I am Generation Equality

The theme for Women’s Day this year is “Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future”.

The day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality.

Helene Vermaak, Business Director and Co-Founder at corporate cultural experts The Human Edge says as long as women continue to be undervalued, work more and earn less, have fewer choices, are ignored or not taken seriously when they speak up, and experience gender-based violence, quotes such as the one from Sheryl Sandberg can only be imagined and sadly, won’t be fulfilled in our lifetime.

She adds that while many organisations are taking steps to promote gender diversity, including proactive equity hiring, equal access to developmental work opportunities, and actively creating an inclusive, non-sexist culture, The Human Edge’s recent research study – Women in Business in South Africa – found that there are organisations that are still lagging behind.

Inequality in the workplace

“Gender inequality in the workplace is real. There is no doubt that it is unfair and unacceptable and needs to be addressed at a cultural, legal, organisational and social level.”

The study also found that women who negotiate are 67% more likely to receive the feedback that their personal style is intimidating, too aggressive and bossy.

Women who disagree in a forceful and assertive way are judged more harshly than men who do the same.

This judgement negatively impacts how a woman’s competence, worth, prestige and influence are perceived. Vermaak says, “Unfortunately a woman’s forcefulness is more likely to be seen as anger and not strength. Women are told to stand up for themselves, but then when they do, it’s taken as too aggressive.”

So, how can women own their voice, speak their mind, gain respect, and not have it impact their career negatively?

Three ways to stand up for yourself

“By having open, honest and direct conversations in the most respectful manner we are able to tackle these challenging conversations.”

Vermaak proposes that organisations introduce unconscious bias training actively promoting interpersonal skills training, setting targets and quotas and promoting mentoring and coaching.

Certain framing statements can help curb social backlash and the negative effects of emotion-inequality.

Below are examples of three phrases, each working in a different way:

  • Behaviour frame– “I’m going to express my opinion very directly. I’ll be as specific as possible.”

This frame works by setting an expectation and ensures that the statement that follows isn’t a surprise. It helps to prevent a negative conclusion and thinking that the person is emotional or has lost their temper.

  • Value frame– “I see this as a matter of honesty and integrity, so it’s important for me to be clear about where I stand.”

This provides a positive reason for the emotion, changing it into a virtue by turning it into a measure of commitment and a shared value.

  • Inoculation phrase– “I know it’s a risk for a woman to speak this assertively, but I’m going to express my opinion very directly.”

This frame warns observers that they may have an implicit bias and causes them to try to be fair or to adjust their judgement in an effort to be fair.

Despite barriers, leadership is there

“If not acknowledged or managed correctly, emotional inequality and social backlash can adversely affect your career and an organisation’s effectiveness,” explains Vermaak. What The Human Edge research did, encouragingly, reveal is that South African women are starting to take the lead and make their voices heard, with 82% of respondents saying that they see themselves as informal leaders within their organisations and 87% seeking out leadership opportunities.

“Successful women in the workplace have, and are showing us, that despite barriers, leadership is there for those of us that actively take it.”

Article source: All4Women