2018 seems to be a year for reflecting on the past – at least for me. I’ve been back to see old places I used to live in or visit as a child. I’ve met up with family members who I haven’t seen for a while and this week I met an old school friend who I haven’t seen for decades. It’s odd to think that so many years have passed because she was mainly just the same as she was 35 years ago.
Not only did I meet her, but I also met her 18-year-old daughter, with my 18-year-old daughter. There is something amazing about being able to go over the past, present and future all in one meeting. My friend, who lives abroad, is also involved in an organisation that promotes women – women entrepreneurs. We were chatting away about the different challenges women face at work while the girls were listening in. I told my daughter that so many of the women I speak to who are trying to change things say that the main motivation they have is their daughters – and also their sons. It is about moving beyond limiting stereotypes and opening up the world to them.
Many years ago I interviewed a writer who was writing about dads. He was frustrated with the lack of change and the lack of action by dads to make a difference. It was all very well, he said, talking about sharing and equality. Actions speak louder than words. I had been talking to a lot of mums who faced discrimination and many who were struggling to get back into work. Why did he think the men were not taking action, I asked; why were they never in the room to debate these issues, even when they were specifically about dads? Could they not see what was happening to their partners? Did they just not care?
Fortunately, things have moved on since then. There is more recognition now that moving towards greater equality at home and at work is a joint endeavour. The recent Google strike was not just a women’s protest. The latest Aviva statistics on parental leave show how much men also want to take time off to be with their children. Despite all the pink and blue that are pushed in our faces every day of the week, men and women are not so different and our relationships are all the better for that. Equal relationships, founded on mutual respect, are good for everyone.
It’s good to see more men in the room at events – it would be great to see equal numbers, but we’ve at least made significant progress just in the last few years.
The majority of us will become parents at some point in our lives. That’s a lot of people power if we join together. Managers who don’t get that the earth beneath their feet is shifting will find themselves going the way of the dinosaurs.