Women in Transformation: Hybrid work, role modelling & allyship

It’s been a long time since our last Women in Transformation event, and what a spectacular return to form it was. This was our first in-person event since the pandemic began, so naturally we wanted to make it one to remember. That’s why, alongside our attendees, we invited an esteemed panel of speakers to help guide us through these challenging discussions – Anna Fleming, Pooja Bagga, Tavier Taylor, Trevor Attridge, and Sandra Di Vito. You can learn more about them here.

We invited business transformation and change leaders to engage in open conversations around some difficult topics. We feel like we have a responsibility as recruitment consultants to drive forward and advocate for diversity and inclusion in our industry.

There was a lengthy discussion on women in work, and how the playing field has changed since the pandemic. After that, we tackled racial diversity in business transformation and how we can all by effective allies. One topic that we kept coming back to throughout was the importance of role models across the spectrum of diversity. If you missed it, not to worry, we’ve pulled together an overview of what we discussed. Keep reading to get the full picture, or take a look at our highlights video below...

Women in work since the pandemic

Remote working took the country by storm in early 2020 when lockdown began. The pros and cons were debated at length, but ultimately, we were all trialling it without much idea how it would go.

There were some obvious benefits to parents, who now had the ability to spend more time with their children. However, Anna Fleming expressed her view that women have been set back by the pandemic as they were more likely to take on housework and childcare. Many women in the audience agreed with Anna’s statement:

“Some colleagues were having to do their job, and deal with the kids, and the       cooking, and everything else. The home working experience was not always even, let’s put it that way.”

There was some debate over how motherhood should be treated within the workplace. Because personal lives have become more visible, one attendee felt at times like she was seen as a mother before an employee. However, her male colleagues weren’t seen as a father first.

Another felt it was important to celebrate being a working mother and take pride in the fact that you’re raising the next generation. The challenge is how to create that culture of openness. The consensus among attendees was that it has to be driven from the top down with diversity and representation. But importantly:

“It doesn’t matter what colour, what gender, it’s about bringing your whole self to work. That’s the bit that makes change possible.”

Role modelling

A theme that kept returning throughout the discussion was the importance of role models at the top of organisations. Representation at the upper levels of the business means that there will be a greater understanding of different issues that employees face. People need to be able to see others that look and sound like them and go through similar challenges. This goes for all aspects of diversity: gender, ethnicity, social class, disability, and so on. Sandra Di Vito pointed out:

“It’s easy to be empathetic and say the right things, but if you’re not living other people’s experience, it’s quite hard to be bring that level of empathy and     authenticity.”

Role modelling is important not just for now, but also future generations. Without any role models, many younger people will struggle to break free of the mould that has already been set. Companies say they want diversity of thought to make better business decisions, but new employees will likely just emulate others unless they see themselves reflected in the business.

“If you want to create a space for the next generation to see things in a different way, you need more role models.”

The outcome may be that companies conclude that diversity hasn’t had an impact. In this example, it’s not a diversity issue, but one of inclusion. People must feel like they can be their true selves at work without fearing that they will jeopardise career opportunities. One important way to encourage that feeling of inclusion is to make sure there are visible role models who people can relate to. Pooja Bagga aptly summed it up:

“Inclusion is having a seat at the table, which is really important. Being inclusive is having a voice at the table. But you have an inclusive culture when     you’re actually heard at the table.”

One attendee recalled a conversation with a young person who was going through career struggles. When asked if they had any role models, they replied that their main role models are people they follow on social media. On social media, you often only see a highlights reel which leads to unrealistic expectations. This simply highlights the need for more role models within businesses, and the importance of the work we do in our Deltra Group Mentoring Programme.

Effective allyship

It was clear that some audience members felt frustrated that it seemed like it was up to them to make a change. We can drive progress more effectively if we all work together.

It was pointed out that just because you may be from a marginalised group, it doesn’t mean you have the skills necessary to effect organisational change. Besides that, it’s not only the duty of minority groups to make a difference; we should all get behind it and be allies. How? It’s simple. As Tavier Taylor put it:

“You need to speak up. If you see something and you know it’s not right, stand up, say something. Be an ally with your actions.”

The George Floyd incident near the start of the pandemic shook many businesses to their core and left many not knowing what to do. It can be overwhelming to know where to start, but what’s important is to start. Small changes may at first seem inconsequential, but over time, momentum will build. One of the most important things is:

“You need to put yourself out there and not be afraid of making a mistake.”

The BlackLivesMatter movement caused many businesses to look inward and review their own diversity and inclusion policies and practices. This is great, but we can’t wait until things like this happen to start the conversation again. It needs to be an ongoing discussion with the intention to actually make things better. It’s not easy, and will require some bravery, but it’s necessary to develop understanding.

One attendee said that her company began weaving these conversations into the fabric of the company. At the time of George Floyd, she wrote an email to the entire senior leadership team encouraging a conversation. Now, they’re reviewing their interviewing process, executives are reverse mentored by someone from a diverse background, and D&I conversations are more regular. Being an effective ally can mean simply taking the first step or intervening when you disagree with something.

What’s next?

Hopefully, you’ve learned something from attending the event or reading this article that you can begin to apply in your own personal and professional life.

We’ll be running more of these events, so sign up on our Networking Events page to keep in the loop about what’s coming up.

If you’ve been inspired to become a role model, or you’re looking for one, head to our Mentoring Programme page to sign up to be a mentor or mentee. We’ve got some great success stories so far and would love to have you onboard.

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Pujan Thakrar

14th July

Deltra Events Women In Transformation