Fora Residents on gender equality at work and beyond

February 2020

 

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #EachForEqual. In the run up to the 8th March 2020, we asked the Residents of Fora for their views on, and experiences of, gender equality, both within the workplace and wider society. Here’s what they said:

 

 

Jonny Robb, Co-founder @ Bettor Faster

What does gender equality mean to you? To me it means that everyone should have an equal opportunity to be what they want to be. What’s also important to me is recognising that both women and men in society have problems. A common or popular narrative is that men are going through life and they’re smashing things, they don’t have a care in the world. That’s not true. Men have their own specific problems, such as increased rates of mental health issues, depression, homelessness, and fewer young men are going to university. If we want to live in a truly equal society, we should be asking all those difficult questions and it should never be a zero-sum game pitting men against women. We should be looking at both problems and seeing how we can address them to create a better society as a whole.

How is gender equality promoted in your workplace? The way we address gender equality is through parenting. My business partner is a new father. And when his son was born, we agreed that he could take 12 weeks fully paid paternity leave, which is 10 more weeks more than the legal requirement. That was a big ask, because there’s only two people in the company. But that meant that he could stay to bond with his little boy and help his wife recover. The second thing that we implemented around agile working was new working times: From 9am until 4pm so he could pick up his son from nursery and be an equal caregiver with his wife, meaning that the expectation wouldn’t be only on her because she’s female.

 

 

Marta Simonetti, Director @ Globalfields

Did you know that female entrepreneurship currently stands at less than half the rate of male entrepreneurship in the UK? How does this make you feel? There is an imbalance here. Too often a woman hits her 30s, maybe late 30s, she has her first child and may continue work. Then comes the second child and she will need to quit her job. The factors influencing this decision are all interconnected: The employers, the companies, but also society as a whole.

Who is your female hero? Is there a woman who you particularly admire? Madeline Albright. She was Secretary of State during the Clinton administration. She was and still is my role model. There are a couple of things that she said which really resonated with me for many, many years. Especially the quote: “There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.” I’ve had very supportive bosses and very unsupportive ones. Finding support amongst my peers is something that I sometimes craved but didn’t always receive.

 

 

Tom Kanavan, General Manager @ Fora – Spitalfields

How is gender equality promoted in your workplace? In my work, it’s promoted by the fact that there are no prejudices. Everybody is who they are, what they believe. We’re all different. Let’s embrace that. And actually, that’s the thing: We constantly learn from one another.

Who is your female hero? Is there a woman who you particularly admire? My wife is pretty much my hero. She’s given me the most beautiful little boy. She juggles work, life, football, everything under the sun, as well as dealing with me as a husband. And, of course, my mother is also my hero. But I have to say that just in case she ever reads this.

 

 

Waleed Rizk, Contracted Trading Technologies Lead Developer @ Tellimer

What does gender equality mean to you? It simply means not talking about gender. It’s not focusing on gender but focusing on the abilities, the opportunities, and on what someone has achieved as an individual. The equality movement to me means that we should no longer be talking about your gender.

Who is your female hero? Is there a woman who you particularly admire? I don’t want to sound cliché, but I admire my mum. She went through a lot during my childhood and my father was not really around but that didn’t stop her. My mother was an electronic engineer and overcame loads of obstacles in order to get to a high position in a male-dominated field. But I think her biggest achievement was bringing up my sister and me. She taught us good manners, a sense of empathy and to just be good, well-rounded individuals. She’s the one who made the adults we became. Hopefully she can be proud of us.

 

 

Chioma Elechi, HR Business Partner @ Axis Corporate

Who is your female hero? Is there a woman who you particularly admire? I am inspired by every woman who has risen and made something of herself in spite of environmental factors or family history that may have held her back. So, I would say that every woman is my hero.

Did you know that female entrepreneurship currently stands at less than half the rate of male entrepreneurship in the UK? How does it make you feel? That makes me sad. Especially now in this century, at the start of a new decade, when we see all the wonderful progress and innovation. Technology has come so far, there has been so much advancement and still women are prevented from achieving their full potential. It sounds a bit archaic.

 

 

Patrick Rycroft, Partnerships Manager @ Seatfrog

What does gender equality mean to you? It’s equal rights for everyone. Regardless of sexuality or gender, whatever it is, that’s just you and you can have a fair opportunity on the table. There’s no advantages or disadvantages, just equal treatment.

Tell us about a time when you felt empowered or discriminated against because of your gender? When I was younger, I had quite a ‘boys rule’ mentality. The boys would naturally lead and be quite overpowering. It’s only when I started university and kind of stepped into the real world, that I started to understand a lot more about it all. I would get challenged by the girls studying entrepreneurship with me. That’s when I started to learn about why gender inequality was such an issue and realised that I had been quite naive to it until then.

 

 

Jemma Hardy, VP of HR @ Voxbone

Tell us about a time when you felt empowered or discriminated against because of your gender? Within my current position as a VP, I find it both hugely rewarding and empowering as a woman within our senior leadership team. I have worked hard, been devoted, had fun and grown within my position at Voxbone, and now I represent the human resources and office management division of the business globally.

How is gender equality promoted in your workplace? We learned from our last diversity and inclusion report that seven-to-five of our leadership team are women, and six-to-eight of our managers are female. If you were wondering, yep, we’re a high-tech SaaS company and this healthy gender split has been achieved naturally by providing fair and varied opportunities for all and rewarding our high achievers.

 

 

Jamie Robinson, People Operations @ Storm2

What does gender equality mean to you? Gender equality is everyone having the same opportunities no matter the gender they identify as. We need to continue to change attitudes around it and be very clear that gender equality is nothing but a benefit for the entire human race.

How is gender equality promoted in your workplace? Our recruiting process and pay structure are super neutral. For instance, we have a scored interview system, so you progress in interviews based on whether you match our competencies. We also operate as a meritocracy, meaning that if you hit a certain target, you get promoted. We have even written guides for our clients around how to increase diversity and inclusion in work.

Did you know that female entrepreneurship currently stands at less than half the rate of male entrepreneurship in the UK? How does it make you feel? I just feel like there is a missed opportunity. There will be some amazing ideas out there and we should remove the barriers to realisation.

 

 

Marta Kutt, Market Research and Operations @ Qatalog

What does gender equality mean to you? And how can we achieve it? Gender equality means having the freedom to choose whatever you want to do and not feeling that you have to behave in a specific way just because you’re born a specific gender. No change will happen just because we expect it to happen. It takes work, discussions and understanding. We can achieve gender equality by actively acting in a way where we’re lifting up the people who need it and calling out unfair behaviour.

Tell us about a time when you felt empowered or discriminated against because of your gender? Every time I go home, I feel challenged due the lack of open-mindedness of some the people around me. In Estonia, people aren’t necessarily aware of ‘gender equality’, although it is changing. I often find myself in discussions about it, especially with the older generation who have different views of men and women’s roles and skills. I know that their intentions aren’t bad, it’s just that they’ve never come across anything other than traditional gender roles.

 

Let’s continue the conversation! Check out our upcoming programme of empowering events for International Women’s Day at Fora. We hope to see you there.