WFH: Friend or Foe?

In the words of a revered American president (you know the one), the word ‘crisis’ in Chinese is based on two characters.  One means ‘danger’, the other ‘opportunity’. 

For women in Britain, ‘working from home’ has been more the former than the latter.

Who would have thought that, on the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act we would find ourselves back in the house, cooking, nurturing, cleaning and educating – oh, and working professionally too? Even before the pandemic, British women were working twice as hard as their male counterparts  looking after family and home life. 

During lockdown, this gap has been exacerbated for mothers who put in 4 hours a day more than fathers looking after children and home.  The only notable exception to this harsh reality are situations where the father has lost his job entirely while the mother remains on the payroll. 

A shift in societal perception of roles in the home is urgently needed.  Working women contribute 35%-45% to the GDP in Europe and North America.  So any country that takes its post-Covid economic recovery seriously must do more to acknowledge and address the stark inequalities between the genders. 

Meanwhile, we women need to have more honest conversations at home with our partners and children (of capable age) to ensure that what can be done by them in the house is in fact done by them.  It may mean having to compromise on our way of doing things and it may also mean inviting some friction into what might already be a precarious situation.  But the burden of not doing so is too great for us to bear.  And not just us but everyone who depends on us, including the economy!  In this way, being a little more ‘selfish’ may actually turn out to be one of the most selfless acts we’ve taken in a while. 

As for those of you men out there who hide away all day ‘working’, my plea to you is to observe your partner.  If she can multi-task work, children, meals and laundry, surely you can do better!  Next time you come downstairs for your cuppa, swing by the washing machine and hang up one of the 15 cycles of laundry that are making their rounds each day.  Ask your older child to take out the recycling and tidy up after themselves and show their mum some respect – after all, the home they (and you) live in is not a hotel and their mum (your life partner) is not a maid.  Then, as tempting as that evening run might be, put in an extra half an hour with your children to check their spelling and times tables. And then please do indulge in some exercise while dinner is bubbling away on the hob.  The next day, then, tell your colleagues and mates to do the same.  It might seem as sharing chores, but in reality, it is a way to regain the closeness with and respect of your family – and isn’t it worth it?

Perhaps we should all take a moment out of our busy day to consider what it is we need in order to shift the balance of child-care and home chores, and then make the necessary adjustments.  After all, a crisis is not just ‘danger’, it is also an ‘opportunity’ – isn’t it time we find out what that really means to us?

HOTT: Revealing the B – Behaving Inclusively

The post below has been featured in the third edition of Housing On The Table, a fortnightly e-shot designed to inspire leaders of social purpose service organisations to transform them to suit the times we live in.

We will be exploring what we call the T.A.B.L.E organisation – which Thinks, Acts, Behaves, Looks and Expresses itself differently from how social housing providers have functioned in much the same way for the past 50 years.   This is a moment to embrace real change – from the Front Line to the Boardroom.

Sign up to receive future editions of Housing On The Table and get access to previous issues.

The B pillar of a TABLE organisation is Behaving Inclusively.

 

In my recent video podcast to the NHF’s Governance Conference (transcript available on request), I explain that a TABLE organisation starts with “Why”.  Why, is a question about Purpose.

An organisation’s purpose is related to the values it espouses.  This is where behaving inclusively is especially relevant.  In my podcast I say that acting with good intentions is rarely good enough (see below).  This is especially true when the purpose is to address inequalities, many of which are longstanding and deep rooted.

Ticking the box may fulfil the mission but is it meeting the purpose?

What’s on the TABLE today – are we behaving inclusively or dressing the windows?

Last week, the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations launched G15 Accelerate, described as “a new leadership development programme for BAME managers to help develop their potential to become our future leaders”.  Their target is to more than double the BAME proportion of G15 board members to 30% by 2025.

The programme follows on from a BAME diversity pledge signed by G15 CEOs in April, the latest of many similar attempts reaching back to the creation of BME housing associations in the 1970s and 80s.

These attempts notwithstanding, the evidence from three housing diversity surveys published by Inside Housing since 2016 suggests, not much has changed in the lack of representation of BME leaders on boards and executive teams.  Some even say that housing providers have gone backwards in recent years.  In other words, the collective behaviours have not matched the rhetoric and pledges made by housing leaders.

