International Women’s Day “should be a day when brands say publicly that they are going to do something to support women, whether it is their female staff or their female consumers. And do it with authenticity and credibility.” Tanya Joseph.

International Women’s Day this year falls in the week that Connect Three will launch the incredibly exciting Principally Women programme.  Working in partnership with Scottish Enterprise, this programme represents an amazing opportunity for us to develop a new way of working with senior female business leaders and providing tailored support where they need it.  But as we developed the ideas for the workshop topics, it quickly became apparent that these types of programmes are prone to…well, let’s be nice and say ‘misguided intentions’!

As our whole team sat around the table, sharing ideas for the programme, we told stories of “women’s” events we had been to where they had missed the mark.  I have been to a conference where the keynote speaker presented pink slides for the women’s survey responses and blue slides for the men’s answers.  My colleague had been to a prestigious women’s business award ceremony and received a branded nail file from an accounting firm while her male counterpart received a pen.  As these stories continued, we began to worry about what we could get wrong in the new programme rather than focusing on what would work well.

This is probably akin to how most companies feel when faced with celebrating International Women’s Day.  Brands who have got it wrong in the past are paraded in the news for their prehistoric ways and irrelevant ideas, while those who have done it well have been briefly saluted then forgotten about.  Those who do nothing risk even more wrath online, so what should a small business do?

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EachforEqual so before you celebrate equality in your workplace Tanya Joseph, architect of the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign at Sport England, suggests that authenticity is key.  Figure out if you are truly committed to doing something to improve the lot of women with a simple gender equality audit for your workplace:

  1. What are you doing as an employer of women?
  2. Is there a gender pay gap in your organisation?
  3. Do you have flexible working options that really are workable?
  4. Are women being recruited, promoted and retained in your business?
  5. Is your workplace one in which women are not subject to unwanted attention?
  6. Do women get a voice in your organisation?

You may not ace Tanya’s test, but committing to improving on each of these points is a step in the right direction.  In addition, “a workplace which works for women has the added bonus of working for men too.”  It cannot be a surprise that men want the same things in their working lives as we do, so how supportive is your business towards flexible working for men?  Why not use International Women’s Day as an opportunity to engage your male colleagues and staff in the conversation and get real feedback on what would improve your culture for all genders?

As always, at Connect Three we will never claim that we get it all right, but we do our best to practice what we preach, and I am so proud of the role our team has played in developing both male and female leaders in companies across the UK.  So this year we will do what we always do on International Women’s Day in March and International Men’s Day in November; get together and talk about our pledges from last year, see how we did against them and make some new ones for 2020.  It is the collective work of all members of our team that has helped guide and shape Connect Three’s policies and culture into something I am so proud of, so thank you team.

CJ Morley