Clarity in Conversation: No equality without your own ‘North Star’

“That’s an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.” Though a ‘joke’, the classic Punch Magazine cartoon by Riana Duncan is one which is awfully recognizable for many women (and men, if they’re honest) and one that we are all all too familiar with in the workplace.  

Last month, on International Women’s Day,  our four female managing directors shared their experiences with equality in the workplace during a panel discussion

In my conversation with Kara Silverman (New York), Monica Feig (Los Angeles) and Rachel Gilley (London), it became clear that even in the world of communications, where women are strongly represented, there is still much to fight for. 

It is often taken for granted that women will be the force for change in creating gender equity in the workplace. But as far as I’m concerned, equality is a mutual responsibility: it is as much a matter of organizational change as it is an individual commitment. 

A mutual responsibility

The best advice I ever received came from my father. “Believe in yourself,” he said. For me, that determined my direction in life. In my career, I have learned that if I don’t assert myself, I’ll be walked over. My advice to women at any stage of their career is own up to your inner power and try to stay in control. 

In addition to organizations, YOU can (and should) make a positive contribution to equality in the workplace as an individual. This is where mutual responsibility comes in. If you, as a person or an employee, find yourself in a disadvantaged position, it is easy to fall into the role of victim. That’s a trap to stay away from.

That also means that you need to have the courage to be vulnerable and ask for help when necessary. Although assertiveness is a source of strength, you cannot solve all your problems on your own. Because,for every jerk you come across in your organization, there is a colleague – male or female –  who wants to, and will, support you. Include them in your support network. Because it is not a matter of ‘us against them’. The stereotype that men are ‘the enemy’ solves nothing. Start talking to each other and be open with each other. Certainly don’t shy away from difficult topics. That’s the advantage of cultural differences. In the Netherlands we are direct to the point of being quite blunt. Perhaps it comes across as rude, but it is certainly effective!

Straight to the point

How do individuals and organizations take the necessary steps together towards a better future? Many organizations have made Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) a ‘strategic priority’. Unfortunately, you often see that this is very progressive in theory, but disappointing in terms of concrete actions in daily practice. I’m proud to say this is different at Clarity. Here, under the leadership of our CEO, Sami McCabe, we have an approach of “action, not talk”. Among other things, we are dedicating a million dollars in pro bono services to bring about positive change in EDI and are actively engaging with employees, partners and customers on this issue. 

And for individuals, I say first, find your own “North Star” – your beacon or dot on the horizon. This makes it so much easier to not be distracted by detours and obstacles. Surround yourself with allies, with people who support you. And realize that despite all the setbacks, you have control. Not over everything that happens to you, but at least over how you deal with things and overcome your obstacles.

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