At what age do you no longer need flex working? It is often assumed that people in the later stages of life make little use of this option as their responsibilities have diminished and their stress curves have flattened. Perhaps they are even comfortably retired and are in their rocking chairs watching Gardeners World? The reality is that people are toiling longer than their forebears, thus precipitating a generational change that impacts on how we view and facilitate employment.
Adding up the numbers
With the state pension spiralling upwards, the brutal truth is that many people have no choice but to soldier on. As was demonstrated with the furore that arose when the pension age for women was dramatically raised from 60 to 65, we cannot be sure what the future holds. Flex keeps the older generation in employment and particularly so when health issues rear their head. Agile work formats mean people can avoid the detrimental effects of pension poverty whilst also continuing to contributeto the state and more widely to society.
A Wealth of Experience
The older generation brings much to the workplace in terms of expertise and mentoring that should not be overlooked. By not offering flex working, all these advantages are lost as people step out of the economy taking so much of note and merit with them. Age is as much a protected characteristic under the Equality Act as gender, race or sexuality and should not be viewed as a justification for negatively predetermining talent or capability.
“Offering flexibility to retain the talent of older employees is crucial. Workplaces can then become more diverse andinformed environments. We can all benefit from harnessing decades of valuable experience.”
Stephen Burke, Director of United for All Ages
Artificial age-based constructs help no-one. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, one day we will be judged not on our birth certificates but on the content of our character.
Childcare and Kinship Care
Government statistics indicate that 1 in 4 working families rely on grandparents for childcare and 63% of grandparents with grandchildren under 16 help out with childcare. This is not just about a spot of evening babysitting but rather such assistance plays a critical role in enabling parents to work. The childcare they provide is worth £7.3 billion a year as estimated by the charities Age UK and Grandparents Plus.
When older people can work flexibly, they support the younger generation to achieve their goals and potential. Since the major part of childcare is done by women, this has an impact on how women progress professionally and on issues such as narrowing the gender pay gap.
In complex cases, older family members may come forward in to look after children when the parents cannot, as an alternative to foster care. Flex helps to keep children at home, and it has been shown time and time again that staying with the birth family produces more successful outcomes.
“It is not merely about having a better social upbringing. There is a domino effect for all of us. When, for example, grandparents step in to care instead of the state, they save the taxpayer money and resources. Flex working is a vital part of that process.”
Lucy Peake, CEO of the charity, Kinship
An Unstoppable Demographic
We are living longer and the proportion of the older generation relative to the population as a whole is increasing. Age is not something we can control and (barring a tragic early demise) it will happen to us regardless. We all have a strong vested interest it. Do we really want a system that sabotages our future selves? For harnessing experience, for better family and social relationships, for fairness – that is why flex working is required for the later ages and stages of our lives.
The first step in recruitment is creating a job description. Yet while evolution has effected other aspects of recruitment, it has past right by job descriptions. We have had the same outdated format and content for decades, and it is massively understated the negative effect this has on candidates and employers alike. From ridiculous experience requirements to asking for redundant skills, businesses have gone unchallenged on this topic for long enough. The future is now and the future is output-based.
The “Ideal” Candidate does not Exist
Businesses need to manage their expectations when it comes to recruitment. All too often job descriptions contain a phrase that is counter productive to say the least. Many job descriptions contain the phrase “the ideal candidate will have:”. If you are a recruiter writing a job description, let me stop you right there, because this phrase tends to be followed by a long list of unrealistic expectations and you are setting up everyone involved (yourselves included) to fail. The majority of candidates will not apply based off of the fact they do not meet every single one of these needs. A small minority will lie and apply anyway just to take their chances.
The chances of you finding someone who ticks everyone of those 30 boxes are slim to none. The literal definition of the word “ideal” is satisfying one’s conception of what is perfect, existing only in their imagination and unlikely to become a reality. No human has achieved perfection since the beginning of our existence so how can it be expected from your applicants? The bottom line is your not going to get what your asking for and realistically a job description should not be about the candidate in the first place.
The Practice of Inclusivity Creates Exclusivity
Since society is making a genuine effort to be more diverse and inclusive across the board, business are trying to do the same with their workforce. When recruiting, employers now factor in; gender, BAME, LGBTQ+ and Neurodiversity as a plus. Within job descriptions, employers will even say they are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive working environment. However by actively including certain groups you are excluding others, there is something of a paradox there; you cannot be inclusive without being exclusive. This is called positive discrimination, which is a contradiction in terms in and of itself. It can be argued that by definition; discrimination in any form cannot be positive.
The whole point of diversity and inclusion is to create equality. If you are favouring someone because on their gender, sexuality or race then that is just a different brand of exclusivity. So a white, heterosexual male is automatically at a disadvantage regardless if they are just as capable of doing the job as other applicants who fall under the above categories? Is this not just more of the same issue in a different form? If every organisation does this then inclusivity is just an illusion that we are kidding ourselves with. The only way to be truly inclusive is to take inclusivity completely out of the equation and out of the job description.
