Take a Leap of Faith into 2020

It's a leap year; great news for those born on the 29th of February. For the rest of us, it’s just another new year – or is it?  We may not be able to control external circumstances like the economy, politics or the weather, but there are things we can do to increase the chances of a successful year – leap or otherwise.  Here are some ideas:

Your Emotional State

Tune in to your mental well-being. We cannot control having emotions – such is the fate of the human species – but we can learn what to do with them when they’re triggered. And what happens if we ignore our emotions or misapply them (leading to anxiety and depression)? You can learn the difference between healthy and toxic emotions such as shame and the impact it has on you as a person, particularly if you’re a man, since society has been telling men that having and showing emotions is unmanly. But what’s unmanly – in my opinion – is to deny ourselves one of the fundamental aspects of who we are, ie. emotional beings. So, do yourself a favour this year, pick up a podcast or an audiobook on emotional health and broaden your horizons.

Your Finances

When it comes to financial matters, many of us prefer to close our eyes and hope for the best or alternatively, leave all financial decisions to our partners. Neither is a “strategy” towards financial independence. Try changing the dialogue this year by starting with a conversation on the topic. By making time to talk about your finances, your chances of setting off together on the journey towards financial freedom will be less stressful for you and your loved ones. What then? There are a million books out there to help you become better at planning, budgeting, saving and investing. I recommend You’re Not Broke – You’re Pre-Rich! written by Emilie Bellet of Vestpod, a financial-savviness network for women. Take a look, join their mailing list and perhaps attend one of their many workshops on how to become smarter with your hard-earned money.

Your Relationship

The holidays can be a stressful time for relationships: we have such high expectations of them that we become disappointed if they fail to deliver. The associated tension is sometimes offloaded onto our loved ones. Try re-thinking the situation and instead of giving in to bad habits and disrespecting the closest person to you, make an effort to listen to them and take a greater interest. Maybe even set a couple of goals for the relationship this year. Anything from planned weekends away to turning the relationship up a notch. And while you’re talking to each other, don’t forget to discuss equality and future expectations of each other. If you expect to have a career of your own, think about what that means for you and your partner – will they support you equally at home as they might in your career aspirations? Will they be an equal carer for your mutual offspring? Will they regard what you do at home with the same awe and respect as what you deliver in the workplace? And while we’re on the topic…

Your Career

The start of a year is always a good time to think about your own career trajectory. In what direction do you want to take your career in the next few months? Is a promotion on the cards? Or have you been toying with the idea of setting up your own business? It’s a great time to attend a goal-setting workshop or read a book on the topic or attend a webinar to help you clarify your career ambitions and set a few goals to improve your career in 2020. Here’s one suggestion: join our webinar on the 17th of January Run Your Career As If It’s Your Business and get a few ideas of how to go about moving up.

If you have any of your own thoughts to share on how to embrace the new year and decade, we would love to hear them!

Active Voice: Start The Year With A Career Makeover

Thinking of giving your career an overhaul? We give you a handful of tips on how to get more from your job this year and beyond.

  1. Prioritise yourself – set aside time to have a “discussion” with yourself; consider what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t and where you might want to go. Investigate whether there are training days, evening courses or online learning modules that you can access to make you more employable.
  2. “Who” you know is more important than “what” you know for career progression. Start building up your network, update your Linkedin profile, bite the bullet and begin attending networking events.
  3. Set out a game plan. Anticipate what you need to do to further your career and draw up pragmatic strategies that will help you to achieve your goals. Reinventing careers can be overwhelming, so make a list of “to-dos” and cross one off each day or week.
  4. Explore the possibility of using a mentor to help you get ahead – for more inspiration read our Editorial column.
  5. Be flexible; some career changes take time to implement and this needs to be a consideration if you have financial or family commitments. Take small steps, but work on your plans every day.
  6. Be realistic about setting a timetable. A career makeover or reboot doesn’t happen overnight. Give yourself time to accommodate mistakes and learn from them and also to revise your plans.

To make it all a bit easier to organise, join our webinar on 17th January - Run Your Career as if it’s Your Business.  For a £15 investment,  Voice At The Table’s resident expert on Career Mapping and Mentoring Schemes, Karin Mueller, will set you on the right track to re-shaping your career.

