Emily Kenna offers a personal perspective on the need to drive diversity and inclusion at work
I want to talk about diversity and inclusion from my personal experiences, as I think it is important that we share our stories.
I had no idea that gender was an issue when I was at school or university, and my mum told me that it was her generation that had successfully fought for gender equality.
Unfortunately, I found that this was not entirely accurate. Being propositioned by male colleagues significantly older and having my bottom slapped by a senior colleague at a work party are things I experienced, but they are not unique to me. I have heard similar tales from many other female professionals.
Personally, I had no idea how to deal with these behaviours – it is like a form of bullying. Sadly, many of us felt we had to accept this culture as normal. You didn’t want to be the one that speaks out, particularly in your 20s,
if your career was important to you.
The culture in our workplaces needs to adapt to a new normal and diversity across all levels will help that
Is this one of the reasons why few women, particularly in the broking community, reach senior management level? Because the corporate cultures promote sexism and stereotypes? You only need to look at the gender pay gap reports for the larger brokers, where the difference is as much as 50%.
Yes, many of us have families and I would love to see a world where an employer does not know which parent (or both) will request paternity/maternity leave or flexible working. I married when I was 26 years old and had my first child at 31. In those five years, I was often asked about my future family plans, including during one job interview. I felt obliged to say that I had no current intentions to start a family and they invited me back for a second interview. I declined.
Working for change
This culture is frustrating for both men and women. Men have families too and want to be part of that process. In 2019, Daddilife published research to see what life was like for 1,200 fathers at work. The report stated: “We found that 87% of millennial dads were active in a day-to-day role as parents… but there is still too much of a stereotype that ‘dads should just be at work’. It’s a position that does nothing for true gender balance and gender equality.”
I hope we all continue to advocate for change. The culture in our workplaces needs to adapt to a new normal and diversity across all levels will help that. I then believe better outcomes will be achieved for all, particularly employees and clients, and I am excited as we push towards that.
Emily Kenna is director of Sense Risk Solutions Ltd