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Why 2019 can be the year of women in jersey
It’s easy to write off 2018 as a negative year for political and social progress around the world when we’ve been hit daily with depressing headlines about the global rise of nationalist politics, ‘America First’ foreign policy (and general ‘Trumpisms’) and the seemingly never-ending Brexit debacle.
However, if you look a little harder, there have been real glimmers of optimism in 2018 and, actually, some pretty significant successes, particularly when it comes to gender equality: Female candidates in the US (especially women of colour) broke historic ground in mid-term elections, Ireland removed its incredibly draconian abortion laws and women in Saudi Arabia finally were able to drive legally, to name just some of the most notable of these great leaps forward.
There is clearly a global ‘shift’ picking up pace. Closer to home this has been fuelled by high profile campaigns, including the gender pay gap and #MeToo. Female empowerment and women’s rights are being strongly championed by the media, with a host of celebrities, from Angelina Jolie to Meghan Markle, speaking out on women’s rights and gender equality. We are seeing the shift across the arts, entertainment, sport and business. Clearly Jersey is not immune.
So why do we believe that 2019 is really shaping up to be the year of women in Jersey?
In politics –
2019 will see the centenary in July of some women (and others for that matter, such as non-property-owning men) finally receiving the right to vote. This was a momentous moment in the history of Jersey’s democracy and quite rightly there are plans to celebrate in style! It will also provide an opportunity to reflect on how far women have come – and how much further we still need to go in terms of achieving equality. Would the pioneering suffragettes of one hundred years ago be impressed or disappointed with our progress in Jersey we wonder?
With the support of the think tank and action group, Women in Politics, we will have the opportunity to build on the progress made in last year’s elections which saw more women standing for office than ever and the two candidates receiving the most votes both being women (Senators Tracy Valois and Kristina Moore). Let’s hope amongst our female deputies and senators we have a strong woman willing to stand for Chief Minister at some point soon in the future. There is some great talent emerging in the Assembly and these women will hopefully be prominent role models for our girls to show them just what is possible for women in politics in Jersey.
One of the most significant barriers to equality for women in Jersey is our archaic tax law preventing married women from being responsible for their own tax affairs (we still find it hard to believe we are writing that sentence in 2019!). Thanks to a social media backlash and strong push back from some States members, the half way compromise measure offered by the States has apparently been recognised as insufficient and we have been promised change sooner. We very much hope this means in 2019!
Very importantly for Jersey, we will be hosting the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians in September. This is a fantastic opportunity to not only showcase to the rest of the world the beautiful island in which we live, but also our positive work and intentions towards achieving a truly inclusive society for all of our citizens.
In business –
Following some very disappointing gender pay gap statistics (not to be confused with equal pay, which thankfully did not appear to be an issue) released by the States of Jersey – our biggest employer on the island – we have seen a strong campaign, led by The States Diversity Group. This is shining a light on barriers to women in business across the whole of the Jersey business community and seeking to clarify just how much of an issue the gender pay gap is likely to be for women working here. The ensuing public debate and pressure on local businesses to look within their organisations at how successfully women are able to progress to senior levels have been significant, and the recognition that many working cultures need to change is growing.
This is reflected in the number of diversity related business groups and networks that formed or grew in 2018, including Lean In, Women in Tech, Diversity in Change and, of course, our own venture, The Diversity Network (TDN). These groups have been working hard to highlight the business case for diversity and inclusion in order to bring about real change for the benefit of everyone. Due to the positive reception we have received, and demand from local businesses for practical help, TDN are delighted in 2019 to be able to expand their support to providing business solutions for those organisations who really want to increase the diversity of their Boards and workforces. In terms of achieving gender equality, we are particularly proud of Her Talent, a personal development programme specifically designed for working women to help them break down barriers to success and achieve a better balance between work and home life. As far as we are aware it is the first of its kind in Jersey, and we are very excited about its potential impact for women in business!
Interestingly, several local action groups will all be focussing on social mobility as a serious issue that needs urgent action in Jersey in 2019. On a 9 by 5 mile island it is simply unacceptable – but surely possible to change – that many children from lower socio-economic backgrounds do not see a career in our major industries, finance and law, as an option for them. It is unacceptable that many people from minority backgrounds feel that their voices go unheard and that there is ‘no point’ in engaging in politics, because there is no one representing them or understanding their issues in government. Neither is this lack of social mobility and understanding healthy for the future of our island.
TDN will focus on what businesses can do to attract and retain a much more diverse workforce (for the benefit of their own business performance as well as the community) and Women in Politics, Soroptimists International and Jersey Community Relations Trust will particularly focus on women who are marginalised in Jersey society. We are confident that these local initiatives will receive the support they deserve from government over the next year. What will be really powerful – and is certainly one of TDN’s aims for 2019 – is to see government, education, business and community groups all working closely together to achieve similar aims for the good of the whole of society.
So why does it matter for Jersey that this should be the year of women?
The UK and Jersey’s productivity levels are in a slump and with the threat of Brexit on the horizon, radical change is needed to kick start the economy and fend off further decline. A recent report by McKinsey suggests a number of possible solutions, interestingly including increased female participation in the economy: ‘If women participated in the British economy as much as men, it could add £600 billion to UK GDP in 2025. More realistically, if each region were to add women to the workforce at the fastest pace it achieved during the past decade, then the United Kingdom would add £150 billion to its GDP in 2025.’
