American author Stephen Covey coined the phrase ‘seek first to understand’. And there’s no quote that more appropriately summaries of one of the key themes that emerged from the recent #HeForSheWhitehall event.
If you’ve not come across it yet, the UN Women’s ‘ HeForShe’ campaign encourages men to act as agents of change to take action against negative inequalities women face. And at PA, we were lucky enough to join forces with the Cabinet Office Gender Equality Group and Foreign Commonwealth Office Women to make the event happen.
Here’s who made up the panel:
So what jumped out at me from discussions?
Reflect on yourself
How often do you stop and reflect on how privileged you are in terms of your life experiences – family support, health and wellbeing, education and employment opportunities? It’s important we all pause, take time to reflect and remind ourselves our perspective may not be as unbiased as we think – or as inclusive as we’d want.
Change organisational norms
Once we’ve truly reflected on our own level of understanding and how we can effect change in our own behaviour, only then can we turn our attention to changing the organisational norms that exist. We recognise gender equality isn’t simply an organisational issue, but poor awareness and bad behaviours within organisations do have negative and lasting effects.
And ‘fixing the organisation’ is an improvement on ‘fixing the women’ (which has been a strategy for some). Do you really know what needs to be fixed within your organisation and how to do it?
Change society norms
This is the ultimate mission. Lasting change will only come about if we accept a fair society is about all of us giving of our best and having the opportunities to do so. We all need to take the time to understand and explore the talents of individuals and make informed choices based on this information. And this information only. We need to stop trying to fix, mould or re-orientate women and instead, focus energy on creating the conditions for all to be successful.
All in all, it was a real privilege to be able to attend this event. And while the discussion was inspiring and motivating, it was also very uncomfortable. But only good can come out of this – it reminds us all there’s still much work to be done.