I posted in the Haven recently a piece of research by The Female Lead, an educational charity, called Women at Work: Breaking Free of The ‘Unentitled Mindset’ and I mentioned my yearning to delve into it. Today, I want to invite you to choose to challenge some of its findings and champion its recommendations.

It is an update from an early piece in 1994. Both interviewed women from many industries and sectors at various seniorities; some with children and caring responsibilities, others without; some from diverse communities who were able to comment on their experiences from both a gender and race perspective.

I recognise many of the experiences and quotes, as well as the positivity and sisterhood in which these women spoke and shared. The two major findings feel achievable and accessible to many organisations and leaders.

Today being International Women’s Day, I feel the time is ripe for championing change as we emerge from the impacts and challenges of the last year. It also aligns with this month’s theme of personal and professional growth. Let me say more.

The “Unentitled Mindset” – one of feeling unable to ask for what we need or desire – appears in my conversations with my clients, my peers and my networks. A mindset where we dance a merry jig of what we know our needs, desires and talents to be to the tune of organisational, cultural and societal bias, perceptions and set-ups at work and at home.

Women discussing a challenge

The research recognises outdated presumptions of women, some persistent problems we face and makes pragmatic recommendations if organisations, their leaders and we, as women, choose to challenge.

From a growth perspective, the research shows we don’t lack in ambition in our careers, nor earning equally with our peers or significant others. However, we face five ongoing problems:

  • Fair pay and promotion
  • A disconnection from work, enjoyment and power
  • Expectations of a working mother’s value and contribution
  • Penalties if we work flexibly
  • Greater mental load than our male counterparts.

Whilst these have all improved since the initial survey and this one, they remain true.

They also looked into the motivators of the participants; their fulfilment came from relationships, a sense of self, work, money and society. Frustratingly, this “ranking” fueled the bias that women are more focused on their personal lives than their work and thus discounting them whilst of childbearing age or once they had children was a truth.

Women in an interactive workshop

Leaning into the findings, much of the work is laid at the feet of organisations and their leaders. A need for progressive policies that are more than just words, to design innovative jobs and working practices that provide sufficient challenge, impact and enjoyment and to craft a culture where we can all thrive without differentiation of treatment or opportunity, not the reward for it.

That said I want to invite you to choose to challenge by being a champion of change and apply our growth mindset to the path ahead.

What can we do to cajole and nurture employers, and to ensure we develop the skills, strength and community to create our own impact?

  1. Participate warmly in your employer’s or industry’s initiatives to hear women’s voices and create change
  2. Encourage other women to contribute
  3. Provide insights and ideas from a place of generosity
  4. Address others’ challenges with a sense of curiosity and desire to create understanding
  5. Recognise and challenge bias around the expectations of women at home and in the workplace 
  6. Mentor and support others – men and women, we need allies
  7. Build your network of women across and outside your field
  8. Lift other women and allies up for their efforts with praise, credit and referral
  9. Raise your skills broadly through training, coaching, mentoring and collaborations.
Women on a conference call

You might be looking at the list and wondering if I’m asking too much without consideration of your time, energy or efforts. Please know I’m not and you’ll know my belief around small steps make big changes. I’m inviting you to choose to challenge with small steps together with others here – together, we can make great strides.

My talents are in fostering personal and professional growth as a trainer and coach, and in creating engagement with cultural change and development, as a leader or speaker. Recognise your talents and deploy them to challenge these myths and bias. Connect with others in the Haven community to share winning ideas or seek new ones. Bring others into your workplace who can provide a new perspective or skill.

You are a phenomenal example of womankind in some many brilliant ways, with a growing sense of self, fulfilment and power. Thank you for being part of my community and for affording me a part in yours. Happy International Women’s Day. 

Want to read more of the research – click here. You can see the infographics or download the full report or an executive summary.

How will you choose to challenge the myths and perceptions of women and our careers? Together, we can go farther and with more joy if we each take a small step to bust them.