Who’s making the workplace better for women?
#IWD2022

Outdoor mural of colourful painted hands | ‘Who’s making the workplace better for women? International Women’s Day 2022’ Earnest B2B Marketing Agency

Who’s making the workplace better for women?
#IWD2022

How many times have you been told what women can do to make the workplace better for themselves? When does the workplace pitch in and start sharing this responsibility?

In our podcast series, 43% and Rising, I regularly sit down with smart, successful women who have risen to positions of authority in the marketing industry.

If you’re already a subscriber, you will have heard the invaluable advice and wisdom they share through their stories and experiences – life lessons in how to speak up, define our paths, and be our authentic selves.

“It’s really inspiring to see women who have forged their path and hear how they have navigated their own journey and barriers and run ahead with opportunities”
– Lucy White
Commercial Director, Luminary Bakery
In conversation on 43% and Rising

And yet, all too often, we find ourselves talking about what we as women can do in our roles to make our professional lives more supportive and satisfying. Certainly, this is constructive, but it’s not going to create meaningful, long-lasting change.

Everyone in our industry has a role to play in creating more equal working practices and opportunities, and everyone stands to benefit from the change.

To make sense of how our industry can get more involved in the day-to-day delivery of greater equality, here are 6 ways B2B can make change happen now:

1. See the value in flexible & part-time working

Becoming a mother remains a significant roadblock in far too many women’s careers.

“The minute that you have a child, you start changing your priorities. When you go back to work, you think: ‘This is madness. Why am I sitting at the office at 11 o’clock at night when I could be home with my family?’ The expectations are ridiculous”
Zoe Scaman
Founder, Bodacious

In conversation on 43% and Rising

It’s also one of the main drivers of the gender pay gap. In the US, for example, the pay gap between mothers and married fathers is 3x higher than the pay gap between childless men and women.

By moving away from our industry’s emphasis on presenteeism, and providing employees with the option of flexible, part-time, and fairly-paid work, you can give working parents – both female and male – the opportunity to balance their priorities and give their best on all fronts.

The adjustments we all had to make in response to the pandemic proved that flexible working is no less productive and viable. So instead of reversing positive change, make flexibility a permanent feature of your business.

“Some people see ‘part-time’ as a very disparaging word, but in my experience ‘part-time’ shows that you’re extra committed – here’s someone who is seriously into her job.”
– Jenny Bond
Senior Creative, Saatchi and Saatchi PG One

In conversation on 43% and Rising

2. Be open and up front about earning

A major reason why women still earn less than men is that we simply don’t have the confidence to ask for it – men are 4x more likely than women to ask for a raise. On the rare occasion that we do, we devalue ourselves by requesting 30% less than men, on average.

“[You have to have] trust in the room, and trust comes from equal respect… I feel I can be vulnerable and speak up, and I’m not going to be shot down or thought of in a lesser way.”
– Maya Price
Marketing Director, SAP

In conversation on 43% and Rising

However far we believe we’ve come in terms of bolstering women’s confidence in the workplace, we still have some way to go. During the pandemic, 58% of men didn’t ask for a pay rise. Contrast this with 73% of women who did not ask for increased pay, despite having to contend with as many lockdown challenges as any male colleague.

The reasons behind this are complex and there are no quick fixes. But our industry can at least meet us halfway when it comes to pay negotiation, by nurturing a culture of transparency that puts people at ease. This means clearly advertising salary in your job ads, and being ready to have open and honest conversations about pay range and progression.

“Make sure you’re paid properly for what you do. You need to ask, and you need to talk openly about money. Look around and see how much other people in the agency are earning, and look at job listings.”
– Zoe Scaman
Founder, Bodacious

In conversation on 43% and Rising

3. Build support into your business

It’s crucial for women to have access to communities where we are able to talk openly and seek encouragement, advice, and support

“When you feel under-represented, being able to tap into a network of other people who have had similar experiences to yours is so empowering, so validating… it’s almost like putting on a brave suit, because you know you have an army behind you.”
– Laurel Stark
Creative Director, The Sims

In conversation on 43% and Rising

In practical terms, this could take the form of a mentoring scheme for women at various levels of seniority across your business. Or perhaps holding forums for networking and open discussion.

