International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us to celebrate the achievements of women and highlight the existing bias and continued gender disparity at work. Plural remains committed to creating more balance in its teams and promoting equality both within and outside our company.
As part of this year’s theme “Each for Equal”, we hear three perspectives on the challenges and success of striving toward equality.
My role at Plural is to help all employees to reach their full potential. I’ve been at Plural for almost three years and have watched the company grow and evolve – with women at the centre of the team. I can see the commitment that Plural has to its employees, irrespective of gender, and the tools they give them to develop.
This has been reflected in my own path, where Plural has helped me develop. They are supporting me through CIPD training and enabling me to enter a new career path. The encouragement I’ve received from my peers, and senior management makes me very excited to continue to grow here. Looking forward, as a company we want to continue to create a diverse and inclusive workforce, that nurtures and develops talent. Gender balance is key.
Over the last year, we have moved closer to this goal in multiple ways. This time last year, the percentage of women in the Plural office was 38%. Today it is 45%. Increasing our gender balance through hires has allowed us to create representation at all levels of the organisation. From Analyst through to Director, the women at Plural have a clear career path through the organisation – with mentors at each level.
The women at Plural come from a range of backgrounds, creating diversity in skills and thought that help to foster an environment of knowledge-sharing and creativity. In a culture where diversity is celebrated, it is easy to feel part of the team. Everyone is encouraged to be their best selves. This has also undoubtedly supported our team’s overall productivity and engagement in and outside of projects. We also support the initiatives of our employees, encouraging them to engage with external issues, share their experience and take on leadership and mentoring roles.
This International Women’s Day theme, ”Each for Equal” allows us to showcase the individual efforts of Women at Plural. We are all striving to build an inclusive workplace together.
In the last six months, I have been very fortunate to join the SheLeads team in China. SheLeads is a network and community in China that seeks to empower women in business through a series of events, content and mentorship programs. The network was created to build long-term valuable relationships among professional females in the workplace but also to enable women to share expertise and learn from each other in a safe and comfortable environment. By providing a platform for discussion, SheLeads allows common challenges faced by women to be openly talked about. This forms a supportive group that emphasizes the role of female leaders in professional careers and provides role models for younger female generations.
Having identified the importance of female representation, I sought out the SheLeads founders and said I would love to get involved. In September 2019, I joined the SheLeaders summit as a guest workshop host, where I led a workshop with c. 20 female professionals and students on how to unleash the inner leader within. Beyond being able to provide guidance to other female professionals, I was able to meet inspiring women doing great things in China. Since the summit, I have joined the team as a support content development manager. I help to produce articles, run online campaigns and manage some of the group’s social media. One of our most recent online campaigns was a two-week personal development challenge, created in light of people having to stay home during the Coronavirus.
Plural’s encouragement of such community outreach initiatives is just one of many ways in which I get the support I need as a female in the workplace. I have been able to represent Plural through supporting and inspiring young female professionals in China. I have also learned so much from female leaders which I hope to pass on to other female professionals at Plural. Such opportunities will allow all members of the Plural community to thrive and ensure that we can move even closer towards the gender equal workplace we are striving for.
In preparation for IWD 2020, I looked back over my career, which spans 25 years in the events industry and now strategy consulting, to try and identify the moments which have been shaped or influenced by being a woman. The good news is, whilst there have been times when I perhaps wasn’t taken seriously enough or was made to feel inadequate, being a woman has not stopped me from achieving the success I strove for. I was 26 when I wanted to start a business – the bank manager looked at me like I was a little girl asking for a pet rabbit when I approached them for funding. However, it didn’t stop them from providing us with the loan that enabled us to launch and run a successful company. When I sold my business six years later to the biggest events company in the world, I was the only woman at the table during the sale negotiations. But in no way did it hinder me from achieving the best price for the business and securing a positive future for our staff. Today, where young female entrepreneurs are more prevalent and celebrated, I am sure my experience would have been far more positive.
The biggest challenge I faced and women continue to face is the age-old ‘juggling act’ of balancing your career with motherhood. Wanting to be able to do it all and feeling like you are never giving 100% to anything is ever present in women’s lives. The pressure women put upon themselves to prove that they can do their job to the same high standard as men, whilst needing to leave by 6 pm to go home, cook dinner and help with homework, can be debilitating and undermine your confidence. When I decided to embark on a career change and joined Plural, despite working in an hours-intensive and male-dominated industry, their family-first ethos and genuine drive to ensure that women are an equal force within the business made such a difference. Plural trust you to do your job well irrespective of the hours you sit at your desk.
Joining Plural has allowed me to lead by example. As the first woman on the senior management team, I have been able to use my industry experience to provide a different perspective and shape the culture. For me, being a good leader is motivating, inspiring and bringing out the best in the people you work with. Being authentic, empathetic, a good listener, build relationships and instil trust are essential tools to gain the respect of others. I feel these skill sets are often cultivated in women. Observing the women in our office, I have no doubt there are future leaders in the making!
Moving toward “Each for Equal”
While Plural continues to build a genuinely diverse workplace and celebrate the success of its women, we recognise that there is still more to be done to become “Each for Equal”. We will continue to strive towards this through formal and informal initiatives focusing on bringing in the brightest female talent, creating a supportive environment to allow them to thrive, and championing the very talented team of women at Plural to have the confidence and positive attitude they need to succeed.