Why I Support Women in Safety
Unashamedly I’m a typical ‘daughter affect’ man and to be honest, I’m late to the party on diversity & inclusion, which makes me disappointed in myself and the lost opportunity of being a more inclusive leader. Upon reflection and upon writing in a public forum I fully appreciate how untenable this is. I know there will be other men reading this and thinking the same thoughts I used to ‘There is so much information & content out there in relation to diversity and gender equality in the workplace - Its daunting, I don’t know where to start reading - let alone doing, I’m not a women, I don’t know enough to make a difference etc etc. Time to get off the fence, and stop letting someone else do it; It's not enough to support diversity in silence.
Also to be very clear, I’m caucasian and a university educated male who is 6’3 - I’m the epitome of privilege and I also acknowledge that like a fish, typically I am biased to not knowing that I am swimming in water (privilege). But only dead fish swim with the current, and having a nine year old daughter (soon to be 10!) only amplifies this fact to me.
Below are some key reasons I support Alanna & ‘Women in Safety’:
Our workforce is changing and it's become more diverse; choose whichever labels you like to measure it by. If we as an industry want to be influential in shaping the present and future how can we do so by being largely male, narrowly educated in technique and over 35? (that's my personal observation from my years in the industry).
I want people & teams to build trust and partner with culturally diverse individuals through respect, dialogue, cooperation, appropriate and effective consultation and communication - this can only be aided by recruiting and attracting diversity into teams and our industry, something which Women in Safety can promote and assist plug the leaky pipeline through peer support.
Lack of diversity is a business problem, no individual can solve this wicked problem of primarily not encouraging half of the population’s talent. Research suggests diverse teams make better decisions and, ultimately, enable higher financial performance.
I don’t believe that any leader can ignore the body of research and value that diverse teams bring to the table, it's in the same basket as treating evolution as a theory as far as I am concerned.
I also acknowledge that things change only through a committed community aligned on a goal and assisting each other on the journey such as Alanna has set out to do
I want to help balance the tide of thinking that focuses on women and what they need to do to ‘get up to speed’ to improve their eligibility for leadership.
This may seem like a very strange thing to write considering I have been very vocal in my support of anyone looking for coaching or mentoring.
To be clear, I offer mentoring in technical areas of which I have studied & implemented and offer my biased perspective through observations made working for organisations within the construction & resource industry.
We need to be aware of the abrasiveness trap: High-achieving men and women are described differently in reviews and external mentorship / coaching can balance this .
Networking within the group also allows me to identify individuals who I may be able to promote & support through my own networks for roles I am aware of .
There is equally a diverse group of women whom I could add little value to who are unable to achieve their desired goals due to a particular bias in leadership research & leader bias that seeks models and rules about how to lead. Such approaches typically reflect a masculinist bias. Rather, as Dr Jason Fox’s research and publications show leadership work is often about proceeding in ambiguity, in circumstances of ‘not knowing’, and being open to diverse and shifting measures of success.
I would like to learn from this group and aim to do that through relationships made through Women in Safety
Women in Safety represents to me not only a place where members can improve professionally but also a place where I can reach out and identify talent who would like to work with me. If I have a growth role that would support a member's knowledge, skills & abilities I’d be more comfortable to approach them to apply. Typically in the past a large part of my network were homogeneous professionals similar to myself.
I would like to draw attention to the ways social and organisational structures, and leadership logic and discourse within these structures, continue to devalue women and their experiences. For instance in the past construction or mining have always needed 5-10 years experience in the role & industry of which the diversity stats are poor - how could this ever encourage change? Changes such as BHP hiring for capability not experience will assist them reach their targets of 50 per cent women by 2025.
On top of personally reflecting on the issue of diversity and the trajectory the below readings were instrumental in shaping the above. Would strongly encourage reading the below:
Fears Of Equality HT Michael Kimmel from here
Gender equality does not mean de-gendering people— making women and men the same. It means de-gendering traits, attitudes, and behaviors. Gender equality recognizes that there is nothing inherently masculine about being assertive and ambitious (two human traits that are coded as masculine) nor anything inherently feminine about being loving and kind (two traits coded as feminine)
A feminist case for leadership HT Amanda Sinclair from here (Thanks to Dr Rob Long for the source)
Constructions of modern leadership remain,‘irredeemably masculine, heroic, individualist and normative in orientation and nature’
For male readers of this post I would also advocate reviewing the below sites and start broadening your appreciation on the issue
Men Advocating Real Change (MARC) - Great for forums, research & blog posts including lessons learnt
Male Champions of Change - Clear actionable content and implementation plans
He for She - Broader than just the workplace
Safety on Tap - Am sure Andrew Barrett will shortly be posting a podcast around this issue in a H&S context
“One day, someone just like you, will do over your daughter’ - Christine Nixon I’m working on embodying greater gender humility—the art of being self-aware, transparent, and humble about what I don’t know while demonstrating honest curiosity about each person’s unique experience and current concerns. Research with some of the most successful women across industries revealed a common theme in their career experiences—their male mentors consistently were able to meet these women where they were and worked to understand what each mentee needed to thrive in her career. If I & others can really listen to mentees, then we start to understand how their experiences may have differed from our own to empathize with what could be a very different set of work experiences coming up through an industry as a woman. If the above resonated with you, please reach out and either offer to help Alanna or ask her for assistance. She has a network of impassioned, energetic people she can draw upon on top of the actions she personally takes to promote Women in Safety.