The big question, of course, is how do we do this? How do we future proof our economy? Obviously there is no silver bullet but the clever people are putting their money on:
· closing the gender gap,
· increasing female participation in key sectors of the economy, and
· increasing the number of female hours worked, and moving women into more productive sectors.
Achieving this is an enormous challenge, but definitely do-able. It would require looking at policies such as flexible working schemes, child care, and “returnships” to help women return to work after time away. All of these options are relevant, important and achievable in Jersey.
Whilst we have seen some promising signs that things are heading in the right direction for women, there is work to be done and the pace of change needs to accelerate. We need to keep our foot to the pedal and eyes on the road!
It’s also important to note that gender is just one strand of the strategy, and encouraging growth and contribution from all areas of diversity is truly needed. What we really need for the long term economic and social benefit of all citizens of Jersey is for 2019 to be the year of diversity...but one step at a time. As Lucy Stone, the leading US suffragist, once said, “Now all we need is to continue to speak the truth fearlessly, and we shall add to our number those who will turn the scale to the side of equal and full justice in all things.”!
Helpful links:Women in Politics: https://www.facebook.com/jerseywomeninpolitics/Gender Pay Gap Campaign: https://statesassembly.gov.je/news/pages/Is-there-a-gender-pay-gap-in-Jersey.aspxSoroptimists International: https://sigbi.org/swci/clubs-of-the-region/s-i-jersey/Lean In: https://leanin.org/circles/leanin-jersey-ci
Creating Better Balance: 5 Tips for Stressed Career-Parents!
Times are slowly changing and it was brilliant to see so many dads commenting on International Men's Day last week about wanting to share child-caring responsibilities and beginning to demand the flexible working that will allow them to do this and spend more time with their families. As the expectation and confidence to demand greater flexibility and consideration as a parent from men continues to grow (although, let's be realistic, there is still a mountain to climb before it is seen as acceptable for men to work part-time or flexibly in many organisations), so will equality in the workplace.
Despite some progress, it is still mums who take on the lion-share of the child-caring responsibilities and so it is predominantly women who are having to deal with the day to day pressures of juggling work and family life. The stresses are often so great that many feel that they have no choice but to opt out - sacrifice their career - if they have any hope of achieving a work life balance. Others struggle on to the detriment of their health and happiness. This is one of the major reasons why Sam Duffy and I felt that there is very much a need and a place for a personal development programme just for women - The Diversity Network's 'Her Talent' programme. TDN Academy
Personally, if I read another blog about how 'getting up at 5am to go for a run and meditate changed my life', I shall chuck my iPhone out of the window!! To be fair, on the odd occasion when I have got up an hour earlier and gone for a run, it has had a hugely positive impact on my day... but what most of us are crying out for - men and women - is practical help to enable us have more guilt-free time with the kids, without it having a negative effect on our career progression, and a less stressful day....
So, with my coach's hat on, here are the some of the most practical solutions that my clients struggling with the work life balance conundrum have arrived at....
- It's not 'one-size fits all'. Work-life balance is different for everyone. Caring for pre-schoolers is very different to caring for teens, for example, and so you will need to define what good balance looks like for you. What are your priorities, and therefore what can you do to help yourself achieve them? Would starting and finishing earlier allow you be at the school gate for pick up? Would working a 9 day fortnight be an affordable way to give yourself back a little more time just for you?
I really like the attached exercise. It's a quick and simple way to gain a little insight into the things that are actually core to our wellbeing, but always get over-shadowed by work and family/relationships. These are the things that, if we can find a way to fit them into our schedules, will give us back a sense of balance - and so a good starting place for your plan. Quartzy Work-Life Balance Exercise
2. Review your work life balance strategically. Take a calendar view - when are the busy times in your working year - when flexibility may be more difficult - and when are the quieter times when it may be possible to take some time out, reduce your hours or work more flexibly? Build this into your plan too.
3. If you don't ask...you don't get....Think about what would work for you and then confidently propose the changes at work, showing how they will be manageable and explaining why they are so important to you. If you are aware of precedents that work well, highlight them. If there is still doubt on your boss' part, suggest a trial period with the option to revert back to you current working patterns if necessary. More than likely you will receive a positive response from your boss, but demonstrating a well thought through business case will make it far more difficult for your employer to say no....
4. Be a role model and talk about your family at work. For years I felt I couldn't let on to my clients that I wasn't available at a particular time because I was looking after my kids! Why? I'm not really sure, to be honest, but there often seems to be this unwritten code that at work we daren't mention our domestic needs or pressures in case someone thinks that they will get in the way of our work. However, by talking about our families at work we are able to bring more of ourselves to work - and make it easier for others to do so too. I recently received an 'out of office' email from the busy MD of a local consultancy firm that explained that he was unable to respond because he was attending his daughter's sports day. What a positive role model - I imagine his workplace is a pretty good place to be!
5. Take control of your own work life balance. Once you've started responding to emails at 9pm at night or working on your days off for a period of time - this becomes the norm for you and the expectation of everyone you work with. You're also implicitly suggesting that this is how everyone else should be working, even if that is not your intention. Work out what is really urgent, and what can actually wait until tomorrow or next week or can perhaps be delegated to someone else . If you're addicted to your smartphone in the evenings or at weekends, put it in another room to help you resist temptation. If you want some 'me time' in the evenings or quality time with the family on your day off, set yourself some boundaries and do your utmost to stick to them. Once you've broken the old habits and established some new, more positive ones you might just see the scales tipping closer to that longed for balance...
By Kate Wright