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Caitlin Moran: Equality is not a luxury

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As HR knowns equality is a necessity, it can be frustrating for them trying to bring the workplace along with them. Caitlin Moran’s closing keynote at this year’s CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition however, had a few tips for leaders to take away.

Introduce some improv

Recognising she’s preaching to the converted, her advice to HR directors driving gender equality was simple: “The one thing I know doesn’t work is panels.

"I firmly believe we don't need to have another panel on diversity ever again. They always come to the same conclusion: We just need to hire more brown people or black people, more women or menopausal women, more people who are who are disabled," she said.

"We just need to simply get to the bit where we're doing the diversity."


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When it comes to actively ‘doing the diversity’ Moran said it’s critical that organisations stimulate conversation among their employees, and she had a practical suggestion for doing it.

With comedy, there is an improvisation trick called "Yes and..." which is designed to keep conversation going between two people making up a sketch as they go along.

"Onstage you go: 'Hi, I'm a dentist' and the comedian opposite you will go: "Yes, and...I'm a doctor. Let's do a thing together, rather than going no, you're not a dentist, because that kills that comment right there."

Applying a similar practice to the workplace she said could help keep conversations going, so people can learn more from on another, rather than cutting them off.

"A lot of the time we don't want people to carry on talking. We're just trying to we're just trying to stop people talking. And particularly if people are emotional," she said.

"You need to feel that you've got all your emotions out and that you've been listened to, and then at that point, you go into a different set of brainwaves. And then you're ready to listen to the solution that someone is offering."

 

It’s not ‘survival of the fittest’

It is also time, Moran said, for women in the workplace to dismantle the idea that their companies and sectors only have the space for a few of them to succeed.

Rather than a ‘survival of the fittest’ type culture, she stressed that leaders should focus on creating more female-friendly environments.

"[Survival of the fittest] is not about one on one. It's not about you fighting someone else. It's not about feudalism. It's about - are you most adapted to the environment that you work in?

"So if you are a woman in a male dominated workplace and you have got another woman bitchy to you, it's coming to the realisation that it's not about whether you can become the queen bee and destroy that woman. You need to make it a more female friendly workplace, that's the goal. That's your main problem."

Finding female allies at work to talk about these challenges she said is one way to combat this attitude.

"We fail when we are in environments that are not supportive to us. So how do we change the environment?"

 

Allies are essential

Allyship can be used to tackled other encoded sexism in the workplace she added.

In her coaching work, Moran said she often gets asked how to deal with situations in which people, often women or introverts, are silenced by others (typically male colleagues) in the workplace.

A common example, she said, is when a woman expressed an idea, which is initially ignored, only for it to be brought up and praised when a male colleague brings it up.

By forming an alliance with at least one other colleague who agrees to speak up for you when this happens is the answer Moran said.

"You just need to form a little game of righteous people in order to claim your ideas back from god damn Tony!"