I normally try to keep home-life and work-life separate, and this blog sits firmly in the home-life column. However, a few things have happened at work this month that I wanted to share with you. That said, this is the fourth time I’ve tried to write this blog post so here’s hoping fifth time’s a charm.
This month, three vital things have happened to me.
#1 – I attended a celebration event for Women into Construction, a London-based project that works with construction firms and unemployed women looking to build a career in the construction industry. No pun intended.
#2 – My employer asked me to join the project team for National Diversity Week to raise awareness and celebrate diversity within our 1,300 staff members.
#3 – I attended a celebration and networking event for the Inspire Network, a committee run by my workplace that focuses on raising the profile and value of gender diversity at the executive level, and addressing the barriers for career progression for women.
These three things got me even more focused than usual on issues of equality, diversity, disabilities and gender.
On top of all this, this week saw the announcement of the right to flexible working patterns across the UK. This is something that has, until now, been a taboo subject in many organisations – including mine. But, as the requests to flexible hours come flooding in, the boss still has the final say and child care issues still seem to gain priority above all other requests. For example, my colleague chooses to work longer days so that once a week she can collect her child from school. But what if I choose to work longer days so that once a week I can volunteer at a cat sanctuary? Am I not entitled to the same working pattern? At the moment, no, apparently not. What I want to know is, why does my employer get to do decide what is a legitimate use of my free time? Whether I’m choosing to spend time with children, cats or Facebook is entirely my choice and, as long as I’m doing my hours and not disrupting the office pattern in any way, I don’t understand why my Facebook hour requires more justification. It’s my time, and my choice.
Oh, and as it happens, I don’t want to look after kids, cats or my social media addiction. I just want to rest.
As these three events took place, I found myself thinking the same recurring thought… Why do we have to fight so hard for equality? We’re not asking for money or magic, just the opportunity to be treated fairly. It’s not rocket science.
People with disabilities are often excluded from activities in the workplace. Women are often setback from progressing. LGBT groups face prejudice. People from black and minority ethnic groups are discriminated against. It goes on and on. And if you’re a black, disabled, lesbian woman…well, hell, you’re screwed.
All of this is pretty depressing, but, whilst writing this post (the second time) I realised something. There is a group that supports women getting a career in construction, there is a week celebrating diversity in the workplace, and there is a network that champions women’s equality in the workplace. These things are happening. They are small but they are frequent. They are happening across the world and they are making a difference. Every time someone makes fun of a person for their gender, race, ethnicity, background, health, sexuality (the list goes on) I can comfort myself in the knowledge that things are happening and this world is changing. Slowly but surely, they’re happening.
And for the slow days when I feel like nothing’s happening, there are things like this going around.
#1 – Verizon TV advert
#2 – This, and other aspects of the Twitter campaign ‘Everyday Sexism’
#3 – Twitter shouting back at Robin Thicke in the thousands after VH1 launched the #AskThicke hashtag. (If you don’t know who Robin Thicke is, lucky you.)
Social media is a great way of keeping track of the good things going on in the world, as well as the bad and the ugly. For all the people who rant about the rants on social media, I can wholeheartedly say I would rather that than a lack of understanding of the issues we face or the small things that are happening to fight against them.