The key to addressing under-representation of black people at senior level is not more pledges or programmes.  There is enough evidence to show that on their own, they don’t work.  This is what we refer to as ‘window dressing’ - something that purports to tackle the issue, but fails to make a real and lasting impact.

Is it time for housing leaders to start looking beyond how to develop and recruit to their leadership teams and consider whether their behaviours are truly inclusive?

The Eight Inclusive Behaviours framework

Voice At The Table has created a framework of eight inclusive behaviours which, once embedded, changes how we interact with each other.  Inclusive behaviour helps to overcome unacknowledged attitudes or even prejudices resulting from a lack of understanding or empathy towards the experience of others.

Behaving inclusively goes beyond correcting unconscious bias and balancing representation at the top of organisations.  It requires us to have humility to recognise that ours isn’t the only way, to be curious about someone’s lived experiences and not rush to judgement when we encounter views which differ from our conceptions.

Behaving inclusively means being careful with our use of language and stepping in when someone speaks or acts in a way that marginalises or diminishes colleagues.

Most of us think of ourselves as being inclusive.  But extending rules and policies is easy if it doesn’t require a lot of effort.  So is welcoming individuals that make our leadership teams look more diverse (so long as they don’t challenge our own perceptions or impose other burdens).

But rarely are these efforts enough.  Leaders must be willing to go further than token gestures and statements of support - and that includes creating programmes that might advance a small number of people.  We must be willing to challenge ourselves, examine the data and evidence, listen to people’s stories. prepare to feel uncomfortable and resolve not only to do more for others but to grow and develop ourselves.

Take-Away From the Table – how behaving inclusively leads to purposeful action

Striving for more than just project-managing diversity (as many of the initiatives can be described) takes a lot of effort and commitment to change how we see and interact with the world.  That’s what behaving inclusively means.

Only when we are truly committed, will we be able to act with purpose to attract, retain and promote people of diverse backgrounds inside our organisations.  In this way, the B pillar of a TABLE organisation leads us to the A pillar – acting purposefully.  More on the A pillar in our next issue.

For now, we encourage you to find the courage to look inward, confess to having blind spots when it comes to inclusivity and take committed and concrete steps towards behaving more inclusively.

Mind Your Language!

A few years ago, Voice At The Table had a popular workshop, talking to senior leaders about the significance of using the right words. And then its popularity waned. Now, it seems, the notion that words matter is back: businesses everywhere are dropping old-fashioned terminology like “blacklist” and “master and slave” servers.

Last week, Twitter and JP Morgan announced that they are dropping these controversial terms as well as “whitelist” and “man hours” along with other offenders.  Estate agents are also reconsidering the use of the term “master” bedroom.

And what about this “mis-step” by H&M?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words have a massive impact. We often use them without thinking and without intent to offend.  But a simple reflection on some of the words and phrases we regularly use discloses their historical meaning, which is no longer reflective of society:  businessman, chairman, black sheep, guys, lads, psycho, schizo, “call a spade a spade”, “boys will be boys”, blind drunk, deaf to the world and many more.

You’re probably surprised about a number of these (as was I), but there are the very basic terms which ought to be obvious.  For instance, only days ago, I received an email - an FT newsflash – that announced the stepping down of Lloyds Bank’s current chairman – Antonio Horta-Osorio.  His replacement – the next chairMAN – was yet to be named! Does this mean a woman is not a possible contender for the job?

These are shocking mistakes that should not be made these days, especially by organisations that are looking for our trust and loyalty.

Many of us don't think twice when using these well-trodden words, as they have established meanings that don't mean to exclude.  In the end, however, communication is less about how you say things and more about how what’s being said is heard.  That’s why the Use of Language is one of our eight Inclusive Behaviours.

When expressing yourself, instead of saying things like a “female engineer” or a “blind man”, say “a woman on our engineering team” or “a man who is blind”.

Avoid the use of jargon – which is easily caught up in non-inclusive history – and above all, avoid labels.  Labels overgeneralise and lump all of us together into one pot, which is most certainly too small to comfortably fit the myriad of shapes, sizes and colours of humanity.  Oh, oops, have I just done what I’m asking others not to do?  Well, I don’t know.

My main point is, we ought to try, and be more conscious of our words.  If we do just that alone, we will be far less likely to mis-step.

Active Voice: Networking is Alive and Well in the Virtual World.