This gives the women in your business a framework for building confidence and resolving difficulties in a way that feels free from judgement.

“Find your tribe. You need a bunch of incredible women who you can fall back on, be vulnerable with, ask hard questions and ask for advice when you need it, because it can be incredibly lonely.”
– Zoe Scaman
Founder, Bodacious

In conversation on 43% and Rising

4. Represent the truth in your message

Marketing shapes culture, with the power to influence the way in which groups of people are perceived. This is why it’s so important that we all see ourselves represented fairly and accurately.

“Advertising has historically portrayed women in bizarre ways … What if you don’t show an airbrushed version of female experience? It starts to redefine how women are seen.”
– Jenny Bond
Senior Creative, Saatchi and Saatchi

In conversation on 43% and Rising

When your business amplifies diverse voices across all identities, including gender, it will lead to more diverse thinking, which will enrich the quality of your work.

This can only have positive outcomes for your business. By engaging audiences with deeper authenticity and sincerity, you show women that your business not only gets us, but could also be a place where we can meaningfully contribute.

“Tapping into a community, their interests and the creative people they rally behind and bringing them into our creative process has really made for some of our best work.”
– Laurel Stark
Creative Director, The Sims
In conversation on 43% and Rising

5. Become a place for all personalities

There are many pressures women have to navigate in the workplace and every choice feels loaded – whether to ‘laugh along’ with off-colour comments and jokes and be ‘one of the boys’, or speak up to champion your work and opinions and risk being labelled as arrogant.

“When I was coming up in my career, I was surrounded by women who would play one of 2 roles: you’re either the sweet, easy-going, ‘can’t do enough for anyone’ person who’s always taking coffee orders, or you’re the bitch, and you’re difficult and pushy.”
– Zoe Scaman
Founder, Bodacious

In conversation on 43% and Rising

This is why your business has to create an environment where people feel able to be themselves, by celebrating all kinds of personalities and communication styles, from feisty and fierce to the soft-spoken and contemplative.

This also applies to office banter and after-hours drinks. These can be key aspects of workplace culture but if they become an obstacle to people’s ability to progress within a company, it’s time to rethink the way your company supports talent and ability.

“There’s a big difference between being aggressive and being assertive, and if you’re a softer kind of person then work to your strengths. You can say something gently and softly and still be as impactful.”
– Maya Price
Marketing Director, SAP
In conversation on 43% and Rising

6. Lead equality from the top

People in leadership roles have to be vocal in their support for equality, creating a workplace culture that empowers women to discuss issues and be taken seriously.

“It was invigorating to step into an organisation that was like ‘I see you, and I see that this matters to you’ right out of the gate.”
– Laurel Stark
Creative Director, The Sims
In conversation on 43% and Rising

Launching a dedicated DEI body is a great place to start. So is a written DEI or mission statement that clearly sets out the inclusive values and beliefs of your organisation.

It’s also crucial to have diverse voices at board level, making sure that equal decision-making power starts at the top.

“Having a real diverse range of voices you can call on is really powerful.”
– Lucy White
Commercial Director, Luminary Bakery

In conversation on 43% and Rising

New episodes of 43% and Rising go up every Tuesday.

Be sure to listen and subscribe on Spotify and Apple Podcasts – and drop me a line if there’s anyone you think would be a great guest.

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(Header photo: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash)

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Beatrice Alabaster

Copywriter

I am a copywriter and, because you are what you eat, I maintain a strict daily regimen of nutritious and diverse words, with taste ranging all the way from Immanuel Kant to Kim Kardashian.