Real gender equality is recognising that we’re all in this together

For true gender equality to ever be achieved, men and women must work together to readdress the balance at home and work, writes The Royals' Dan Beaumont.

I had no idea that International Women’s Day has been celebrated for 110 years.

It seems obvious to say we’ve come a long way since the first Women’s Day organised by the Socialist Party of America on 28 February 1909 in New York City. But when we look at the statistics, we still have a shitload to do before we achieve genuine equality: Australian women earn 14.1% less than men do for performing the same job, they do 70% of the housework and 75% of the childcare.

Why is a bloke like me (a recovering Alpha Male) telling you stuff we already know? Because, as a manager and partner in a business plus a husband and father, I recognise that I can do so much more to help women and men strike balance and ensure our society reaches true gender equality, faster.

And I believe that true gender equality means both women and men have the opportunity to excel in their home life, not just at work.

It shouldn’t just be the mums who carry the mental load for the household, who do all the school drop-offs and pick-ups, who stay home when the kids are sick, or rush to leave work to take kids and elderly parents to the doctor. I realise there are a lot of fathers who are highly involved, but many feel like they can’t dedicate themselves more at home, due to work commitments.

It’s easy to say men should be doing more, but dads aren’t able to do their equal share of parenting until workplaces cultivate a culture of true flexible working – and not just pay lip service to it. For flexible working to exist in any organisation, it takes trust. A trust between management and all levels of the organisation, that each will keep their end of the bargain.

Not embracing policies that have been agreed and put in place is counter-productive. A report released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) in November last year found that while three-quarters of businesses have flexible working arrangements in place, only a third of them hold their leaders accountable for workplace flexibility, and a tiny 5% have set targets for their employees’ engagement in flexible work. We all need to adopt these new workplace practices and philosophies (you know you want to), if we have a chance of breaking down the stigma that the amount of hours spent in the office is directly proportional to effort, productivity and career success.

At The Royals, flexible working is available to all employees – to juggle family commitments, studies or passion projects. And we make sure our people use it to their advantage – 40% of all Royals currently engage in flexible working. Our management team experience the pressure of work versus life versus family every day, so it benefits the entire organisation if flexible working (hours, days, locations etc) is adopted from the top down and the most senior people in the business set an example.

Our clients aren’t immune to this pressure either. A staggering amount of our senior clients are women, with families, fighting bias, stereotypes and clichés. Not only are they trying to build careers and do the best job they can at work, they’re also trying to be the best mums and partners they can at home.

More men are now starting to experience the same kind of guilt women have felt for decades, as they maintain focus and energy at work, while striving to be more present and involved with their children and helping to ensure that the house doesn’t look like a small nuclear device has gone off inside it.

In case it isn’t obvious, we’re all in this together and working incredibly hard to balance all aspects of our lives. To feel in control we need to cut ourselves some slack, because the real problem is the pressure we put on ourselves and the subsequent guilt that comes after falling short of our own expectations.

How can we try to help each other and be better leaders, employees, partners, mothers, fathers, friends, sons, daughters or siblings? Understanding and empathy for this struggle we all share is a good first step.

I’d hypothesise that all our desires are basically the same – security and happiness. If men and women can work together, side by side, we will achieve true equality faster. Women and men partnering with each other to be better at work and at home will mean we actually celebrate equality on IWD instead of quoting stats that highlight the differences, difficulties and inequality women still face.

Dan Beaumont is managing partner at The Royals.


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