While our personal habits have changed over the past three months of lockdown, our professional needs have not. Although networking has been difficult/near impossible since the Covid-19 outbreak, it’s the beating heart of a successful business and career, especially if you are self-employed. We’ve learned to live with working in a virtual world, but what about making new contacts and – just as importantly - keeping existing ones? We give you some advice on how to network remotely, especially as it may become a more permanent feature of our working lives.

  1. Nurture existing relationships: start reaching out to people you already know - your close friends, family, and colleagues. It's easier and you'll build your confidence. It’s always useful to start a conversation by keeping it personal and asking how someone is and how they’re adjusting to the current situation.
  2. Make a list of your networking goals. These can include: “introduce yourself to five new people” or “exchange emails with ten attendees”. Making a list will help you focus your efforts and help you know where and how to invest your time to further your personal career success and professional advancement.
  3. Engage in real-time messaging during presentations by using private messaging tools within your event platform to ask new connections what they think of a particular topic or idea at the moment it is presented. In addition to demonstrating your full engagement in the virtual event, you will be building trust with your new contact, showing that you value their opinion as opposed to just contacting them in a marketing capacity.
  4. If you enter a relationship only thinking, “What can I get out of this?” it’s doomed for failure from the start. Make sure your connections know that you look up to them and you aren’t just looking for something in return. Tell them why you’re interested in them. Maybe they’ve provided really valuable content that has changed your life or helped you grow your business. Maybe they said something really funny on Twitter that stuck with you. First and foremost, tell them you like what they’re doing.
  5. Reach out to former bosses and peers. These are great people to catch up with, regardless of current events. Use the time to reconnect, see how they’re doing, learn what challenges they’re facing and ask how you can help. If you’re looking for a job, or considering a job search, these people may be vital resources because they know you professionally and might know of opportunities that are a good fit for you. Plus, it’s never too early to think about references.
  6. Check in with past customers, service providers & vendors. Touching base with those with whom you’ve had a good relationship can re-ignite the connection plus keep you better informed on trends, opportunities, issues and challenges other companies and industries are facing. It’s a good idea to ask what they may need right now. You never know what you might easily be able to help with and that goes a long way and can transform a relationship.
  7. When invited to virtual networking events, make the time to attend. While they may not be your preferred way to meet people, you can still make quality new connections. But don’t just log on and sit silently while you check email and social media – actively participate! Practise a short and strong introduction, ask questions, make comments and write a note in the Q&A. Identify other participants whom you’d like to meet, and just as you would in-person, follow up afterwards with an email or personalized connection request on LinkedIn.

 

If you would like more information on this subject, please contact Voice At The Table’s resident expert on networking, office politics, professional relationships and personal impact.

 

Will Covid Wipe Out the Macho Leadership Culture?

By Melissa Jackson

If there’s one thing we’ve learned during the Covid pandemic, it’s that some of the best leadership skills - in the face of a crisis – have been demonstrated by women. It feels like the time is right to shed the macho leadership style that has dominated politics and the boardroom and look to a future where empathy and co-operation prevail. [continue reading]

Let’s take the most extreme example of macho leadership – Donald Trump – the man who consistently and bullishly holds such inflated self-belief that he selectively ignores the opinions of others, believing his “superior” judgement is beyond reproach. Predictably, he’s rejected the advice of medical professionals and unsurprisingly, the US currently has the world’s highest death-rate from Covid-19.

Then there’s Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly trivialised Covid-19, describing it as a “little flu” that did not warrant “hysteria” and claimed that his country would be protected from the virus by its climate and youthful population. Brazil is currently second in the league table of global Coronavirus deaths and - in an almost retaliatory act of irony – the virus has infected Bolsonaro.

The countries with some of the lowest Covid mortality figures are led by women, including New Zealand, Norway, Germany and Taiwan. Both New Zealand and Norway’s leaders have exhibited leadership styles that have been described as “empathetic” and “collaborative”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour recently, the esteemed British musician Brian Eno, said, the countries that have come out of Coronavirus “well”  have “spent more time listening to their scientists than to their ideologues” and that “macho posturing has proved to be worse than useless” in the face of the pandemic.

I hear that over-worked conundrum, “Why can’t a man be more like a woman?” ringing in my ears.

Joining in the Woman’s Hour debate and commenting on the highly-competent and distinguished female leaders, Chair of Time’s Up UK (see link below) Dame Heather Rabbatts said, “We always used to say you can’t show your feelings as a leader. Here they are showing their feelings; at the same time, being incredibly decisive, basing their judgements on evidence, being collaborative and listening.