Generic Job Descriptions don’t lead to Quality Candidates
Many business don’t put enough time and effort into the job descriptions. The format is so out-dated that businesses to tend to throw generic essential requirements in without thinking, or they overload it with paragraph after paragraph of information about the company. Yet they include very little about the roll itself. This is not appropriate, a full summary of the company comes later in the recruitment process not the beginning. And if the candidate really wants the job they will do their research on the company beforehand. A job description is a job description, not a company description and not a candidate description.
Another issue is the throwaway skills recruiters have in their job descriptions. What is a generic skill to an employer can be a deal breaker for an applicant. This issue particularly affects neurodiverse people. Neurodiverse people are some of the most talented people on the planet and yet so few are in employment today. They perceive things differently, so if they see a skill in a job description they do not have, they will take it no further. Though this does not just include neurodiverse people, many applicants move on when they see an essential skill that they do not have. Yet the role itself does not require the skills the job description asks for. A job where the person predominantly works alone does not require great interpersonal skills. But the at the end of the day, none of these should be included in a job description.
The Output-Based Job Description
So what is an output-based job description? Simple; you take the candidate: their skills, qualifications and experiences out of it. You also take the company out of it; no mission statements, passions, goals etc. A short two to three line introduction on what the company does is the most that should be in a job description. The rest of it is solely about the role itself and the output of the person within said role and what their day to day duties will be. It should be based off of what an existing or past employee within that role does. Or with a new role, the purpose of it and why it was created should be made abundantly clear. There should be no abbreviations of what skills these duties will require, if the description of said duties is clear and precise the candidate will know if they are cable or not.
Take all labels out of the equation no; ‘diversity & inclusion’ or ‘flexible working’. These labels, regardless of intent, are creating an unconscious bias that contradicts their meaning. The most inclusive way to form a job description is to not include any labels whatsoever, this is the mark of true inclusion. This will ensure that the right candidates apply for the role as opposed to candidates trying to be perfect for the role. This is the future of the job description. If we as a society hope to abolish all forms of discrimination and promote true equality within the workplace. It will give everyone the same chance, no one individual will have an advantage over another. This will of course have a domino effect on the entire recruitment process, but a positive one none the less. But one step at a time and its time to take that first step.
We at Find Your Flex challenge you and your business to take part in our #OUTPUTChallenge type form: https://findyourflex.typeform.com/to/I523nXuA. Be the pioneer businesses in creating a better Future of Work for candidates and businesses alike! Businesses will create their 3 best Output Job Descriptions and the winner will receive 100 business credits with us for a whole year and will also be the core focus of our press release on the ‘Future of Work’. The future is now, cement your part in it by taking the challenge!
As part of National Autism Awareness Week 2021, Find Your Flex is here to help raise awareness. To assist to cultivate much needed change within the workplace in regards to autistic people.
COVID-19 has given pause for much thought over the last year. In many ways the pandemic has given the opportunity to make a fresh start. It is impossible to deny that some societal practices continued until they were forced to stop. Now that we are in position to move forward, certain mindsets must be left behind. Especially the inclusion of neurodiversity in the workplace.
Autism Awareness: Employer Inclusivity
When it comes to neurodiverse people, employers in the UK are not accommodating or inclusive enough. That seems like a harsh blanket statement. Sadly, there is concrete evidence to back this up. Only 22% of autistic adults are employed in the UK as of 2020. In a modern society claiming to be forward-thinking, diversified and inclusive, these statistics are unacceptable.
Employers need to be making stronger commitments to inclusive cultures. The benefits are twofold. Firstly, talented people are able to enter the workforce, utilise their skills and grow. Secondly employers and organisations reap the benefits of a more creative and innovative team. It is baffling that there are not more neurodiverse people in the workplace. They are a massive pool of exceptional talent and missed opportunities.
Be Aware of what Autistic People bring to the table
Employers need to be aware of what they are potentially missing out on. There are some exceptionally talented people looking for work. Being neurodiverse shouldn’t be a factor in them not finding employment. Autistic people may need to work in a different way than what employers are used to. All it requires is an understanding employer and an open conversation about how they work best.
The National Autistic Society, interviewed Jamie Knight; Senior Research Engineer at the BBC. Jamie has a number of important roles, including developing software, conduct tech maintenance and ensuring their apps and services are running properly. This is just one example of how much neurodiverse people can bring to the table at a senior level. This is for one of the most globally recognised organisations; the BBC. This is definitely an indicator for more organisations to follow this example and really take an internal look at their recruitment process.
Autism Awareness: Perceiving the World around us
The first aspect of autism awareness employers need to recognise is that they need to rid themselves of existing mindsets. Neurodiverse people perceive the world differently than people who are not neurodiverse. This is the mindset employers and society in general must adopt if they haven’t already. For example; a faulty lightbulb in a lit room can be slightly annoying but easy to ignore for some people. Yet for an autistic person this can be something potentially debilitating.
In NAS’s interview with Jamie Knight, he sums up perfectly how employers and society in general should view neurodiverse people:
“Look, its not that I’m defective, it’s that the environment is disabling me. So if I start modifying the environment, it will stop disabling me. I’ll still remain impaired … But I can stop it from having a negative impact on my life.”
