Why media needs ‘progress over perfection’ on gender equity policies

Why media needs ‘progress over perfection’ on gender equity policies

How should media companies be working to prioritise the needs of women in their workforce, be it through parental leave, menopause policies, or more?

In a recent episode of The Media Leader Podcast, OMD UK managing partner and director of growth Tobi Asare and Life Begins at Menopause founder and The Media Leader columnist Stefanie Daniels reacted to statistics from this year’s All-In Census by explaining how companies can cultivate a more inclusive and supportive working environment for women, even if it takes time.

Listen to the clip, or read a transcript of the conversation, edited for clarity, below.

Ella Sagar: I’m wanting to dig in a bit deeper to some of those All-In Census figures I mentioned earlier. About 55% of women believe parental leave has negatively impacted their career. I mean, that is quite shocking. And 29% believe gender is hindering their career progression. How can that be changed? What would change people’s feelings on that?

Tobi Asare: Gosh, when I see stats like that I feel quite moved, because I know what it’s like to experience challenges when you are becoming a parent and working. And it can be really hard. It can really sink your confidence.

But on the other side I do think there are some really practical and tangible things that organisations and companies can do. There are some incredible policies out there. And I know within OMD or [Omnicom Media Group] we’ve got some really great policies that essentially mean that anyone who steps in the door, irrespective of how long you’ve been at the agency, if you were to be expecting a child within any time frame, you are still eligible to receive full maternity pay. That’s a policy around money, but that’s actually a policy that says, We value you whichever life stage that you are at. And that’s the key message that really needs to come through, and I would love to see lots more companies essentially adopting [the policy] and saying whichever life stage you’re at, however you identify, we value you, we value your talents, we value your skills and therefore we’re investing in you.

I do think it’s one thing to have a policy and it’s another thing to make sure your policy is enacted fairly across your organisation. So one of the things I’d love to see is some training and compassion around the language you may use, how you approach somebody that’s about to go on leave, or how you approach someone’s journey when they’re actually away from your company and not in the phase of time where they’re returning, but making sure they still feel cared for and that they belong and that they’ve got a great chance of succeeding and growing their career when they come back.

ES: I wonder if that 29% — because there’s a lot to unpack from that word “gender” — is it related to becoming a parent? Is it related to menopause? Is it related to other caring responsibilities that they might have?

Stefanie Daniels: Or just being a woman.

ES: Yeah, or just being a woman, or that only woman in the room. Even things like chronic period pain can feel like a barrier; there’s a lot of potential reasons, I’m sure. I just wondered Stefanie is there was anything that you think that media companies could be doing more to address those specific things?

SD: Yes. I’ve got to pat them on the back, media companies, because they are doing something. And I always say to my clients, progress over perfection.

Channel 4 has got a menopause policy, and others come to me saying, What do we do, what do we do? And I think just doing something is better than doing nothing. And listening; actively listening to what [women] are saying. We can guess — even I can guess, I’m menopausal and I worked in media — I can guess what the next person is thinking or wanting. But until we listen to what they want and we reflect back to them and build and optimise and scale our offering, then we’re not moving forward.

We’re not going to get it right straight away, but I’d rather do it and get it wrong than not do it at all.

And physiologically, we are very very different. Men don’t have periods. Men don’t have the hormone fluctuations that we do — men do have hormone fluctuations and they do go through what’s called the andropause —

ES: Oh, I didn’t know that.

SD: Yep, but they don’t experience the menopause like we do. And I don’t believe — I might get shut down for saying this — but I don’t believe they look at the washing the same way we do. [laughs] Or the dishes. So we are physiologically very different beings, and we have to respect that and work with it.

So I’m very proud of the media industry doing something, and I will continue to stand next to them and move forward with them as they continue to grow in this area.

ES: What I’m hearing is, you have to start somewhere, and maybe looking at other companies and what their policies look like, there’s no harm in asking the question, So how did you come up with that policy?

TA: The wonderful thing is that Channel 4’s policy is public.

SD: Yeah.

TA: So you can just grab it if you feel like you don’t really know where to start.

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