Below are some insights we’ve received from recent events in Austin, London, Paris and Philadelphia. Chances are, no matter where you live, some of these insights will resonate with you as well. We look forward to hearing your thoughts at a future event or send us your insights at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Physical Health
- It’s important to understand heart health for women – symptoms for a heart attack are different than men, such as ongoing pain in the jaw. Talk to your physician. Be sure they are listening and take you seriously. If not, seek another medical opinion. Do not minimize the signs and and be aware of the symptoms.
- Many professional women are waiting longer to have children. There can be bias against older mothers in the workplace. If you are a 40+ first time parent, find support if you feel isolated. There are more women than you might realize who understand and can listen.
London and Paris
Differences in Equity Across Countries
- Pay equity, healthcare equity and leadership equity are not viewed the same – there are clear differences in the UK and in France. Some viewed more progress for women in France while others disagreed – still believe organizations are more male biased. As with many of these discussions, there is little consensus about how much progress has been made. Yet top leadership positions for most organizations show little diversity in gender or race. Current workplace programs to support gender equity may not be effective.
- Younger female leaders face a clear bias if they are of childbearing years. That is consistent with the research and shared both at our events in the U.S. and in Japan. Regardless of education, experience and skills, women will still be passed over for a promotion because leadership believes becoming a new mother means they will not perform at the same level as their male counterpart.
Men and Gender Roles
- Both younger and older men in attendance shared their views on gender bias in the workplace. Most notable was how it is difficult for men to understand the amount of unpaid hours most women work outside their paid role, taking care of children, parents and the household. Until men experience more of these dual roles, it may continue to be difficult for them to fully understand the burden and impact on working women.
Equal Role = Equal Respect?
- Earning a leadership position does not guarantee the same level of respect as male leaders at the same level, regardless of expertise. Some women shared they often were questioned about projects or ideas much more than their male counterparts. It consistently was more difficult for women of color. Some recent press also calls out some of this experience. This was true for women from academia, nonprofit and the business world.
Taking Charge of Career and Family
- Several women shared why they started their own business – to allow flexibility to have a career and raise a family – which was not as easily achieved at previous places of employment. This decision usually came after years of working in an environment based on a model where the father is the primary breadwinner. In a world where there are many definitions of family, including single parent households – why are businesses stuck in an outdated model? What can we do to impact change?
Stigma and Stress
- Although there has been progress, stigma and bias about mental illness and getting help still exists. Women react differently to stress then man. A gender specific focus is needed to better support women in the workplace.
Sharing Your Story Breaks the Stigma
- Many women shared their own journey with mental health challenges – from postpartum depression and returning to work, dealing with a family member who attempted suicide, and getting a proper treatment for bi-polar 2. Honest and open discussion around minimizing getting help included overcoming personal and cultural biases. One leader used her business skills to address her own mental health journey in hopes that others might be less fearful of getting help.
Innovative Approaches to Mental Health
- We were inspired by some forward thinking organizations supporting employees with finding needed resources much earlier and actively work to de-stigmatize mental health. For more information on approaches to breaking the stigma around mental health and finding effective resources to boost the mental resilience of your organization, contact GW4W Co-Founder, Nancy Board.