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How can businesses show their support on International Women's Day?

It's International Women's Day, and while the fight for equality has come a long way since IWD started in 1910, we're not there yet.

women protesting at march
Photo by Giacomo Ferroni on Unsplash

This month The Female Lead unveiled its ground-breaking research into why women have still not achieved equal pay and progression in the workplace.

The study involved in-depth interviews with 70 women (and including four men) at mid-stage careers working in finance, engineering, media, communications and arts (in both the private and public sector), as well as the self-employed and entrepreneurs.

And what did we find?

The research showed that women have been socially conditioned to feel less entitled than men, which has fostered an ‘unentitled mindset’.

Almost half of women surveyed felt less entitled to promotions or increased pay in the workplace, and more than a third admitted experiencing this or having seen it experienced by others.

Since the launch of the study, people around the globe have been behind our campaign to 'Close The #EntitlementGap'

And while challenging can create change, actions speak louder than words.

So what actions can businesses take to 'Close The Entitlement Gap'?

We know that the majority of workplaces and organisations want to create an environment where women are held equal. The ‘unentitled mindset’ is the hidden blocker.

Based on this, our recommendation is not to ‘fix women’. Women are clearly skilled and ambitious, but The Female Lead recognises that this hidden mindset forms part of long held societal beliefs and workplace processes, unspoken and unearned.

"Collaboration is the solution," says Women at Work Research Author Dr Terri Apter: “Instead of the directive to ‘lean in’, economic recovery requires a dynamic collaboration. Our ‘Close The Entitlement Gap’ campaign speaks to that call and collaboration.”

Embedded societal structures and privilege cannot be resolved by encouraging the ‘less privileged’ to feel more confident. Men and women need to work together to eliminate the bias of working practice ‘norms’.

Sustained progress towards gender parity requires a two-pronged approach, and we have recommended that companies address the embedded structures in the workplace that prevent women accessing equal opportunity, to drive long-term change.

Dr Apter recommends the following actions for changing the ‘unentitled mindset’ at work, specifically in the areas that it most impacts – pay and flexibility:

1) Highlight positive policies:

Women’s experience teaches them, for example, that flexibility is rare, and that if offered, then asking for more – such as higher pay or status or responsibility – would risk their employer’s good will, and possibly even their job. To change the environment, organisations simply need to make their willingness to embrace flexibility salient.

2) Proactively invite pay discussions:

Organisations need to understand how the environment (as opposed to the attitude of anyone in the organisation) triggers the ‘unentitled mindset’, but they can correct it. Inviting pay discussions, clarifying the possible outcomes, explaining how and when and with whom these discussions should be held, goes a long way towards reducing the ambiguity in which women are more likely to experience an ‘unentitled mindset’.

Businesses can learn from women who’ve successfully navigated careers and achieved fulfilment, despite the extra challenges. They can learn from other businesses who’ve created new and better norms.

Only then, can women be equal and contribute the full economic value they represent.

Comments from our supporters

“This research has put a name to a ‘syndrome’, like in medicine. There will be a group of symptoms that come together, such as the sense of being undermined because of historic career paths or what the expectations have been.

These symptoms cluster together and cause the ‘unentitled mindset’ – a syndrome that all organisations, individuals and legislators need to know about.” YASMINE CHINWALA OBE, Partner at New Financial LLP

“The discovery of the ‘unentitled mindset’ clearly demonstrates the need to better empower women to pursue their career ambitions with confidence and free of damaging stereotypes. Whilst we are already making changes within our own business there is still a lot of work to be done at societal and organisational levels and by using our combined efforts we can, and will, do more. It’s so important that we all learn from this research and take action to cultivate and grow the enormous talent, ambition, drive and passion that women have for their careers.” ANNIE MURPHY, SVP, Global Chief Commercial Brands Officer and International Retail, Walgreens Boots Alliance, on behalf of No7.

“The Women at Work Research demonstrates that women do not lack ambition, skills or a sense of purpose. What we need is a shift in culture and policy to ensure that women are valued when it comes to areas such as pay, progression and work life blend, so they do not have to forfeit one for the other. The only way we can achieve this is through collaboration, action and changing the ‘unentitled mindset’.” VANESSA SANYAUKE, Founder of Girls Talk London


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