Reflections on feminism and working in male-dominated industries #IWD21

I’ve found myself saying recently that the older I get, the more feminist I am. But I don’t think that’s quite accurate.

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The older I get the less tolerant I am of gender inequality.

I’ve worked in male-dominated industries most of my life. Given the stories I’ve heard of the challenges some friends, colleagues and peers have had in the workplace, I feel like I’ve had a fairly lucky ride.

Luck shouldn’t come into it, but that’s the thing, that’s what we need to challenge until we don’t need to any more.

There was that time when, during my annual appraisal, my male boss asked me if my ambition was to have babies.

I did call him out on it. And again, when he asked the same question about the women in my team.

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2020 – a year of lessons for the built environment

There is no getting away from the fact that 2020 has been a life/work experiment that no-one could have predicted and it will shape the built environment for years to come.

But this is an evolution, not a revolution. Yes, bricks and mortar retail has had an extremely tough year but it was already struggling in some quarters.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

And working from home pre-dates the March lockdown – it just became a necessity rather than an option.

So what lessons can we take from the exceptional circustances of 2020?

We learned the value of the office and the important role it can play.

There are advantages to working from home – for some at least. It can be more productive when you just need to get your head down and concentrate, for example.

It gives time back as there is no commute which can mean a better work-life balance.

Value of interaction

But being forced to work from home has also shown the value of interaction which you get from working in a shared space.

It has highlighted how skills and knowledge can be more easily be built and shared – particularly for those starting out in their career.

Will this affect how office space is used – and ultimately designed? Undoubtedly.

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The language of winning – are we taught to collaborate?

In business (and life) people talk about ‘winning’. Some even use #win on social media and I have too – usually tongue in cheek. But what does winning mean?

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

I was listening to a podcast interview recently with Olympic-medal winning rower and diplomat Cath Bishop (link to podcast at the bottom).

She talked about how a change in mindset helped her to achieve more and that change was focusing on the process rather than the end goal which was winning.

Her approach isn’t unusual, I’ve heard other successful sportspeople say they take the same approach.

Winning no doubt gives you a high but it is short-lived and if that is your sole focus then it can be deflating and misses out on a much more enriching experience.

The value in the process

Seeing the value in the process gives you something more sustainable and rewarding than focusing simply on winning or losing. It’s a series of smaller victories: What you learn along the way, how you develop and improve.

If you focus on enjoying the process then success – the win – is the cherry on the cake. And as Cath Bishop found, it ultimately led to far more wins.

It’s the equivalent of enjoying the journey, not just the destination. Or in business really loving what you do and enjoying getting better at it. The results are a happy bi-product.

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What is your ideal working environment?

My Friday fun poll over on LinkedIn this week is about your preferred working environment and whether you like background music, talk or silence.

Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

We don’t have much choice but to work from home at the moment and that may or may not be conducive to getting stuff done.

But putting to one side these strange times, what would be your ideal ‘office’ set up?

It’s such a personal thing, isn’t it? I don’t envy businesses designing office space and trying to navigate the middle ground.

Open-plan offices have made communication and collaboration much easier – but they can also be noisy and distracting.

Idea of office hell

My idea of hell would be an office with music that I had no control over.

I do like music when I work but it has to be classical. Anything else is distracting and can start to stress me out.

If I can’t have music then I want quiet or a very low hubbub of voices.

Back when I used to work in an office I often found it noisy and difficult to zone out of conversations happening around me.

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Mental health awareness week: Talking, struggles and looking out for people

Man and woman talking
Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

It’s mental health awareness week in the UK and I recently watched comedian Jason Manford’s video in which he candidly talks about his “mental health scare”.

Two things particularly struck me. He talks about the invaluable support he has had from family and friends.

Talking about how you are feeling is important and it really does help.

Not failing

He also said: “Just because you are struggling, doesn’t mean you are failing.”

It is a very important point to remember.

We don’t feel like a failure when we are laid up in bed with the flu probably just a bit sorry for ourselves. Not feeling well, not feeling yourself isn’t a failure.

My own message is to look out for each other. Just because someone is happy on the outside doesn’t mean they are on the inside.

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The accidental freelancer: Thoughts on my first year of being self-employed.