The commemoration of International Women’s Day brings gender equality and advocacy firmly into the spotlight. What strikes me as interesting is that, have we as a society underestimated how strategically important is it to offer the same flexible working conditions to both sexes?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not turning my back on the restless fight for women’s inclusion and empowerment, especially in my sector- innovation and technology- where females are incredibly underrepresented as a recent study shows.
Quite the opposite- but I thought I would take a look at this issue with different and strategic lens.
At a recent event, Cyan Ta’eed, Founder and Director at Envato, spoke about the organisation´s policy to provide the same flexible working conditions to male employees, as they do to their female counterparts. The business attributed this policy to, not only being the catalyst in being named Australia’s Coolest Tech Company, but also to helping the business advance women’s inclusion and equality in their roles.
Gender equality at the World CSR Congress
Gender equality is a global issue and a key concern for many businesses. It is also a core topic included in the Sustainable Development Goals to 2030.
A recent presentation that I delivered about Corporate Responsibility Megatrends at the World CSR Congress last month, indicated that global diversity, inclusion and education, sat in the hands of corporate executives. Studies indicate that the CEO and/or senior management is responsible for taking the lead in implementing gender equality initiatives –with most understanding the resulting organisational benefits.
In terms of gender inclusion in technology and innovation, the problem comes when trying to place women in relevant tech positions when studies show a disparity in women graduating with engineering and technology degrees.
As discussed and concluded by many delegates at the CSR Congress, promoting and improving STEM education for girls is more important than ever, hence the commemoration of the First International Day of Women and Girls in Science this year. However, it is also a matter of stereotyping that needs to be addressed in primary and secondary schools, as much as in the workplace.
But really, how gender equal do we want to be?
People get surprised when I tell them that the Director of DS PRIMA, the business that I work for, is a working Dad. I watch him juggle taking his young daughter to and from school, helping her with her homework, taking her to therapy, making her pancakes on demand and so on, all the while successfully managing a busy IT company.
Perhaps because of his own situation he understands the challenges that most working mothers face, and how important it is to provide a workplace that appreciates the role of mothers and is flexible to their needs.
This all makes me wonder. Can we really expect our male colleagues to understand and value our role in society, and in the workplace, if only a few of them have experienced what it feels like to be a working mum? Probably not.
Conversely, how can we promote male parental working conditions when their requests for flexible working hours keep getting knocked back because “part-time is traditionally only something for women”?
Therefore, shouldn’t it be the case if we are demanding gender parity in the workforce, that this should also include providing fathers with access to the same flexible working condition? This could potentially increase the responsibility of parenting across both parents, while allowing both parents, if they choose, to success careers.
Businesses should not just promote more positions for women, but for parents of either gender, and provide the means and support systems for this to happen.
Maybe when more male employers and business leaders experience what is like to be a working mother, gender equality will be achieved more naturally- and more quickly.
This article was also published in Pro Bono Australia News