International Women’s Day – #EachForEqualTuesday, 10th March 2020
Eleanor Gorick, Senior Account Executive at Roland Dransfield
The fight for women’s rights has been at the forefront of discussions over the last decade, as equality becomes less of a debate and more of a real and tangible goal.
The arrival of International Women’s Day once again saw pro-manchester host an inspiring event – Let’s all be #EachforEqual, celebrating and reflecting on boardroom equality and gender equal workplaces.
The panel welcomed three successful professionals from across the city: Kate Vokes, Director of Social Impact at leading property firm Bruntwood, Sally Penni, Barrister and Founder of Women in Law UK and Sarah Duckworth, Head of Group Finance at Freshfields.
Empowerment as we move forward
Nichola Evans from Ward Hadaway and member of the pro-manchester EDI committee, started proceedings highlighting some quite saddening statistics that focused on the issues women face when returning to work – predominantly that 400,000 women who currently want to return to work take lower skilled jobs after extended breaks due to lack of flexibility in their previous roles.
Discussions turned to European policies that could be adapted for the UK, including that of the Netherlands, where you receive 480 paid days off work for maternity leave and increased paternity leave.
Sally Penni highlighted issues in her profession due to racial and gender prejudice. From a young age, discrimination marred Sally’s career, but despite these issues she was able to move forward and forge a successful career in law, setting up the Women in Law UK group which aims to tackle issues of discrimination and intolerance.
Sarah Duckworth citied equality issues in everyday life, right down to buying a car where all questions were aimed at her husband. This is just a small example of the ongoing issue of gender stereotyping in everyday situations, despite feminism and gender equality being at the forefront of UK-wide discussions.
Courage and curiosity
Although a spotlight was shone on the #MeToo campaign in the last couple of years, Kate Vokes of Bruntwood didn’t ever feel disadvantaged in her career citing courage and curiosity as two key attributes that have helped her forge a successful pathway in business. Enjoying power games and being ‘prepared to argue’ were also at the forefront of Kate’s success throughout her career and at Bruntwood.
“Curiosity and courage to challenge have come through rich experiences throughout my career – I may have missed opportunities but that is to do with choices I have made and choices that I must own.”
Sally Penni’s mantra is ‘being good’. So many women look to strive for perfection, but perfection is an unattainable goal. Being good means you can always strive to be better.
This, coupled with a sense of humour and being authentic, are key attributes Sally has used throughout her career in law.
Thankfully, none of our panellists felt as though they had been disadvantaged on their climb to the top, with each saying they had been lucky enough to have great bosses and mentors that helped guide them through their career – you never quite realise how important a role model is until you have one yourself.
And speaking of role models, the panellists’ faces lit up when the discussion turned to how they can now be those role models for their children.
Kate, who grew up in a male-dominated family and now has two teenage boys, felt being a role model to her children highlighted the importance of #EachforEqual. Sarah echoed this view discussing her passion for making sure her children are hugely aware of the big wide world and that it is equal for everyone:
“Bias often comes down to assumptions made and it is now our job to reduce those assumptions.”
Roundtable discussions followed these three powerful talks and it was great to interact with other attendees and discuss issues facing women in the workplace with an emphasis on returning to work following extended periods of leave.
To close, each attendee made a pledge to make a difference to women’s rights over the next 12 months. My favourite pledge was about challenging assumptions – if we increasingly challenge problematic narratives, we’ll be able to create a world that’s more understanding, tolerant and purposeful.
To read pro-manchester’s report – The importance of equality, diversity and inclusion in Greater Manchester workplaces – which will help you understand more about creating an equal workplace, click here to read a printer friendly version, or here for the digital version.