#ChooseToChallenge with Robert Walters

Woman smiling in office

In celebration of International Women’s Day last week and in line with this year’s theme, #ChooseToChallenge, Robert Walters organized a series of virtual conversations that encouraged candid input from employees around challenges that women face in the workplace.

The conversations were hosted by Sally Martin, Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Resource Solutions,  guest Rocki Howard, Chief Diversity Officer at SmartRecruiters and Robert Walters alumni, Liz Boston, Talent & Development Manager, Robert Walters, US & Canada and Certified Diversity Recruiter, and Alfonso Tiscareno, Director, Head of California, Robert Walters.

Highlighted below are some reflections from each of the thought-provoking breakout sessions.

What does 'Having it all' mean in 2021?

Hosted by our guest, Rocki Howard

Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook first popularized the idea of “leaning in” in her 2013 book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. In the book, Sandberg highlights that women are less likely to negotiate in the workplace, and also have a tendency to undersell their own achievements. She proposed that women can “have it all”, i.e., they can have a thriving, robust career while also being a perfect mother and a perfect partner, if they just work harder, assert themselves, and stop holding themselves back. While Sanberg’s assertions have been heavily debated over the years, the “lean-in” movement was most recently debunked in an interview with Michelle Obama, where she addressed the challenges of balancing work and home life, saying “having it all” was a lie, and that it “didn’t work”.

In our discussion, we concluded that Sandberg’s idea of the “perfect life” didn’t resonate with all of us. “I think the idea of ‘having everything’ looks different for everyone”, one of out participants mentioned. Internalizing the guilt of not fitting this idealized image definitely does more harm than good, and in some cases, might lead to workplace burnout. “Social media has certainly set the bar high, as it highlights only the best moments in peoples’ lives”. “We have to live by our own standards, and make choices everyday that create balance in our lives,” another participant concluded.

Women From Home (WFH). Managing a happy work-life balance.

Hosted by Liz Boston

Is the ‘traditional’ role of women as the homemaker and ‘lead parent’ now dead as a result of the pandemic, as everyone works from home and men are sharing more of the familial responsibilities?

In our discussion, we ultimately agreed that the pandemic has not put an end to expectations for women during the pandemic, and that they still bear much of the domestic burden. With schools and childcare closed, parents are forced to entertain young children while attempting to be productive at work. A participant mentioned being awake at 7AM making sandwiches for her young children from leftovers, all while preparing for a full day’s work. Flexible work hours seemed to be a solution for many participants in the discussion. “Having the freedom to work when it is suitable to your schedule instead of a strict 9 to 5 is essential for creating the right balance,” one of the participants in the session concluded.

What strengths do we think that women bring to organizations and how should we leverage them better?

Hosted by Alfonso Tiscareno

What do you think that women at Robert Walters are good at? What do you think we can do more of as a business to help women? Where do you think businesses can challenge more? Women have been shown to be more empathic than men, which means they are equipped to nurture strong client relationships, a non-negotiable skill for recruiters. Studies have also shown that women are more likely to “care for the collective”, finding opportunities to build a collaborative environment even when a project isn’t explicitly group-led. This is great for a team-based business where we lean on each other for success, like Robert Walters.

In our discussion, we talked about the length of maternity leave being a major deficit in many US businesses, particularly when compared to what is granted in other countries. “I also believe more businesses should provide access to fertility care benefits, which gives everyone (regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status) an opportunity to start a family,” someone added. “Businesses should take an active approach in asking women what they can be doing better on an ongoing basis,” someone said. “This feedback loop is a great way to start conversation and encourage positive change,” another concluded.

What is your business doing to initiate conversation and challenge gender stereotypes in the workplace? Tag us at @robertwalterslife on Instagram to share how you will #ChooseToChallenge this year.

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