

It’s been over 100 years since women were granted the right to vote. In 2019, we have a female prime minister and more than 30 per cent of MPs are women – both unthinkable a century ago. Whilst this is a huge leap, we are still some way from equality in the workplace. Despite over 40 years of legislation, the percentage of females in ‘top’ roles continues to show a gaping chasm.

Research has shown time and time again that having women at the top is good business sense: firms do better with diversity. Working Transitions, established in 1993 is a prime example – led by a female CEO with a high proportion of women in key leadership roles and throughout our team, as the largest wholly UK owned transition specialist we believe this balance has been critical to our success.

So, why are organisations still struggling to get the balance right? A lack of role models, poor flexibility and work-life balance at a senior level, challenging maternity provision, fewer women in c-suite ‘feeder’ roles and a less effective network all appear to play a part.

Barrier | bar-ri-er | A fence or other obstacle that prevents movement or access.

Barriers to success - both real and perceived – remain in place for many women that simply don’t exist for men. It’s our responsibility, as forward-thinking organisations that are truly committed to creating balance and diversity, to put measures in place to support women to thrive.

After more than 25 years of supporting women in the workplace, we outline just a few of the areas where, with the right approach barriers can be overcome..

1.LACK OF SUPPORT FOR MATERNITY RETURNERS

Women make up circa 50% of the workforce in the UK. Of these, 80% will become mothers during their working life. Statistically, therefore, most working women will personally experience maternity leave at least once in their career.

Returning to work after having a baby represents a significant transition – individuals returning to their role after any period of absence can feel anxious about the prospect of returning to work - this is often associated with decreased confidence from lack of skill usage, coupled with lack of contact with the organisation. 

Maternity returners may experience a mixture of positive and negative feelings, including a growing sense of anxiety about re-joining the business. Concerns about childcare, maybe battling to get flexible, family-friendly hours, an inability to stay late and guilt at leaving a child in daycare can make the return feel almost overwhelming – perhaps, therefore, it is no surprise that a high number of mothers who return to work leave the organisation within one year.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Individuals who are supported before and during their return to work have a positive experience, are more engaged and become fully effective more quickly.

Specialist maternity coaching, although only offered by the most forward-thinking organisations currently, is growing in use, as companies recognise that it provides an important and effective intervention at this critical time. It enables women to make the right choices to suit their situation and aspirations and enables organisations to retain talent. An external coach has no fixed agenda or pre-conceived ideas of the returners career and is able to provide confidential and objective advice

SELF LIMITING BELIEFS

Many women hold themselves back from reaching their full potential - they simply don’t feel that they are good enough. Years of gender bias, stereotypes, unfair policies and pay practices mean that it’s not uncommon for women to ‘shy away’ from applying for the top spot. Limiting beliefs are often a key reason for a women’s lack of confidence and ability to be perceived as a potential leader.

Jane Harrison, Executive Coach, Working Transitions told us:

 “I believe that there has never been a better time for women in leadership roles. We are entering the “Social Age” where positional authority alone won’t cut it. More importantly is how you build your reputation through authenticity, humility, trust, collaboration and mutually beneficial networks. Not through hierarchical, command and control structures. It doesn’t matter what you “say” you’re good at – the truth will be broadcasted for you through the airwaves.

While it would be dangerous to generalise, I believe the new leadership age requires skills and strengths that play to women’s natural talents – namely EQ, empathy, relationship building and creating great working practices through others not unto others.

I often find when coaching women leaders that they don’t recognise their strengths in these areas at all. And it’s not surprising – it’s still a very male-dominated environment out there – regardless of your position. I hear of women been talked over in meetings or ignored entirely. Sexism is rife.”

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Offering coaching to women in the workplace – particularly those in - or working towards – key leadership roles, allows a safe environment to explore needs, motivations, desires, skills and thought processes to assist in enhancing self-worth and making real, lasting change. Ensuring that line managers of whatever gender are equipped with the coaching skills to develop and mentor the female talent pipeline is also key to enabling balance.

SUPPORTING MENOPAUSE IN THE WORKPLACE

Inters in the impact of Menopause in the workplace is having a ‘moment’ and is becoming a key topic on the wellbeing agenda for many organisations. And rightly so, currently, there are around 3.5 million women aged over 50 years employed in the UK. Studies have shown that around 50% of women find work ‘somewhat’ or ‘fairly’ difficult due to the symptoms of menopause. That’s a lot of women - and a staggering 10% have considered giving up work altogether as a result of their symptoms. 

Symptoms of the menopause can vary widely – from almost no symptoms at all, to the classic hot flushes and mood swings, to depression and lack of concentration. Various studies have also shown that menopause symptoms can affect confidence and energy levels and, in some cases, can have an adverse effect on performance.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Open up the lines of communication!  In many workplaces, menopause is a taboo subject – but it needn’t be, supporting menopause in the workplace can be surprisingly simple.  There are many simple, practical interventions which can help women to manage their symptoms – from environmental adjustments (provision of fans, access to open windows) to changes in working patterns (avoiding excessive hours, allowing breaks where needed, allowing flexible or home working). Firstly, however, it’s important to raise awareness – a range of workshops are now available, aimed at various audiences, to educate and ensure the right level of support.

To ensure the right interventions, line manager support is crucial – and can make a significant difference to a woman’s experience at work. However, many women simply don’t feel comfortable disclosing the fact that they are experiencing menopausal symptoms to their manager. Ensuring that line managers are trained and confident in how to have sensitive conversations and offer practical support can play a key role in breaking down the taboos that surrounding this subject leading to acceptance that this is simply a natural part of woman’s life – like maternity - and should not be a barrier to career success.

To find out how Working Transitions can help your organisation, support your teams and achieve #balanceforbetter get in touch or visit our website www.workingtransitions.com.

 

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Author
Working Transitions
Date
08 March 2019
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