The First Women Working Party provided a platform for this year’s awards finalists to address fundamental challenges that women continue to face daily in their professions.
It set the ball rolling to create a compelling agenda for the 2017 Summit programme, which will take place on 28 February.
Consumer and media
In this scene, the conclusion was that the industry is so ‘fluffy’, we don’t realise the consequences of ignoring the gender divide. The issue of female representation extends beyond the workforce to a more pertinent concern of women’s portrayal in the media and gender role constructs.
Significantly, the people behind these constructions in most cases are men. Shamim Sarif, Enlightenment Productions, said women made up only five per cent of film directors, inferring that 95 per cent of film narratives have a tenor of masculinity. For many jobs within the sector the gender statistics are not too dissimilar.
On screen, body-shaming is commonplace, as Sarif expressed that 20 per cent of visual film budget is dedicated to removing ‘flab’, filling in wrinkles and making people look better. The message constantly being drummed into women’s ears is that they should strive to achieve perfection.
Gender conditioning is also a concern from a young age. For example, there are limited numbers of female superheroes for young girls, compared to the virile cohort from Marvel and DC Comics. And in older adverts, girls were often depicted playing with dolls, while boys ran around with trucks and airplanes.
Today, we are yet to move far from these outmoded gender delineations, as adverts categorise toys as being either for boys or girls and still use blue or pink colours as identifiers. The group examined Lego adverts, which tend to display the dad having fun with the kids, while the mum takes the role of a scolder.
However, television also show that mums do most shopping, and firms do better when they take that into account. Most importantly, these stereotypes have an impact on children’s thoughts, their perceptions of society, and it translates across to career decisions and progression.
The women discussed the audiences consuming media productions, citing that movies that do well are geared towards the teenage-boys demographic, who are the biggest TV and movie consumers. Statistics indicate that women watch action movies with male heroes, but this is not the same for men. However, the group highlighted that when movies with a female lead are properly produced, its box office performance can be phenomenal. Frozen exemplifies this notion.
The party concluded on the thought that mentoring is key and that, perhaps, a lesson we can learn from the US is that children should be taught from a young age to be confident – that anyone can be president.
In the Public services, delegates agreed that one of the biggest challenges women faced were social preconceptions, and an assumption that women do not want to undertake specific jobs.
Sarah Maskell spoke about the Royal Air Forces’ relatively recent history with multiple restrictions preventing women engage in combat, such as marriage and pregnancy. Women are perceived as more of a risk when being considered for a promotion against men, and this prevalent trend means hiring a females is seen as out of the norm.
Where the education sector is concerned, there are many female employees but, unfortunately this does not translate to leadership roles, where women are still few and far between. One of the biggest barriers is a distinct lack of flexibility in leadership patterns, which often oust women. Furthermore, recruitment panels of governors, which are generally male-dominated, are not eager to support women into leadership on a part-time basis.
Achieving equality in this area would warrant more parity for parental leave. Family life should not be seen as a sole responsibility for women. Public services could also use more talent management accelerators.
In Randsad’s Assessing the lack of senior opportunities for women in nursing report, Victoria Short MD of Randstad Care: “Despite the nursing sector’s predominantly female workforce, there is still a disproportionate amount of men occupying senior or management positions.
“Given that 45 per cent of healthcare professionals believe not enough is being done to get women into the top jobs and cite employer attitudes as a major reason holding women back, the NHS needs to look at how women are supported and trained at all levels.
“Empowering female nurses with more training and career development programmes will go some way to redressing the balance and greater attempts should be made to dispel inaccurate stereotypes around “aggressive” female bosses. As nurses sometimes lack the confidence to ask for pay rises, employers should also help improve confidence and self-belief and ensure female nurses acknowledge their best skills and achievements.”