We All Stand To Learn From Mentoring

By Melissa Jackson

There’s an old African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child”. How does this translate in the modern diverse workplace as a snappy one-liner? I’m working on it, with a bit of help from the world of mentoring and the role it plays in shaping our professional identities.

We are all products of the people who’ve walked in and out of our lives and their thoughts and opinions, unconsciously or otherwise, will shape our characters and destinies. Successful “personalities” are often asked to identify an inspirational teacher who raised their aspirations and set them on the path to success or a sporting hero whose values piqued their desire to “go for it”.

Our world is changing, we hear the word “influencer” being used on social media to describe people who have access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.

What a fantastic tool to have at your fingertips. It may be that millennials and Generation Zs are already tapping in to social media influencers for inspiration and career “guidance” and it is something we may all need to master in the future, whichever generation we belong to.

But setting aside virtual reality for a moment, I believe there is still a place for good old-fashioned face-to-face contact via mentoring, as one generation shares its life experiences with others to nurture and guide their career in what can become a mutually rewarding encounter.

Mentoring is essential for greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Encouraging young women to reach for the top and fulfil their goals should be at the heart of company policy. Mentors – both male and female – all have a part to play in challenging dated gender stereotypes to enable women to compete with men on an equal footing and ultimately shift the balance of power across the board.

The word mentor means “an experienced and trusted adviser”. Good mentoring involves creating a private, trusted space where individuals can share the important things that matter to them – whether they are personal, professional, or a combination of both – and draw on the mentor’s experience to help them make decisions.

In her role as Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Champion, Melanie Dawes, said: “I have drawn on the support of mentors throughout my career, particularly at times when I have been considering a career move, or trying to work out how to balance work and family life. It isn’t something that stops as you get more senior – I still draw on support from mentors – some I have known for years, some more recently. Looking back, I wish I had been braver in asking for mentoring support when I was younger. I wrongly thought I was imposing on people’s time. Most people I know who act as mentors say it’s a pleasure to be asked.”

While it may be perceived wisdom that we need more women mentors to encourage greater career progression for female employees, it is well-documented that if we want more women leaders, we need men in powerful positions to support their ascension. We should also embrace the dividends of female leaders mentoring men, to break down stereotypes and engineer more gender-balanced leadership teams.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Wendy Murphy, professor of management at Babson College, Massachusetts, says that those men who publicly promote and sponsor women are seen as champions for diversity; win, win - that’s a great reputation to hold and one that could influence progressive 21st century office politics.

So, going back to my starting premise – here’s my take on a (sort-of) snappy one-liner… “It is not enough to nourish one’s own ambition, we should seek to nourish others with wisdom, insight and integrity”.

Conceivably a valid mission statement for the new decade.

Guest Blog: Why Digital Marketing Is Stuck In The Dark Ages.

By Jamie Brim

Gender imbalance in the workplace can be harmful for both men and women. The core issue is that even in 2020, women are either not getting the jobs they deserve, or, when they do, they are harassed by co-workers or expected to prove their worth continuously.

A past Voice At The Table piece confirmed that men can also feel like they fall into harmful gender roles in the workplace - when they want to take time off to be with their loved ones - or being thought of as the “breadwinners” of their families. Overall, these archaic roles and stereotypes affecting men and women are being perpetuated by the fact that many industries are still lacking gender diversity.

Recruitment is another area where women tend to be disadvantaged compared to their male counterparts. Many industries continue to hire far fewer women than men, even when candidates of each gender share the same qualifications (and sometimes even when the women are more qualified). One such industry is digital marketing, where, according to India Today, nearly three-quarters of jobs go to men in some countries.

One possible explanation for this is that marketing is related to the generally aggressive field of sales and women are more hesitant to take risks for fear of coming off as "pushy" or controlling, as many powerful women are so often (and so wrongly) accused of being. Similarly, digital marketing in particular is also closely related to certain parts of the tech industry, which has been disproportionately dominated by a male workforce since its inception.

Digital marketing probably isn't something that most people outside the industry consciously think of because it's become so thoroughly integrated into our world that it mostly goes unnoticed. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a very busy, active, and prevalent business. As suggested by Ayima Kickstart, gaining digital marketing traction is one of the most important ways to grow a business today, particularly when it comes to new start-ups looking to gain customer bases. It’s an intricate process designed to solve some of the biggest hurdles start-ups face, and which, depending on a specific company’s needs, may involve everything from content creation, to data analysis, to social media campaigns. All of this work, across so many modern businesses, gives you some idea of just how many jobs there are in this field today.

