At the beginning of this year I conducted 2 dozen interviews with women about their experiences in the workforce in Tech Companies in the Bay Area.
All women had stories story to share that fell nothing short of the latest Google Memo of abuse, harassment and broken dreams.(https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6240022-I-m-Not-Returning-to-Google-After-Maternity.html#document/p1)
It was heart-breaking to start the year listening to these testaments of a broken system that does not support women in adequate ways, that doesn’t protect them from abuse, that leaves them sick and depressed and hungry for opportunities that the companies don’t grant.
Workplaces that have been built and designed by men for over a hundred years that return to their house wives after a long day at work while she had time to look after the children, clean the house, go shopping, get her hair done and cook dinner.
Guess what? In this day and age, these tasks still fall predominantly on women yet with the small difference that as a society we decided to “allow” women to work and follow their aspirations and enter the workforce.
So when exactly did anybody say
“Wait a minute! Is it perhaps time to change the rules and the ways how we support our employees?”
… It hasn’t happened yet.
Women are still grateful for the opportunity and keep proving to — God knows who (?) — that we are just as worthy of responsibility, as clever, as skilled and as talented to lead as our male counter parts. It is not just that women “feel” that we need to do this, women face a world in which it is expected to proof our worth — over and over and over.
And all the while women are still birthing children and going through physical trauma of monthly periods and child birth a couple of times in their lifetime and predominantly caring for the elderly.
And what about the men? They may have decided that sharing these joys of giving life to new generations is also something to devote time to and haven’t we seen a tremendous shift in the ways how men care for their families and share responsibilities?
Not everybody regardless of gender thrives in a system with ambiguous recognition of skills and very testosterone fueled behavior — that is recognized and foolishly labeled as “leadership” — in our government as well as our companies.
It’s time to pause and evaluate the society we created. Let’s review if cube farms and hierarchical 9–5 structures are still adequate. Let’s think about the pictures we want to come to mind when we say “boardrooms”.
Why do we need to show up EVERY day to prove that we are “working” when our productivity isn’t measured or even a KPI for the next promotion. Why do we deny a $100 wellness stipend for employee #1?
Why don’t we ask what this new world of men and women sharing the workforce and the work place would look like and why is nobody making a radical change?
Are we all so scared that our companies wouldn’t function any more if we did allow flexible work hours, if we did give benefits that our employees actually want, if cozying up to the CEO wasn’t a sure bet to get a promotion and if we had communication rules and a culture that gives every resume, idea and voice a chance? What if family and health were true values for workforces? What if the stacks of whiskey bottles on desks didn’t signify that we work at the coolest company in town. And what if the after hour Soulcycle outing didn’t mean that the 50 year old Wall-Street broker re-skilled UX designer “didn’t fit in”.
Do you really think she has the same needs as the 20 something Associate in order for both of them to be effective and productive at their jobs?
And isn’t this what we are striving for? A productive workforce? How about we maximize for productivity in the new equation of work-life balance in the 21st century and use variables like happiness, impact and real output and factor in the work environment we create as company leaders for employees to be their best selves?
I’m sad that 8 month after listening to women who almost cried when they recalled their experiences in the workforce, I have to read yet another testament to the broken system we bend our knees to.
Let’s change it! Let’s come together and create new rules and guidelines that make “work” a great place to be, that make the currency we give to the world — our productivity — the most nurtured and valued resource and let’s include everybody in the conversation!
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