It’s true, and positive, that we are seeing more women than ever entering senior roles, owning businesses and impacting change at the highest levels of our society, but when it comes to workplace equality, we have to ensure that we are doing more than simply box ticking.
For me, as a female business owner in the legal industry, equality for women is not about us competing with men to prove our worth; instead, it’s about working with them and embracing our different approaches to ultimately get the best possible results for our clients and our wider teams.
In our industry especially, it can be easy to assume straight-talking, emotionless conversations are the way to achieve what you want, whether that’s from a career progression or business development perspective. However, the most positive outcomes for clients come from a balance of skills.
At CEL, our board of directors is equally split between men and women, meaning we can get a truly blended approach in terms of decision-making and policy setting. In my opinion, women often bring those so-called ‘soft skills’ to the table which creates a thriving working environment.
By harnessing these skills, such as collaboration, persuasion, adaptability, creativity and time management, females are able to complement their male counterparts to get the best outcomes.
For example, when discussing matters among our board, our female directors and I will often come in with an alternative way of thinking to the men sitting round the table. Now, that’s not to say that they’re wrong, but we’ll just approach a problem from different stance and, more often than not, the solution is a real mix of both points of view.
It is this mindset that has to be adapted more widely. For us, this is just one part of our overall ethos that has kindness, flexibility and collaboration at its core. In fact, each new member of our team is asked to sign our ‘kindness contract’ upon starting with us, outlining how to help create a happy working environment for everyone. Among the points highlighted in there is our commitment to making sure everyone’s voices are heard and counted, as well as continually striving to innovate and break down barriers.
It’s also about making sure we offer a work-life balance for the team, both men and women. We often hear about how women in particular face the difficult decision of choosing career or kids. But, I’m passionate about disproving this and championing flexibility for parents, including the dads! In fact, one of the team was able to see his little girl’s first steps during lockdown because he was working from home…a milestone that he would have otherwise missed.
This isn’t to say that all women should be career-focused, super-mum heroes – let’s face it, no-one gets it right all of the time! But the point is that you can do both if you want to. Pre-COVID, flexibility was traditionally associated with working mothers and would often prompt a number of eye-rolls in many a boardroom; however, if this year has taught us anything, it’s that flexibility and trust in staff members is key to employee wellbeing and, in turn, to the success of a business.
Equality between men and women should not be about pitting us against each other – we’re different and we need to recognise this in the workplace. For a balanced, fair and, most importantly, successful team, we need to be working together breaking down barriers and busting stereotypes as one.