It is highly unfortunate that women are being left out of this booming and still expanding industry, and unfortunately inequality is likely to persist in the near future. As mentioned previously, there are already plenty of other tech-related industries that seem to be plagued by a perpetual and dramatic gender gap. But that doesn’t mean it has to stay this way, or that digital marketing businesses have to follow the same path. As with any social issue, the first step in making a change is awareness. The more people there are who can open their eyes to these issues, the less common they’ll become. So, if you happen to work in the field of digital marketing, keep this gap in mind - and if not - share this information with anyone who is!

All aboard the D&I time machine

Dear Reader,

It’s the 10th of December 2029 and we’re rapidly approaching the end of the 2nd decade of the 2nd millennium.

As I reflect, not only over the year but over the decade, there is much to report, specifically in the diversity and inclusion space.

I recall writing a similar blog for our December 2019 newsletter, full of hope and caution. There were both positive and less positive signs that the world was changing. Thought leaders agreed that diversity was the answer and that we needed a culture of inclusion to harness that diversity. It was clear to me then that many people understood this and were willing to learn how to mitigate our ingrained, natural biases.

However, there were many challenges to this progress from those who felt threatened and marginalised. And things became worse before they improved: President Trump got re-elected to a second term, giving voice and validation to racism, sexism and other fears that manifest themselves in overt and covert discrimination. Britain left the EU, returning to an island mentality out of which it would not emerge for years. Similar political inward-facing measures took place in many other parts of the world.

Companies that seemingly embraced diversity and inclusion started cutting their budgets and before we knew it, D&I all but disappeared from the corporate agenda.

While attention began to turn away from mutual respect and understanding, the pace of technological change maintained its trajectory, leaving very little time for people to be human. As a society, we marginalised face-to-face interactions, became more comfortable with verbal attacks on social media and produced artificial intelligence that failed to reflect the extensive make-up of the world we live in. Political party manifestos became shorter and shallower, slogans overtook headlines and attention spans dropped to 3 seconds before losing interest.

It was not a pretty picture. We were edging towards a dystopian future the like of which we came across only in novels. And there it was, nearly reality. And then big companies started falling – they found their global market-share impossible to maintain as the rest of the world turned towards local markets and closed borders, just like we did. Many of the FTSE 250 companies - highlighted by the Hampton-Alexander Report in 2019 to have made little or no progress on gender diversity in their executive teams (many of whom were all male) - disappeared altogether, leaving chasms in employment, industry sectors and economic contribution.

In one sense, this self-eradication did yield a bright spot: companies that sowed seeds towards inclusion in the early days were in a position to pick up the slack of those companies that failed. Famed for their selfless leadership approaches, these organisations managed to tap into creativity, decision making power and critical thinking skills that came from assembling diverse teams and allowing friction to exist within them. Inclusive leaders saved the day by developing team cultures that allowed open, respectful dialogue, the expression of differences of opinions, and valued diverse views. These companies were able to tap into the creativity of their number one asset – their people – and unlike most organisations, began to put a quantifiable accounting value on the benefits of learning and development, emotional intelligence, diversity and inclusive behaviours. By utilising these previously unquantifiable contributions, the correlation between diversity and inclusion and the attainment of organisational goals was distinctly visible and undeniable.   I remember sitting in the audience when I first heard about the concept of measuring these immeasurable benefits and thinking to myself ‘This is the answer!’   And indeed, it was. Coupled with the deep desire of these momentous leaders to restore balance and humanity to our society, the ability to quantify the benefits of emotional intelligence, individual development and judgment-free behaviours changed how companies would attribute value to their people.

This new way of valuing people spread quickly through organisations and started spilling out onto the public at large. It took a few years and we’re still not entirely there, but this is the first time in years that I honestly believe that we’re on the right track.

It’s a shame we couldn’t get here quicker, without having ruined so many people’s livelihoods. The world was an ugly place for a while - and it’s still smouldering from the figurative fires in many places – but we’re clearly on the mend.

So, as we approach the third decade of this second millennium, I’m full of hope and aspiration. Maybe, just maybe, the need for companies like Voice At The Table will soon disappear and I will finally be able to turn my attention to retirement.

