Why is International Women’s Day significant for me?
By Louise Maxwell, Director Max Marketing
I don’t often write about my personal life for business, in fact mostly I work super hard to keep them as separate as possible, but National Women’s Day is something that is significant for me as a businesswoman and as a mother, and as a feminist. I can almost FEEL people shudder at that last word, and not just men – I’ve come across so many females who don’t understand the term and shun it rather than taking time to understand what it means or why we should all become feminists too.
International Women’s day is about shining a light on gender equality and trying to work out how we strive as leaders and business owner to create equality in our workplaces and our lives. It’s about taking time to check in with our daughters and our sons to make sure that the world they grow up in recognises them as equal in terms of potential, value and opportunity. Even in my household I have to pull up my husband from time to time with his ‘stop whining like a girl’ comments to my son, or to my kids grandparents for the gender-bias of dolls and dresses for my daughter’s gifts and science kits and space exploration books for my son. This year International Women’s Day wants to raise awareness around #balanceforbetter. Why is it so important?
Gender bias is real and makes it hard for everyone
I employed a man last year to do my telemarketing for my business as he was the right person with the right skills for the role. Prior to that I had three different women doing the role. They all had vast experience and were good at their jobs. But Craig’s hit rate was around 3x’s higher than theirs. Was he simply better at the job than them? He was using the same list, the same pitch, the same offers. He was even less tenacious that some of my ladies. Yet his engagement rate was far higher. On closer inspection and talking to some of our prospects as to why they had taken the meeting I was told that ‘The man calling sounded very professional’. Similarly, my husband stepped into help out my business doing BDM work last year and listening to his calls and seeing how people responded to him within my business, even assuming that his position was higher than my own, was remarkable. It was just EASIER for him. People like speaking to a man. When we met people together, customers assumed Jamie was the superior officer in the business and the key decision maker. And it wasn’t that they didn’t see value in what I said or how I spoke, it was simply the assumption that the man was in charge – and knew more and could do it better.
Is this happening in your workplace? What can you do to change perception or to help women be viewed equally both internally and externally?
You’re only as good as your last emotional outburst
If a man shouts in the workplace he is called strong, perhaps even a bully. But if a women shouts in the workplace she is called unstable, or emotional. Women are assumed to be driven by their monthly hormonal cycle and incapable of working without thinking about fluffy kittens or babies. We respect women leaders who exhibit male qualities in the work place and we tend to dismiss qualities such as nurturing, multi-tasking, creativity as being less desirable. Employers often give pause to employing women who are pregnant, who are recently married (ie likely to become pregnant) or women who are recently divorced. Why? Because according to popular belief, women are unable to compartmentalise their lives and deliver focus and value to a role as well as men.
Is gender discrimination language prevalent in your workplace? Is there a culture of divisiveness that could be impacting healthy workplace culture? When did you last check your team or employees for feeling empowered to be themselves at work?
Women are amazingly resilient leaders you need in your business.
Have you heard the term ‘If you want something done, give it to a busy person?’ Most of the women I know in business take on more than one role. They are typically the primary care giver for children, the household planner (and often meal maker and chief bottle washer). With military precision, women cajole children through a morning routine, clean the kitchen and prepare a million lunches to then reach work on time and then complete the tasks of a male counterpart, working through lunch to and finishing exactly on time before tearing from the office to resume home-based duties of care that will often go on to 9pm or 10pm at night. Without exception I have found mothers to be the most productive people in my office teams, as they are used to completing tasks without the luxury of staying late, they are focused and they deliver on time and in full. Their training in negotiating, conflict resolution and sales at home results in exceptional skills they can draw on in the workplace too. Do you have a good understanding of the skills of your female employees in your business? Are you utilising or developing skills and experience your female employees have that could help drive your business performance effectively?
We are missing out on incredible talents if we don’t start with a level playing field and ASSUME women are equally competent to a man with the same skills and experience. Part of my reason for developing Max Marketing was to provide women and men with the opportunity to find more balance in their lives – to be productive and to maximise their income with the flexibility to do this around their personal needs. My team all work from home – set their own targets and are supported in reaching them. I find this approach creates a strong, loyal staff base who make the effort to go the extra mile and are happy to promote my business as being a good place to work.