By Catherine Brown - 8th March 2016
Here at Pulse, women make up around a third of the work force and the numbers are growing every quarter. They sit in every team, including the board of directors. They hail from all over the world. Their experience ranges from a few days to more than ten years.
I wanted to write a blog post for International Women’s Day that would celebrate the ladies of Pulse. I asked them to tell me what they felt was their biggest achievement in either life or work, what they were most proud of. The answers were incredible, inspirational and humbling. It was fascinating to see what people have achieved in their lives, what means the most to them, what amazing things women reveal about themselves when pushed for a positive self-reflection.
My next step was to ask the males of the company how they felt about working with women. This was an attempt to probe some recognition out of them, to tease out some positive messages for their female colleagues. This was the exact email I sent:
I’m working on a blog post to go out tomorrow for International Women’s Day that celebrates the Pulse ladies. However, it’s not just about the girls, it’s about you gentlemen working alongside the girls in a supportive and respectful way.
If you have two minutes, please could you send me one or two lines on what you like about working with women, any notions of respect you have for women, how important you think it is to have women in B2B tech or business or anything else you think about women in the workplace.
Just two lines to this effect would be really helpful.
Thanks a lot,
Interestingly, my appeal was met with confusion and disdain. Almost affronted, the replies started rolling in.
“Why would working with women be any different to working with men?”
“I don’t see any difference working with women or men. It comes down to personality. Isn’t that what it is all about?”
“I don’t think there’s any opinion on working with women that couldn’t be said for working with men. Everyone brings something different to the table!”
Without them viewing each other’s responses, most of the guys at Pulse had similar reactions to my question. Why are we talking about women specifically? To talk about women in this way is to attribute the shackles that so many organisations around the world are trying to shake. My question was insinuating a divide that they just didn’t see as being there.
One of our male directors emphasised this in his point that we shouldn’t talk about males and females, but about people in general and that it’s unbelievable that this is not the case the world over. He said, “It still galls me that in 2016, men and women are not viewed as equals. Personally, it doesn’t matter to me; it’s simply about the best person for the job. More than this, it’s about personality and that we have great PEOPLE in the business that I can talk to about anything be it work, cheese, The Walking Dead or anything else. My priority is that we have PEOPLE that are great to work and socialise with.”
These responses completely altered my mindset. My original plan for the post now seemed shallow and superficial.
I was prompted to ask the males in the office what they felt their biggest achievements were so far. The answers? More similar to the females’ than I could have imagined. Raising a family, living in different countries, moving to London, earning qualifications, fundraising for charity; there was no imbalance between genders as to who was proud of what. In other words, in our workplace, gender is not seen to determine what you can achieve in life and your view of what is important.
Another of my male colleagues extended this argument to nail how it’s not as simple as talking about the experience of women within one context. He said:
“I wouldn’t ever want to treat women as a whole in the office any differently than I treat men, but I do think there are positive ways of treating people in the office that are brought to light more easily by having a degree of diversity in perspective. A balance in gender is one way to achieve this.
For me, individuals’ personalities form a huge part of not just the day-to-day working environment, but the shaping of its future. Any imbalance of characteristics in a business doesn’t have to be much off-centre to begin sliding to one end of a scale – whether it be organisation Vs creativity, individual success Vs teamwork, etc. Then, when anyone comes in from the outside, that balance becomes more and more what the business is perceived to be about. So it is really easy to create an environment unintentionally hostile to particular groups and types of people. And yes, sometimes these groups can be classified by gender. To my mind, gender is amongst the most important balances to get right in order to attract the best people, and get the best out of them.”
In B2B, this balance is becoming more and more vital for business success. With the female share of B2B spending growing every year, and women occupying a third of manager, director and senior official roles in the UK in 2016, to maintain the balance of people in your organisation is to create an atmosphere that optimises the workforce and subsequently, client relationships.
What this discussion with my male and female colleagues has made me realise is that issues surrounding gender equality go deeper than how I am treated by my employees as a woman in a male-dominated industry. The benefits of gender equality transcend individuals to aid entire organisations and industries. And this is something that is becoming increasingly prominent in B2B.
The final colleague to offer a response to my request commented, “As with every industry, we should definitely have more women in the workforce. If we did, I feel that a large number of the problems our societies face, would be vastly reduced.”
Hopefully with charity International Women’s Day‘s commitment to accelerating gender parity, we will learn in this lifetime if my colleague’s predictions come to light. In the meantime, the PEOPLE of Pulse offer the men and women of the world their full support in achieving this.