One step at a time, as they say.

Happy 2030!

Active Voice: A year in the lives of inspiring women

Although it’s the festive season, Active Voice is casting aside thoughts of the three wise men in favour of celebrating a handful of 2019’s inspirational and influential women. We hope that by feasting on their success stories you may be energised and motivated to find your own greatness and take it forward with you to fulfil your potential in 2020.

  1. We’re starting with the youngest first; Greta Thunberg, the teenage founder of the international youth movement against climate change. Greta is a juvenile powerhouse of energy and enthusiasm for saving the planet for everyone. She’s won a place in Hillary and Chelsea Clintons’ recently published “The Book of Gutsy Women”.   Commenting in the London Evening Standard, Hillary said, “It’s been fascinating to watch how scared a lot of grown male leaders are of this 16-year-old girl.”
  2. Dina Asher-Smith – the fastest woman in British history. She holds the British records in the 100 and 200 metres. World domination beckons and she has her sights set on Olympic gold next year in Tokyo.  Not only accomplished on the track, Asher-Smith has 10 A* GCSEs, three As at A-level and a 2:1 in history from King’s College London.
  3. Gina Miller, who has twice mounted legal challenges against the government - over Brexit - and won. Her success in the courts has come at a price - she has become a hate figure for many Brexit supporters and has been forced to employ 24-hour security after threats to her life. She says she does not want to block Brexit, but is standing up for Parliamentary democracy.
  4. Gina Martin – her mission to make “upskirting” a criminal offence finally became a reality when it was incorporated into the Voyeurism Offences Act 2019. Ms Martin campaigned tirelessly to change the law after being told there was no case to answer when she complained to police that a man had taken intrusive pictures by putting his phone up her skirt without her knowledge or permission.
  5. Ella Daish – is campaigning for the removal of plastic from all tampons… in September, the supermarket, Sainsbury, took action and banned plastic applicators from all its own-brand products, which has consequently, removed 2.7 tonnes of plastic annually.  See more here.
  6. Alison Rose – Banker Became CEO of RBS in November – she was the first female boss of one of the Big Four banks – following her appointment as deputy CEO of NatWest Holdings in December 2018.  Ms Rose has used her position to help other women. In March, her Treasury-commissioned Review of Female Entrepreneurship revealed the barriers women face in business, particularly in securing funding, and stated that closing the gender gap would contribute a massive £250 billion to the UK economy. As a result, the government has set a target to help 600,000 female entrepreneurs by 2030.
  7. Busayo Oyedoyin, an 18-year-old British-Nigerian youth politician from Hackney, who has become a major influencer in UK youth politics highlighting knife crime as the scourge of modern society. She has used her position in the UK Youth Parliament to influence politicians in the Commons. She admits to struggling with imposter syndrome and self-doubt. Imagine being the youngest person in a room filled with powerful leaders and making your voice heard.  Her advice is, “Always have your ‘why’ at the forefront of your mind. Never underestimate the impact and power that you have because you are powerful, your voice, your actions, your moves and everything you do is powerful.”
  8. And finally, one to watch… Liv Conlon, who left school, having been bullied, chose not to go to university but set up her own business instead. She has since built up an interiors company worth £1million, has recently been named UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year and mentors other women. All this and she’s only 21.

These women represent some of the most pressing issues of our time. May their commitment, dedication and single-mindedness enrich all women with a “can do” attitude to take us forward with our goals, ambitions and plans for the next 12 months and beyond.

For further inspiration, explore the BBC’s list of the 100 most influential women in the world.

That was the year that was!

By Melissa Jackson

As we head towards the end of 2019, we thought we’d complete a review of the items that you enjoyed most over the last year; the posts that were your favourites, according to statistics.

Thanks for your loyalty and support over the past 12 months and we look forward to bringing you many more interesting and thought-provoking items in 2020.

We always try to be creative in our approach to the subject of D&I, tackling the issues at the top of the agenda when it comes to the steep ascent to level the gender playing field.

Rina’s columns are always popular and she’s not afraid to speak out on issues that resonate with working women everywhere. Her piece on unconscious bias was no exception, underpinned by calls for a giant societal shift in attitude to make greater strides towards gender parity.

