To celebrate International Women’s Day, Senior Consultant, Nicola Phelan, discusses how authenticity can motivate and unite those around you.
on 8 March, international women’s day (IWD) celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. 2018’s day is focused on #pressforprogress, which according to the IWD website, means motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.
In today’s world, do we still need to have campaigns such as IWD to pay attention to the differences and commonalities between women and men in the work place?
Gender and job roles -does it really matter?
Gone are the days when people were surprised to have a female doctor or car mechanic or a male hairdresser or nurse. Aren’t they?
Well… we still describe job roles in gender-specific ways: fireman, air hostess, postman, lollipop lady, headmistress, policeman, barmaid, chairman, actress… Superman, Wonder Woman! We could go on! All are very familiar, frequently used terms.
Comedian, Sarah Pascoe has an interesting point: “When I do my job, I am referred to as a ‘female comedian’. My job title includes my gender… but I don’t do it any differently to the non-females.” There are very few job roles out there which require one specific gender to do it. So, why do we still use terms that differentiate or imply gender? And does it matter?
A study showed that when children are told a job title with a gender signifier, e.g. waitr-ess, fire-man and are then asked to draw the person doing that job, they draw a person that matches the gender of the word.
Being aware of the language we use as businesses, employees and in our informal networks of family and friends is important, if we are to bring about positive progress.
As businesses, if we are aspiring to be fair and equal and, if we want to attract the best talent for a role, should we consider the language we use and what effect that may have on the choices a person makes about whether they want the role… or even whether they think they’d be considered for it because of their gender or preferences?
According to the science of applied linguistics, while changing the words we use doesn’t bring about change overnight, the continuous and repetitive use of gender-neutral terms does help people to change their view over time and helps them to see professions as non-gendered.
As employers, we don’t want to miss out on talent and we want the best person for the job. By breaking down the barriers of inequality we can strengthen our abilities to attract the right talent.
Don’t try and be a man…?!
Dyan Crowther, chief executive of HS1 rail, gave some advice to women in business this week, “Don’t try to be a man. The minute you try to be something you’re not, you won’t be authentic.”
While this is an important quote for IWD, if you remove the gender focus for a moment, this is a very important point for us to consider as employers, motivators and change agents. It doesn’t matter who we are or what our preferences are, by being authentic to ourselves and to others, we all have the ability to be effective and make a difference in our worlds.
The best role models are not dictated by gender or any other preference. Surely, it is the people who show up as their authentic selves every day, people who stand up for what they believe in, and who respect diverse opinions and include those around them? Your authenticity can motivate people and take them on even the toughest journey with you, even the ones through U-turns, diversions and speed bumps!
Stay aware to commonalities and differences, in whatever way they show up, stand up for what you believe in, and be authentic to yourself and others. You will not fail to motivate and unite.