Change is happening on gender equality... let’s celebrate

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On International Women’s Day it's worth taking a moment to celebrate those leaders who are inclusive

Last year was certainly a busy year for the subject of gender equality, with much written about the subject. Within my own network, both I and my colleagues have been delighted to see a new generation of leaders bringing a more modern, inclusive style of leadership to the workplace.

So, on International Women’s Day this year, I want to take a moment to celebrate some of the changes I’ve observed within the ranks of senior management teams:

Alphas don’t rule

These new leaders don’t feel comfortable in a traditional ‘Alpha-type’ boardroom and can relate to those that equally feel the same level of discomfort. Equally, they don’t feel the need to surround themselves with Alpha colleagues. In fact, they relish difference around their board table and work hard to ensure they create an inclusive senior team that represents all parts of their workforce.

Open minds

When building their teams, they’re keen to secure the best talent in the market that ‘fits’ with the team they’re building. They’re open to exploring different ways of working and removing barriers. For example, through trialling different work patterns, locations and other types of flexible working.

Inclusivity

They positively support women (and all groups of the workforce) by not accepting the status quo. They want equality for all – although they also recognise that making things equal isn’t easy. But they lead from the front.

Flexibility

When arranging off-site meetings and away days, they’re happy to consider what works for everyone and are always flexible. In some instances they role-model prioritising their family’s needs and start the day later to enable them to do the school run.

Work/life balance

They couldn’t think of anything worse than having to hang out after work doing business over drinks – some don’t even drink. Wherever possible they arrange meetings in normal working hours as they much prefer to prioritise getting home to spend time with kids, have dinner with their partner, go to the gym or just watch their favourite boxset – unless of course it’s a genuine after-work social occasion.

Awareness

These leaders aren’t afraid to call out bias when they see it and will coach other leaders when they demonstrate unconscious bias.

Social conscience

They have a strong ethical and purposeful value set. They want to make a difference. They openly talk about their daughters, sons, nieces and nephews. They want to improve things for when the future generation enters the workforce.

They’re human

They aren’t scared of showing up to work as their whole self. They share a human, authentic, personable side and feel comfortable switching between their personal and work lives.

Simple things

And finally, they have a lovely way of making people feel valued through simple methods: personally saying 'thank you' for work done well, giving a handwritten note, dropping by your desk and asking how you are if you’ve been on holiday or sick.

So, let’s take a minute on International Women’s Day to celebrate the inclusive leaders we all know. Let’s thank them for leading in a way we all want to follow and, equally importantly, in a way that makes the workplace an enjoyable place to be.

Let’s hope – as we’ve seen over the last 12 months – that these inclusive, supportive leaders continue to increase in number and make their way to the top tables of the biggest organisations in the UK. Only then can we really accelerate the culture change we’re all longing to see.

Melanie Steel is the founder of People Change Expertise and an experienced HRD who works on an interim and consultancy basis

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