Gender Bias: Alive and Kicking

A feature on the importance of emotional intelligence, or EQ, in the workplace was another vote-winner. Those who’ve had the misfortune to work for a boss like the fictitious Gordon Gekko in Wall Street or Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada were reassured that their stereotyped barbarous actions are not welcome in the modern workplace. It’s good to know that EQ is an important tool for career success for both managers and employees and that the days of office bullying are numbered.

Emotional Intelligence: Your Secret Weapon at Work

You certainly warmed to Rina’s item about travelling safely as a solo-woman, timed perfectly to coincide with summer holiday season. We hope it ensured a safe passage for all adventurous tourists.

Travelling Solo? You’ll be 100% Safer if You’re a Man

I joined Voice At The Table in February and have since enjoyed exploring ideas and subjects that traverse the D&I conversation. Writing about my own career experience and the man who launched me on my journey with the BBC, was the starting point for my association with Rina and her impressive team and a discourse that was a, much appreciated, hit with readers.

Growing and Nurturing Career Confidence 

As summer faded into autumn, it seemed appropriate to address the issue of gender stereotypes in the classroom. Inspiration for the article came from an item in a book that I’d read by the feminist writer Caroline Criado Perez, which highlights how depressingly early these stereotypes are entrenched and what needs to be done to challenge them.

Back to School: Re-Drawing Gender Stereotypes

Another readers’ favourite was the political item about the almost impossible task BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis faced when trying to manage the squabbling mass of testosterone on display as the candidates for the leadership of the Conservative party, following Theresa May’s resignation, pontificated about their vote-winning credentials. I learned new words including, bropropriation, mansplaining and manterrupted – but don’t be deceived, none of them are good.

Never Work With Children or Politicians

Our advice column, Active Voice is always popular. We like to offer tips and guidance on subjects that are close to yours and our hearts. Here are the ones that were most “actively” received.

Ways to Navigate Office Politics Positively

Practical Things Men Can Do to Advance Women at Work

How Women Can Make an Impact in a Male-dominated Workplace







You don’t have to be male to ‘toast’ International Men’s Day

Whenever women are asked why there’s an International Women’s Day and not an International Men’s Day, many respond with, "because men have the other 364 days of the year".  In fact, though, there is an International Men’s Day, and there has been for over two decades. But do we actually need an International Men’s Day and If so, why?

The purpose of IMD

International Men’s Day (IMD) takes place every year on the 19th November and is marked in over 60 countries around the world. It aims to shine a spotlight on men making a positive difference in the world and raising awareness of issues and challenges facing men today. Issues like men’s health, toxic masculinity and the prevalence of male suicide. As we previously highlighted, men in the UK are three times as likely to commit suicide as women – and a big part of that is the disconnect between what we expect of men and what they really want from life today.

Movember and IMD

IMD takes place in November, the month designated to highlight men’s mental health issues by sprouting a ‘tache and raising funds for charities and causes that support men’s battle with common health-related issues.

Why join the movement?

I continue to believe that the gender balance conversation cannot take place in a vacuum. We don’t want to create echo-chambers and support bubbles that result in unaccomplished plans and unachievable objectives because we have not involved the other half of the gender population.

So, we need to involve men in the conversation – and by doing so we also need to listen to them. We need to understand their challenges and concerns, their lack of understanding of our challenges and concerns and their confusion about how and what to do when trying to do right by women.

International Men’s Day creates an opportunity to do so. It gives men a platform to voice their anxieties and learn from each other. It also provides them with an opportunity to find a support network that helps eradicate toxic masculinity and outdated notions of what it means to be a man.

Great examples of IMD celebrations

In the past few years, I was fortunate to be invited to a handful of high-profile IMD celebrations and a few stuck in my mind. The one I particularly enjoyed was an event put on by a gender balance network of an international bank in the City. It consisted of a panel of men of various seniority – from the UK CEO to an intern – plus a few client guest speakers.

The issues discussed ranged from flexible working to sexuality and the freedom to be yourself, to supporting gender balance as a force of good for society, work and men.

The discussion surfaced parts of the gender conversation that we don’t tend to hear in women’s events, and in this way provided a forum to listen to experiences from another perspective – and isn’t that what diversity and inclusion is all about?

I was also positively struck by the audience, which was nicely gender-balanced and very enthusiastic.

So, if women are looking for support from men, isn’t International Men’s Day a fantastic platform we can develop in order to move forward together?