With the International day behind us, and the clutter around awards & celebrations over, it is a great time to reflect on “The genesis of Women’s day”- “Its relevance “- the “Way forward”
International Women’s day is a rallying point to build support for women’s rights/ gender equality etc. The cause is INCLUSION and not feminism; therefore it is important that men are a part of these conversations to ensure that we stay on focus and not forget the purpose in acts on tokenism.
Let us look around and see what typically happens on & around this day. Associations fall over to honour women achievers, clubs / pubs/ beauty parlor/ retail sector try to maximize the opportunity to increase sales by announcing discounts, freebees. The D&I teams also organise sessions/ screenings/ inspirational talks for women employees.
The question – do women value this – do they really want this
Sharing a recent experience, where a mega event was planned for the women employees of a multinational giant. The context was Leadership & Professional Growth. The company expected 200 out of 250 women employees to attend. A spectacular effort to publicize the event through standees & intra TV was done.
CEO & senior leaders were invited to kick start the celebrations with inspirational speeches. At 11 am the hall was empty, a few ladies strolled in and by noon after repeated announcements on public announcement system about sixty women turned up. As soon as the CEO & CFO finished their interaction and left the room, a mass exodus took place. Leading consultants and experts had been invited for the day, interestingly only a small number of women attended the numerous interactions planned.
On the spot conversations with a number of women to understand the reluctance to attend events created for them revealed the following:
- Seen by male colleagues as special privileges, women prefer to skip such functions than be subjected to taunts & comments
- The expectation by bosses, that the day’s work needs to be completed after the programme, even if it means putting in long after office hours
- Women do not want to ask if they can attend, only if their bosses give permission voluntarily they attend
- Women see this as unprofessional hindrance to their work
- These sessions mean nothing, seniors come together and make it more tokenism , would like better options like Sponsorship/ Coaching etc
Have these women ONLY celebrations run their course, and the time has come to move away from this tokenism to initiating real ground level change. Maybe it’s time for men to lead by championing the cause, speak up and advocate how women bring value to the workplace. This day is incomplete without the involvement & engagement of male colleagues… we need them- the cause needs them
Then and only then will we be able to create engaging & wholistic inclusive work places.