placeholder loader image
Diversity & Belonging

Beyond gender: Why it’s time to stop pigeonholing women in business

With gender inequality still remaining a prevalent issue across the UK, Patricia Cullen set out to ask women in business their views and experiences of being a woman in the workplace.

The Wild's Managing Director, Sarah Baumann, shared her thoughts:

Are women pigeonholed in the UK business arena?

It depends where you are and who you ask? On a day to day basis in my business sector of advertising, marketing and media most women might say “not too much”… swiftly followed by a “but……”  and then a long list of examples follow to show that we are still a long way off equity and inclusion and that stereotypes are unfortunately alive and thriving. Women are still judged and often treated differently but I would argue we’re being pigeon-holed in more ways than before - whether that's worse or an inevitable and depressing step to understanding diversity, I don't know! We're no longer just 'the power-bitch' or the 'girl-boss' or 'the woman at home in a minimalist apartment balancing laptop and baby whilst doing yoga'. There is a new raft of stereotypes and boxes to fit women into, largely driven by intersectionality - of ethnicity, of age, of disability or sexual identity - and so the problem is a long way from being solved. 

How does the experience play out in the UK business?

In the same way it always has - through discrimination and bias.  Women having to fight harder and louder to be respected for their seat at the table. Women still being sexually harassed and discriminated against at work. And a system that is still biased against female health and their role in society. It's only really in genuinely diverse boardrooms, business breakfasts (not dinners) and leadership teams that women don't have to think about it and don't pick up on the myriad micro-aggressions and ways of being treated differently. That said, there are a lot of exceptionally successful, talented women in business at all levels who are just getting on with it and feeling the momentum grow to create more inclusive businesses and business environments.  

What about men? Are they pigeonholed?

I think we know enough now about unconscious bias and intersectionality to know that people from all communities and of all identities can be pigeon-holed and pre-judged so yes, men can be pigeon-holed too. The positive thing for me is that there is a big movement with younger generations of men being very vocal in changing policies, taking action and helping to create a different vision of business. For example at Jungle Creations, our parenting ERG proposed redefining maternity and paternity leave into Primary and Secondary caregiver leave  - and we have seen an increase in secondary carers accessing their full leave entitlement, which we know has a well-proven benefit to improving gender equity. I think as many men rebel against the stereotypical 'white, male, grey-haired, power-watched and suited CEO' as women do. That said, the WACL report recently released to celebrate 100 years of campaigning for gender equity has identified we have a long way to go until we have 50% representation at CEO level (we are currently at 37.5%. Other sectors will be even further behind).  

Has the standard (very male) vision of power been disrupted? How?

Yes, the standard male vision of power has been disrupted but not eradicated. There is still surprise at a female CEO or an all-female leadership team and that can bring discomfort to some groups of men. But there are many men who equally welcome this because it allows them to be more individual, to express different values and not to succumb to a set of values and behaviours that feels unnatural to them. Gen Z get a lot of flack (unfairly, in my opinion) in the workplace, but the changes they are demanding and the dialogue they're driving is going to have a far-reaching impact. Am I optimistic? Yes, I am - but mostly for Gen Z and Gen A. 

Read the full article on Business Leader

Feel like it's time to introduce yourself?

Let's ChatLet's Chat