Without doubt the past 18 months has shone a spotlight on the gaping divisions between men and women in the workplace and reversed some of the gains made.
Globally, more women have lost their jobs and income than men. Women make up 39% of global employment, but account for 54% of overall job losses while in the UK a total of 15.3 million jobs were furloughed, of which 52% were held by women, despite them only making up 48% of the workforce.
Multiple research papers have demonstrated the economic argument for diversity and inclusion in the workplace and with the seismic change imposed upon businesses as a result of the pandemic, we should see greater investment in women, building a diverse pipeline of talent to support recovery and growth.
At Everywoman we believe the key to change is ensuring more organisations build on the leadership skills and experience women already have, thereby encouraging progression.
Developing women's leadership skills:
Dawn Humphries, people development manager at the international, family-owned bakery Paul, turned to the Everywoman of Influence programme to help its managers navigate the significant operational changes required to run its branches during the pandemic.
The four-day leadership training programme uses role models and skills training to help women who are progressing through organisations to navigate and embrace change.
One of the first to attend the course was operations manager, Amanda Livermore, responsible for 11 Paul bakeries on sites across both central London and the City.
In Livermore's role, the need for leadership skills such as scenario planning and flexible communication were suddenly acutely important.
Each one of Paul’s sites has a different layout and COVID-19 compliance was critical, yet when a setup or way of working was agreed it often became essential to re-risk assess and change to new rules – and do this in a slightly different way for 11 sites and 11 teams.
Livermore also used the leadership training to build new skills so she could better influence senior managers as the team worked together to find new ways of adapting Paul’s offering.
This included changing stores so they could provide cash-free doorstep and window ordering, planning for eat-ins when restrictions eased, and managing a steady flow of delivery riders collecting bakery orders, whilst maintaining strict customer queuing systems.
Livermore says: “For me, the past 18 months have been hard. I really benefited from hearing about others' readily relatable real-work situations. This made me stop and notice how easy it is to default to ‘I’m not sure I can?’.
By using inspiring speakers and role models, the course showed me we all have doubts but do have capability for doing it. And looking back at all the many changes made over the past few months it is rewarding to see what we have achieved.
“Being able to clearly and effectively influence all those around me is now my number one skill. I absolutely had moments of self-doubt and uncertain times when rolling out COVID compliance measures and pushing through change.
"But I now know we all have the capability to make change happen and the Everywoman of Influence programme undoubtedly helped me to do this.”
For organisations looking to strike a similar balance, we believe the success of this course is down to ease of access, and employing the three activities that we know can support women’s progression, learning, access to role models and the platform to build a great network. Once onboard delegates can navigate their own self-led pathway that doesn’t feel pushed or monitored.
When individuals aren’t supported a feeling of uncertainty can soon grow into pervasive self-doubt – also known as imposter syndrome – which is associated with significant negative outcomes, including poor mental wellbeing.
The workplace environment is delicate, and we understand businesses are coping with different challenges as they navigate their recovery.
Carefully chosen leadership development tools can help. We’re all in it together and it is important that talent at every level and of any gender feels comfortable and confident with their strengths and weaknesses. This is key to striking a positive balance for the future.
The next everywoman of Influence programme will run on 2, 9, 16 and 23 November 2021. The programme is tailored towards women who have been working in a management role for 3 or more years.
Advancing women in business - every woman, everywhere.
Karen Gill MBE, co-founder of Everywoman and a globally recognised diversity expert