Gender equality at work .. have I been “lucky” or have I witnessed progression?


Working in HR and following all things related to HR, org development etc I read depressing statistics relating equality between the sexes at work. Being female apparently means I will earn less than my male counterparts and get to the top of the HR ladder or perhaps not at all. Today I read an article where the author answered that she is pessimistic about the future being a culture where discrimination and harassment were not standard practice and the progress so far is more lip service.

Her profile suggests she has more experience than me so I won’t for a second suggest she hasn’t witnessed it for herself.

But, I can honestly say I haven’t felt that I have received the short straw at work. Am I naive? .. after all, in most of my career I have worked in mainly female teams with a male HR Director heading us up. Maybe the glass ceiling was there?

But this isn’t about proving to myself that it does exist.. if I don’t see it it can’t get in my way can it? My blockers at the moment are getting my next role and then my own confidence.

What I wanted to share is for once some good news or insight into progress that has been made.

By the time I joined the workforce it was already well known that you mustn’t ask a female candidate in an interview if she was planning on having kids and therefore I have never been asked. It may well be on some recruiting managers minds but since joining the world of HR I have interviewed hundreds.. thousands maybe of candidates for a broad range of roles with male and female hiring managers and never once has it been asked or suggested.

Then a couple of years ago, I had a call from one of my Tech Directors.

He had just interviewed a GREAT candidate. Head and shoulders above the rest he wanted to hire her. (think.. Tech is a mainly male dominated space). During the interview and again on discussing the offer with her, she was open enough to

a) say she had another offer with a similar company / a key competitor

b) ask for the maternity policy

The concerns she shared about our offer and why she may have to go to our competitor is that they have a better maternity policy.

The manager didn’t run and scream and wasn’t calling to ask how he could rescind the offer. No, his question?

“Can we match this company’s maternity offering to her?”

I asked if she was pregnant now and he responded no, she isn’t but clearly it’s part of her life plan in the  not too distant future and he wanted her on the team.

Sadly, I couldn’t offer one female employee a better maternity package and offering a better salary wasn’t her motivator and she politely declined the role.

I couldn’t help to but to marvel at

a) how far we (women) must have come if now she can ask this at the interview (cue the cynic who sees a professional / litigious candidate but no it was a genuine exchange)

b) how much the male Tech Director still wanted to hire her.

In his mind, she was still great for the job and of course, she’d need a year off down the line but that’s manageable.

I worked with this guy and knew him quite well. He was a tough cookie and a family man and whilst he had his moments with stakeholders I had to admire his response.

Close to that time, another manager – a single guy – was trying to convert a contractor to perm status. Her eligibility for maternity was top of her list. He too took the time to understand her eligibility and would have fought hard for her had he learned that she wouldn’t be eligible for the maternity leave and pay.

I point out that he was single.. so the family man wasn’t talking. Just a guy similar age to me who it doesn’t occur to him to discriminate because you are female or heaven forbid want a baby.

I also know from experience of working with largely male dominated client groups (Tech space) that the male managers will often express their desire to have more women on the team or express their disappointment that no females were in the shortlist.

They too talked about the senior women or their female manager and how inspirational they are. never have i heard resentment. (in previous companies I have but I 100% do not believe they resented the female director.. just resented her fast track progression when 20+ years later they were still in their entry level roles. their way of not acknowledging that they hadn’t progressed was to still refer to her as an Administrator cos “that’s what she started as” … NB this was 20  years ago mind.. why do i think that – cos they were the same about the fewer men who had progressed through the ranks tho none had so far or fast).

That’s just a few moments in my career in one company – maybe the best examples – but they alone remind me that progress has been made and men are not always the blockers.

Again, here I won’t try for the answers

I won’t say there is not a problem

but sometimes, isn’t it nice to hear some good news stories??






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s