On any day, marked International Women’s Day reflection is called for – how far have we come, what’s the reality of the work experience for women, and what context and cultures exist right now for enabling women to progress in line with their potential and aspirations?
I have a daughter and a son, both embarking on their chosen career paths. Although those paths may be different, guided by conscious choices and circumstances, will the opportunity afforded to both be the same? Will the views and perceptions as they progress, the conditions placed upon them, the investment, development, and above all the extent to which their choices and preferences be welcomed, not just accommodated? They both “notice” as they join the work environment the positive changes. When I describe my experiences, at the same early stage in my career, it's clear it feels like I’m describing, or rather embellishing beyond their realms of a reality they can comprehend. That’s really good news, it used to be blatantly acceptable to stereotype, impose limitations or directions, and above all “banter” – which had very clear underlying assumptions and messages.
Today it is different, but I wonder if it’s a job done – or a more subtle and watered-down enactment of something more deep-seated? There is evidence that it’s progressed but is it enough? Pay gaps, and presence at executive board tables are all data often cited but the lived experience of women at work today is still largely untapped, in the big data sense.
So today I feel that the work environments my daughter and son are entering are vastly more likely to give them both opportunities, encouragement to progress, and the ability to tap into what’s important to them. I hope that their paths are different than my own. We are immensely privileged to have so much to offer in our organisations of today and yet we should never assume the quality of experience – but ask for it and keep asking and actioning – until the job is done.