“I think what we’re seeing now is a formidable sense of ‘this is what constitutes leadership’.

“It isn’t the shouting; it isn’t the vilification of others or the demonising of others. It is absolutely about this sense of humanity, aligned with clear leadership.”

Dame Inga Beale, former CEO of Lloyds of London, told the programme that she was often criticised for not being more autocratic, a behaviour that is allied with a male leadership style.

Dame Heather said the female political leaders have demonstrated collaboration, building alliances, listening and humility.

These are skills that could usefully transfer to the boardroom and the corporate hierarchy.

For years, there have been suggestions that women’s leadership styles might be different and beneficial. But too often, political organisations and companies have focused on persuading women to behave more like men if they want to lead or succeed. However, the female heads of state, operating in a Covid world, are a case study of the leadership traits men may want to learn from women.

It’s time they were adopted across the board and the macho tactics eradicated. Let’s seize the moment and see something positive emerge from this crisis to shape the leaders of today and tomorrow.

For more articles related to this, click on the links below.

Leaders  (Guardian)

 

Leadership Lessons Men Can Learn From Women (HBR)

Time’s Up UK

Be the Leader you want to see

By Susie Ramroop

Ever heard that phrase “You can’t be what you can’t see”?  I did for the first time at a conference for women in 2018. I was there as the mindset specialist, to talk on a panel about winning your inner game (the one in your head), and I nearly fell off my chair when I heard it.

This statement was being made like it was a rule, and the 200 or so women in the audience seemed to be accepting it because someone admirable was making the statement. It struck me how willing we are, as women, to take on things like this, leaving them unchallenged.

What if that belief is the reason that there is a gender gap?  What if we could park our previous beliefs about pay and a lack of fairness and we considered that our career could be exactly what we wanted it to be if we knew how to step up and play a bigger game?

My experience shows that people don’t stop believing in what holds them back until they have something better to choose. I decided to outline these choices in my book - Be The Leader You Want To See.

I believe the simplest to understand and easiest way to start playing bigger is using my ABC model:

Awareness 

What do you stand for?  How do you represent this?  To what have you dedicated your time? What are you working towards and why?  Taking the time to consider the now will expose the areas where you are being limited and allowing your talents to be capped.  Unless this is made to look extremely unpalatable you will leave the back door open, and be tempted to settle into these patterns.  A true leader looks impartially at what is, asks themselves if that is a good enough standard to live by and then makes a decision to create a bigger vision and change what isn’t working.

Bravery 

Growth doesn’t require massive leaps of faith.  The magic doesn’t only happen outside of your comfort zone.  Instead, I believe that if you nudge the edges of that comfort zone consistently enough, that it expands.  The level of bravery that is required is aligned with nervous excitement, not terror.  Those acts of bravery are so small that others barely notice, nor judge.  You only need one win under your belt before you are curious enough to see what the next brave act will generate.

Contribution 

When you are consistently intentional about growing your self-awareness and bravery, you can make an unfathomable contribution to your own fulfilment as a leader, whether you think your current job is the one for you or not. This is about creating a new perspective for your personal and professional future before the circumstances show up. It is how you make an impact. All the time you fear you have wasted, and all the pigeonholes you believe you are in, they all count.  It’s time to be tactical about how to leverage all of your experience.

If you would like to be guided through this process in a way that feels like your personal cheerleader is talking only to you, then you will love Be The Leader You Want To See; a guide for how to play a much bigger game with what you already have.  It all starts with you –you’re the only factor in your career fully under your control. Show others how great they can be by being the best version of you.

Susie’s book Be The Leader You Want To See is available now on Amazon.

The story of pink!

What do you associate with the colour pink?

Nowadays, most would consider pink to be a girl's colour.  We're told it's a colour that stands for charm, politeness, sensitivity, tenderness, sweetness, childhood, femininity and romance.

So why would Voice At The Table – a gender parity and balance advocate – choose pink as its dominant colour?  Doesn’t that reinforce the stereotypes attached to women and, as such, go against everything we stand for?

Not as I see it.

I chose pink to defy the stereotype and encourage others to move away from labels.  We help people see beyond convention.  The challenge we offer is for each of us to be confronted with something that seems straight forward and learn to understand the complexity beyond.  Let’s not judge books by their covers.  Let’s read the pages in between and gain a greater understanding of people and perspectives.

