International Women’s Day: What does a gender equal workplace mean to us? (part 1)

Did you know that no country in the world has yet achieved gender equality? As International Women’s Day (IWD) 2020 draws near, it’s important to highlight that gender equality is no longer a women’s issue – it’s a human issue and a business issue.

At Xero, we’re committed to championing gender equality. We believe that each one of us, whatever our gender identity, can help create a gender equal world – and that this is not only the right thing to do, but is good for business. This focus on gender equality is at the heart of this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, #EachforEqual

This week, in the lead up to IWD, we’re excited to invite everyone at Xero to join us in the conversation about gender equality through activities and events across our offices. As much as it’s important to talk, it’s even more important to make sure we’re really listening to each other. When it comes to achieving gender equality, none of us is as good as all of us. 

In this two part series, we are opening up the conversation about what a gender equal workplace means to some of our people and our customers around the world. 

Cat Atkinson – Post Production Artist, Xero, New Zealand

“Anyone can have a leadership position, regardless of their gender identity”

To me, a gender equal workplace is a workplace without barriers or glass ceilings where anyone can have a leadership position, regardless of their gender identity. 

It’s a workplace that’s free from gendered language that not everyone in the room may be comfortable with I never feel comfortable being grouped in with ‘ladies’. It’s where people are paid equally for the jobs that they do, regardless of gender. It’s also a place where people whose gender identities fall outside of the binary should be able to be addressed appropriately and respectfully, with the space for allies to correct themselves or be corrected if they ever slip up. And where people’s pronouns are respected and used, and talked about freely. 

Above all, it’s a workplace where people feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, without fear of discrimination.

Carol Bain – Strategic Partner Manager, Xero, Australia

“Gender equality begins with access to education followed by access to opportunities”

I joined a global tech company in 1982 and have seen many changes, not in the least in technology itself. There’s been huge advancements in the areas of parental leave, flexibility and access to opportunities for women returning to work. There’s still plenty that can be improved. However, it’s important to remember that progress has been made and continues to be built on.

When I was 34 years old. As a new employee, I was required to provide a urine sample to prove I wasn’t pregnant. It’s good to know hiring practices have improved significantly over the years.

I hope similar advancements in age diversity, particularly for women, will benefit those entering the workforce today. Today, a woman over 56 is least likely to be called back when applying for a position, regardless of skills, education or experience. I feel fortunate to have spent the majority of my career in the IT industry, which has led the way for gender diversity providing opportunities and now access to education for females. It’s fantastic to see that at companies such as Xero, there are people in positions dedicated to diversity-thinking and I’m excited to see what the future holds in terms of opportunities for all genders, ages and cultures.

Megumi Miki – Founder of Quietly Powerful, Australia

“Differences are valued as differences, without expectations or stereotypes based on gender”

A gender equal workplace embraces a variety of people regardless of gender, background, style or experiences. It’s no longer an issue about men versus women. Each of us feel comfortable enough within ourselves that we don’t feel the need to judge, power over or be powered over by others.

Quietly Powerful explores the importance of diversity of styles in leadership. From this perspective, a gender equal workplace balances both so-called masculine and feminine styles of leadership. No longer are men expected to be ‘masculine’ (for example, dominant, decisive and action-oriented). In the same way, we don’t expect women to have these qualities to be seen as having leadership potential. 

We drop our unconscious assumption that ‘strong’ equals ‘dominant’. We appreciate qualities such as empathy, compassion, vulnerability and kindness as part of being a ‘strong’ leader. Our leadership talent is assessed based on the impact we have with our behaviours and results, not gender nor style. We free ourselves from needing to conform to a particular leadership style. This enables organisations to harness the true value of diversity. 

Organisations innovate, achieve high performance and engagement because we harness both our differences and what we have in common. This is real inclusion.

Marcus Pinny – Business Analyst, Xero, UK

“It means people can be their true selves and be treated as equals”

I began my career in 1973, the start of the 3-day working week, high inflation, depression and strikes. It was also a time when a culture of discrimination was common, whether that was sexism, racism, ageism or any other ‘isms’. 

What made it worse was that most of us did not recognise anything was wrong. It was the culture, it was how we had been brought up it was the norm. I am pleased to see that we have come a long way since those days.

For me gender equality in the workplace means creating an environment of fairness, dignity, tolerance and respect. It ensures equal opportunities and greater choice for all regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, etc. It’s a place that allows for individuality – equality does not mean we are the same. The question, “Are we being treated differently?” will not be a matter for discussion.

Studies have shown that teams that bring together people of different genders are more productive, and businesses that accommodate the differing needs of everyone are more successful. With more emphasis on equality in the workplace, my hope is that my daughter does not have to suffer the same treatment that her mother experienced during her career. 

Wouldn’t it be great if in 10 years we no longer need an International Women’s Day, a Gay Pride Movement or campaigns for equal pay – we just treat everyone equally?

Harriot Pleydell-Bouverie – Founder of Mallow & Marsh, UK

“Everyone in the team feels equally heard, seen and valued”

When I started Mallow & Marsh in 2013 I didn’t really know the type of team that I wanted to attract. As the team started to grow, I was surprised that we bucked the trend of many start-ups by attracting more women than men. We didn’t do this consciously but over time we have developed into a great team with over 75% of our managers being women.

What this has meant is that we have thought about how to address some of the behaviours that have been shown to hinder women in the workplace. For example, understanding their position at work, when/how to ask for pay rises and negotiate their salaries. 

On the flip side, I have also seen a bias in our industry around discussions on maternity and paternity leave. As a result, I’m working on developing an equal maternity/paternity policy.  

Gender equality for me is part of a greater picture to make sure nobody in the team feels disregarded or discriminated against. It’s important that our culture remains inclusive and allows everyone the opportunity to thrive.

Thank you to our wonderful Xero employees and customers for sharing their personal journeys and perspectives.  

Look out for the second part of our International Women’s Day blog series later this week. We’ll be sharing more perspectives on what gender equality at work means to us. 

This article was co-authored by our joint Heads of Diversity & Inclusion, Bindy Edelman and Jane Nosworthy.


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