It’s the 21st Century. But still there are plenty of subtle problems facing women in the workplace.
The subtle innuendo.
Perhaps a bit of horseplay.
Phrases like: “run like a girl” – not typically used in a complimentary fashion.
Even more subtle – how does a young female executive feel if her boss asks her for a drink after work? Is it a chance to groom her for promotion, or is it a date? Is the context made clear?
Then there’s laddish culture – well known about in the City, and it certainly happens elsewhere too.
What happens if a girl wants to qualify as an electrician or a plumber? Is she going to feel comfortable in the culture of the building industry?
We’ve still got a long way to go.
Reverse mentoring is one way to tackle this problem. Reverse mentoring is where senior executives are mentored by young people in “how it works in the 21st Century”. This recent article in the Times gives an example of how it is working at Ernst & Young.
It is an opportunity for young women to open the eyes of their older (often male) bosses into how it feels to come across subtle prejudice, and where the boundaries of social acceptability are crossed.
As a leader: is there subtle prejudice in your company? Would you even know?
And how would you feel if it was your daughter in that situation? …Now that’s when it starts to hit home.