Let’s start with the colour pink.

Pink didn’t start out as a colour of girls.  In fact, in the 19th century, pink was a colour associated with boys.  As red was the colour closely-associated with men, pink – a lighter shade of red – was the colour most often chosen for little men, as boys were then regarded.

In June 1918, an American trade publication even wrote:

The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.

Pink also had different connotations in different cultures.  In India, for example, pink was seen as a symbol of a "welcome embrace", while in Japan it was the colour of masculinity and now, the colour of Spring (when the famous cherry blossoms colour Japan pink throughout).  In Thailand, pink is the colour of Tuesday so anyone born on that day may wear pink on a Tuesday and adopt pink as their colour.  Italy’s sports newsletter La Gazetta della Sport uses pink paper to stand out and awards a pink jersey to the winner of Italy’s biggest bicycle race.

In Catholicism, pink symbolises joy and happiness.

Nowadays, the colour is closely associated with women’s issues and empowerment, as well as the LGBTQ+ movement.  And of course we all would recognise the pink ribbon as the emblem of breast cancer awareness.

I am surprised at how many different meanings the colour pink conjures up, and for all these meanings and reasons, I’m pleased to peg our name to it.

Are We Being Cowards if we Don’t Speak Out?

 “Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly,” according to Ghandi.

He might be right.  After all, do we not become complicit if we witness something we know to be wrong and say nothing?

Indeed, silence can often be mistaken for approval or agreement.

Luckily that isn’t what’s happening today.  The world is speaking out loud and clear against racism.  But it took the death of yet another black American to overfill our cup of  tolerance.

What about other, less severe situations and biases, in the workplace for instance?  How do we speak out against them?

Here at Voice At The Table, when we begin to create a culture of tolerance and inclusion in the workplace, we break it up into individual inclusive behaviours - the building blocks of a culture that welcomes and values different views and experiences. Speaking out is one of these behaviours.

Speaking out in the work context doesn’t have to amount to a protest or dispute.  We also don’t need to wait until something bad happens in order to speak out.  The best way to practise speaking out is to do it gently and frequently, especially when we hear or witness something that doesn’t sit well with us.  When a colleague utters a racially-charged remark, for instance, about someone who is not in the room.  Or when others are joking about a female colleague who leaves “early” to pick up her child from nursery.  Or when the manager says that, while working from home once a week is the company policy, that policy does not apply to her team.

Setting the record straight is not difficult, but takes courage and practice.

When we speak out, it’s often best to keep the tone casual but the message serious.  Many people prefer to use humour to call out inappropriate behaviour.  I’ve heard women say to men, who had lowered their gaze below eye-level when speaking to them, “Hello my friend, my face is up here!” which is usually followed by an apology, after which the conversation moves on.

Speaking out doesn’t necessarily need to create conflict.  If we can practise being polite, cool-headed and curious about the other person’s statement or demeanour, we often achieve more than when we get upset or annoyed about it.  One could, for example, say in response to a racially charged comment “I’m sorry, for an instant I thought you said that …… is that right?”   Playing the statement back to people often gets them to think about it and hear it in a different way, sometimes differently from the way it was intended.

We have to remember that most people want to do the right thing and don’t mean to offend.  So, when we challenge people, we’re helping them understand how their words or deeds may make others feel.  In most situations, they’re grateful for us pointing out how they may have mis-stepped (yet there may be an element of embarrassment too).

Another way to speak out is to draw an inference from one situation to another.  You might say “So, what you just said is that …..   How does that work in [another scenario?]” or “I wonder whether you would have said this to me if I were a man/a white woman/a straight man/a person who is not in a wheelchair…”

Speaking out doesn’t have to be confrontational.  The more we try to speak out the better we get at it.  The better we get at it, the more we can encourage others to do it, as well, gradually creating an environment in which people feel safe to speak their minds and are encouraged to learn and grow when something they say or do doesn’t land the way it was intended.  In this way, we create a work environment in which all individuals are valued for who they are and can fully contribute with their diverse thoughts and experiences.

I hope you give it a try and do it often.

To learn more about how to communicate impactfully, especially across screens, join our virtual training with Jayne Constantinis Virtually Skilful later this month.

#UntilWeAllWin