Companies must create workplaces that actively advocate fair and equal pay. Even after so many years of development, women continue to do a major chunk of unpaid work. This is crucial for the competitiveness and future-readiness of companies and economies to develop and integrate the entirety of human talent.
In this exclusive conversation with Women Icons Network, Beatrix Eder a transformational coach and trainer based in Singapore shares her journey and view on gender equality and engagement in the workplace.
Having spent the last 16 years in Asia, Beatrix has worked in various commercial roles from large scale events management to marketing and sales. Becoming a mother brought her (like many others) the dilemma of how to have both a meaningful professional activity that contributes to the household financially and being present for her kids. Her last employer was not open to flexible work-arrangements and this led her to launching her own company.
Today she works with senior managers and executives to live in alignment with their core values so they can lead with authenticity and compassion, inspire others and thrive in change.
What was the inspiration behind your venture? Why did you think it was necessary?
There are two things that have moved me towards coaching and the niche of Inclusive Leadership. I believe that we are here not only to excel at performance and achieve tangible results with our projects (doing) but that we also have to cultivate our inner development, become our best selves and serve the world by creating positive impact within our sphere of influence (being).
I have always been in search of a different type of power than the independent, competitive and dominant type of power we frequently see in the world. Often, this power-over approach creates exclusion, disengagement, and hurt. When people use a collaborative, compassionate and creative power, they can create more engagement, improve agility and increase performance.
Today I am grateful to have an activity that combines what I am good at, what I love and what the world needs.
What are your views on the current state of Gender Equality at the Workplace?
In many countries, a lot has been achieved in the past decades to advance gender equality. Women are more educated and, in many countries, they can participate in the economy which contributes to the thriving of societies. It is crucial for the competitiveness and future-readiness of companies and economies to develop and integrate the entirety of human talent – and not just half of it.
Despite these achievements, a lot remains to be done. I see four major challenges:
Unequal pay for equal work
The gender pay gap remains persistent across private businesses and public institutions, within all age groups, industries and hierarchical positions. Additionally, women still have to face gender bias which results in unequal opportunities, choices and outcomes for them.
All over world, women spend more time on unpaid work than men. The area in which this is most apparent is childcare which is still mostly considered “women’s work”. Today, women are more educated and more represented in the workforce than before and it is acceptable to be a woman who strongly contributes to the financial income of a household. However, this evolution of the female gender role did not go hand in hand with a similar evolution of the male gender role.
So men are part of the equation and as long as they are not fully taken into account, there will be no true gender equality because gender equality is not just about treating women as equal colleagues in the workplace. Gender equality is also about treating men as equal caregivers at home.
It’s not that women choose low-wage work. It’s not that women can succeed if just they “lean in” and work even harder. Creating an inclusive workplace is not simply the responsibility of underrepresented and disenfranchised groups.
Women often choose jobs that provide flexibility that they need in the so-called sandwich years (when they are in their 30ies and 40ies) and they need to care for both their kids and the elderly. Most of the jobs that allow flexibility are shift-based, part-time, precarious and low-paying.
Workplaces work mostly for a select few (often men)
One of the main elements that fuels the gender gap, especially at senior organizational levels, is a workplace culture that presumes that people have to be always available and always mobile to show their loyalty and commitment. With the prevailing gender roles, men are more able – and expected – to prioritize work over family, thus having wind in their sails to bring them to the top of their organization.
Also, career paths are still considered like ladders while having a more open view – such as seeing career as a jungle gym – can help make life as a working parent more sustainable. We need a shift in both legislation and culture for truly empowering women and allowing them access to the same opportunities in their career and their life.
Is transformation a radical change or a continuous process?
I think transformation is both. The word transformation literally means “going beyond the form” indicating a radical change of the self while maintaining your identity. That is a process that takes time and requires us to stretch, grow and go through the messy, muddy, murky phase of transformation.
Our human challenges are tailor-made, elegant crucibles that push us to grow and expand. I like using the metaphor of a lobster because they grow until the end of their lives and for this, they shed their shell when the old shell becomes too small. This is a process full of risk and uncertainty. Losing an exoskeleton leaves the critter, now without a hard shell and strong pincers, temporarily vulnerable.
When you go through transformation, you have to take the risk of shedding your old shell first and be soft & vulnerable while growing into the new shell. You’re no longer the old version of yourself and you’re not yet the new version either. You’re not sure who you are and you’re not sure where you are going. What you are feeling are the growing pains of transformation.
You have to do something that is “not you yet” – but fits who you want to be – and live through it until it becomes “the new you”.
How do you expect the ways of engagement to change in times of COVID-19?
With the reality of physical distancing, remote working and mental-emotional pressure on everybody, leaders have to be more deliberate and compassionate in their approach to keep their people trusting, resilient and engaged.
To drive engagement, well-being and effectiveness of employees, organizations and their leaders have to take into account the needs of their employees: needs around the stability of their work; needs around trusting relationships; needs around an inclusive culture; and needs around personal fulfillment at work.
To drive engagement, leaders have to do two things:
- Understand and address rationally the complexity and volatility of a situation: keep people updated about the evolution of decisions, inform people how changes affect their work, be specific about what each person needs to do and allow for questions and concerns to be raised.
- Engage and address emotionally the ambiguity and uncertainty that goes with any change: consider their own feelings and those of others; listen with curiosity to reactions; maintain a realistic-optimistic outlook for the future; encourage participation in discussions; celebrate short-term wins.