Gender and inclusion – a radicalist view required

By on Jun 21, 2013 in Gender, Work |

I have a confession – I used to work in large corporates as a management consultant. When new mums came back to work and ask for part-time hours (3-4 days a week), my response was often lukewarm. I knew the demands from our clients and I knew the very competitive performance management regime and I thought they might find it hard. I have another confession – I have recently become a mum myself, and I want to go back to work 3 days a week and I’m faced with some interesting conversations of my own and I’m up against some challenging assumptions around what value can I add to a business in 3 days.   According to the BBC in a report from May 2012, women occupy on average 30.9% of the most senior positions across 11 key sectors, including business, politics and policing. Even more worryingly, according to the ‘Women on Boards’ report in 2010, women made up only 12.5% of the members of the corporate boards of FTSE 100 companies.   But there is more to this debate than part time vs full-time hours or the number of women in high profile jobs. I think we are missing some very important balancing components by talking about ‘diversity’ in traditional ways. It is something that goes to the heart of identity and societal value.   Writing back in 1984, Judi Marshall mulled on her own issues relating to women in the workplace and specifically female identity in the workplace. Most interestingly for me were her descriptions of reformist feminist thought and ‘radicalist’ feminist thought. Reformists suggest the male world of activities and characteristics are tacitly used as a positive model to which women should aspire, i.e. women end up adopting tradition male ‘rationalist’ traits. Whereas, ‘radical’ feminists, would reject using men as a model for women, and to reaffirm women’s own sense of being.   Some work I have found equally illuminating is Bakan’s work on ‘agency’ and ‘communion’ (Bakan, 1966, cited in Marshall, 1984). The ‘Agency’ side of the spectrum is an expression of independence, control and self; whilst ‘Communion’ on the other hand, is a sense of being ‘at one’, in union and cooperation. The pervasive strategy we typically see in the workplace is the agentic strategy. However, the ideal position for both work and society in general is one of balanced and complimentary use of agentic and communal strategies.   Fletcher (2001) also suggests women have a different set of skills they draw on at work such as collaboration and supportive teamwork, but these get ‘disappeared’ as they become associated with the feminine. Along similar lines as Bakan’s ‘communion’, she argues that four types of relational practice get ‘disappeared’. Attributes such as – preserving, mutual empowerment, self-achieving and creating teams – are not held in the same esteem or regard as traditional ‘male’ attributes and attributes of the traditional workplace, such as competition and control.   These writers (and others) would suggest there is something ‘feminine’ missing in the modern work paradigm which leads to an unbalanced and unhealthy work environment and distorts the way we conceptualise work and the workplace.   I see this in my own experiences of fragmented attitudes to work. You hear talk of ‘leaving part of yourself outside of work’, a lack of ‘wholeness’.   And I don’t exclude men from this equation. I think there are probably many men who feel they would like to express some of these more ‘communal’, cooperating and nurturing attributes at work. I would propose many man are equally fragmented and frustrated with the current state of affairs.   So I look back at my former self, discussing part time returns to work and wonder was I right or wrong? Part of me thinks I was right – we live in a competitive, aggressive, money making world and you won’t achieve your full potential by returning part time.   But then another part of me thinks I have missed the point. By excluding alternative work practices and alternative life experiences of collaboration, tolerance, nurture and trust (typical communal characteristics) we are fragmented. Not only do we miss the opportunity to be ourselves, be truly authentic and realise our true potential; but we also miss the chance to change the paradigm and create a new frame within which we can all work to add greater societal value in a less fragmented, more balanced and more holistic...

Quote of the week

By on Jun 18, 2013 in Change |

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, its the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

Hello world!

By on Jun 18, 2013 in Change |

First blog post… Deep breath…. And relax…. It’s the fear…Fear of the blank page. Fear that no-one will listen. Fear that nobody cares. Fear that in fact I’m a complete loony and should be carted away in case I pollute society with ideas that are half crazed and delusional. Fear of failure, that I want to see a change, but I can’t/won’t have an impact. Or it’s the guilt….Guilt that I have built a nice life on the proceeds of big capitalism. Guilt that I don’t do more. Guilt that I have bills to pay and a family to feed and I should just focus on my self-interest and make sure my nearest and dearest are looked after. Guilt that I need to get a ‘proper job’. Or it’s the despair…Despair that there is so much wrong with the world and I have no power to change any of it. Despair that the assumptions we have surrounded ourselves with are so all consuming that we can’t see what is truly important and meaningful. Despair that when faced with adversity one of our tendencies is to go out a buy a box of chocolates, new dress or flat screen TV, or have another glass of wine. I have no real idea why this seems difficult, but it does. You can read about me and where I’m coming from in other areas of this website. But I feel this creation needs a small introduction into the world: “Sally’s blog – born 21st June 2013. Mother and bloglet doing well”? But that’s never the real truth is it. The birth of something is an arduous process.  Delivery was long and tiring and emotional. And messy…they never mention the mess, the blood on the floor. The sheer organic process is brutal. But you don’t see that in the texts or facebook photos. We like to gloss over that and keep it clean with happy smiley faces. Because it’s also a beautiful process, full of hope and dreams and love. So me and bloglet (we will work on the name later, but Bloglet kind of suits it right now, all squishy and new) are starting out on a new journey together. We want someone to listen and care. We want someone to think just a little bit differently. And no YOU DON’T NEED A NEW FLAT...