Article provided by Lisa Barnwell, Founder, Bumps and the Boardroom
Change starts with you.
Are you taking full responsibility for creating the life you want to live and the workplace and culture that you are a part of? That works for you and those around you?
Sometimes situations seem so set in stone; there are years of tradition and limiting beliefs (yours and others) connecting together to make it seem impossible that a more flexible role could be created or a more creative solution can be found to an ongoing issue. Yet, if you take responsibility for what you can be responsible for – even if that’s only two per cent of a situation – and you show up and give 100 per cent effort and commitment there, what impact do you think you could have?*
*Probably way more than you think!
In the western world we have access to more resources and more opportunities than many others on our planet have access to, so the barriers to us being able to access the power to create the lives we want aren’t really in our circumstances, but in our own thoughts and consciousness.
Collectively, if our actions inspired others to also step up, what else could happen and what else could start to change?
This International Women’s Day (March 08 2019) the theme #BalanceforBetter is encouraging women and men to take shared ownership in driving gender parity and the “gender agenda” to create positive change that benefits us all.
Collective action is what makes International Women’s Day successful but it’s easy to leave it to your company (or those who have Diversity and Inclusion as part of their remit) to step up and organize something. Perhaps you will participate but can you also think “What can I do on this day – and throughout the year – that will move the needle and change the world for me and those around me?”
Ensuring your attention is always on where you are making choices, and creating your experiences from there will give you the inner strength and power to create new ways of thinking, being and working that truly make a difference.
In my years as a Leadership and Working Parent Coach I’ve seen many get more interested in gender balance when they become parents or when their children start to enter the workplace. Gender inequality starts to become personal and the daily challenges that mothers particularly, have faced for years, hits home. It definitely has more impact when you (rather than your partner) experience the real or perceived fear that asking for shared parental leave or time off to care for your sick child or parent will be “career suicide” and you understand that “working from home” to manage child care or other responsibilities is not having “a day off”.
It’s human nature not to fully understand a situation until you really need to, and we all have so many things in our lives to focus on that it can be hard to prioritise. But the commitment to change needs to be owned by us all and the reality for many leaders and parents I’ve worked with, is that the belief about your career falling of a cliff post babies, is just not true! Sure, you may need to adapt and so may your company or business, but it’s a huge opportunity for growth that can serve you and those around you.
Whilst there are many great advocates working in this arena, I’d love to see more men and women stepping up and creating change. When we question men’s actions we also have to ask: Are we as wives, sisters, girlfriends or mothers speaking up and doing all that we can? I’ve spoken to many women who want to live and work in a more equal and balanced society yet when it comes to raising their own children they choose a very traditional route and opt out of the wider gender balance conversation altogether.
Traditionally women have chronically seen themselves in positions of powerlessness (and there is no question that in some countries, cultures and homes this belief continues). Activities by both genders perpetuate the belief and subsequent experiences, but in many situations, certainly in the UK, harsh as it may sound, we cannot keep indulging ourselves in taking the position of a victim, succumbing to apathy and inaction.
We all need to stop shaming and blaming men and women for actions and past behavior, instead we can turn our attention towards how we can work together to create a more inspiring future. Past hurts do matter but growth only comes when we learn to forgive and heal.
Our collective story and level of identity is evolving and everywhere I look women are seeing themselves as powerful. If you are uncertain read Helena Morrissey’s Good Time to Be a Girl or Mary Portas’ Work Like a Woman to give you inspiration and ammunition.
Joanne Lipman’s Win Win: When Business Works for Women, It Works for Everyone uses masses of data, to expose how our current world structure is predominantly rigged against women, which actually doesn’t serve the majority of men or women. It can give you the tools you need to take real steps towards closing the gender gap and if you need more help, just ask.
If you are a white, middle-aged man struggling to “get it” (or working with one) Michael Kimmel’s classic TED talk: Why gender equality is good for everyone – men included can help you understand the fear behind a negative attitude. Organisations like Token Man can help you see the issues from another perspective and making sure you participate in International Men’s Day, held every November can give you further balance and understanding.
If you feel nervous, excited or even resistant to the idea that change is within your control (and not the responsibility of everyone else) it generally means a big transformation is coming your way!
Take a personal stand to create a more inclusive gender-balanced world, transform your thinking and open up to all the possibilities that presents. It’s an exciting time and change is happening. But how quickly, is really up to you.
I’m getting ready to launch a new collaborative 12 week online Leadership program with a mix of coaching and training for up to 20 female leaders who are feeling stuck or at a cross roads, or who are succeeding but at a cost to their physical, mental or emotional health. If you’d like to know more or work with me privately please contact me [email protected]