And this is key when employing neurodiverse people. Make small changes to the workplace environment, interactions and overall processes. This will accommodate someone who can prove to be an invaluable asset. Making this less of an inconvenience and more of investment. General acceptance and adapting to people is an easy part of creating a more inclusive environment. Jaimie has Lion with him at all times as he says he helps to keep him happy. And Lion even acts as an indicator for how Jaimie is feeling. When neurodiverse people are comfortable in their environment they can thrive as well as anyone else. Any employer can see this as a positive thing which they can prosper from.
Recruitment Process: Inclusivity & Accommodation
Accommodating neurodiverse people does not start once they are in the job. It needs to start at the beginning of the recruitment process. Job descriptions can sometimes ask for too much. Listing a number unnecessary requirements as “essential” to the job, when in practice they are not. This isn’t just an issue that concerns neurodiverse people, but it does present a greater barrier for them more so than others.
Employers casually include “essential requirements” in job descriptions without thinking much of it. Such as: ‘excellent communication skills’ or ‘must work well in a team’. These skills can often be included in job descriptions where the employee would be mostly working independently or would not need to interact much with others to do the job well. If this is the case, why are these skills part of the essential criteria? An autistic person will see this and automatically move on as they may not have these skills, yet they could have been exceptional in that role. However, sometimes their exceptional abilities can get falsely interpreted. This is where the myth surrounding splinter skills autism should be noted. Splinter skill is a term used for people on the spectrum who do well in certain domains or areas. That is, they could be good at art or playing piano, which might seem amazing. However, it is very rare and they still face challenges in their social life. So, recruiters should keep in mind that instead of looking for the “perfect” candidate, they should be searching for the right candidate. Consider what really is essential and what is not.
The same is true for the interview process. Candidate assessments in interviews can include asking vague, open ended questions and reading body language. An autistic person should not be assessed in this way as it is unfair; they perceive things differently and may not perform well under this kind of assessment. A better assessment of their performance would be to give them a trial in the appropriate role and asses their performance this way. Employers need to adopt these changes in practice if they are aiming to create a more diverse and inclusive environment.
Why Flexible Working for Neurodiverse People is Key
Flexible working should be available for everyone, yet it is a key element of working life for neurodiverse people. For an autistic person, aspects in and out of the workplace can derail them for the rest of the day. And as previously stated; neurodiverse people perceive things differently and therefore have to cope with this in a different way. Therefore it is completely unfair, inappropriate and ignorant to expect neurodiverse people to operate on fixed shifts all the time with no room for compromise.
This not only shows a total lack of autism awareness but is a totally regressive way of working. If companies maintain this approach they are making no effort to facilitate a diverse and inclusive working environment. Now it is true that some neurodiverse people require structure and benefit from having fixed shifts. That is fine, flexible working does not effect that. It simply means the company can work around neurodiverse employees if their environment has left them incapable of operating under their normal hours for whatever reason. This is why flexible working is an essential requirement for neurodiverse people which all organisations should adopt. They outcome can only be positive.
Autism Awareness: Improve Lives
Like anyone else, neurodiverse people may want a certain level of independence, sense of achievement and purpose. For most adults, these aspects of life are defined by their careers. We achieve independence through the money we make from our job to become self reliant. We often strive for achievements within our job and measure our success with these. Often our career is literally the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning, giving our lives structure and purpose. Neurodiverse people deserve to have the opportunity for these basic fundamental parts of life that everyone is entitled to.
Employers are the ones with the ability to make this happen. This can be done simply by creating a more inclusive and diverse environment. It can not be understated the impact this can have on the life of a neurodiverse person. All too often the base need they have is structure and nothing provides this more than a career which will also grant them a certain level of independence. This is the way forward in a post-COVID world, employers and society need to embrace this sooner rather than later.
“The Tech Talent Charter (TTC) is a non-profit organisation leading a movement to address inequality in the UK tech sector and drive inclusion and diversity in a practical and uniquely measurable way. The TTC’s ultimate goal is that the UK tech sector becomes truly inclusive and a reflection of the society which it represents. There are now over 500 UK employers of tech involved with the TTC and working together to drive change.
Signatories of the TTC make a number of pledges in relation to their approach to recruitment and retention. Although it is very much an employer-led initiative, the TTC is supported by the UK Government’s Digital Strategy.”
Their goal: that the UK tech sector becomes truly inclusive, reflecting the society which it represents. They focus on the how, not just the why of inclusion.
Why We’ve Joined TTC
We want to see the innovators innovate, the entrepreneurs create and organisations step up with corporate social responsibility. Our belief is that diversity and inclusion is the key to better futures for both employees and for business. We know we can play our part by driving access to flexible working and raising the profile of those employers who share our beliefs.
We might only be a micro business but by joining forces with The TTC we are saying that everyone can make a difference. Consider that
only 19% of the workforce in the tech industry are women. Yet over 50% of women surveyed by the TTC would retrain in tech given the support and opportunity.
research commissioned by the Fawcett Society revealed that 1 in 3 working mothers lost work or hours due to childcare needs, that women were more likely than men to lose work or be burdened with childcare during the crisis, and that ethnic minority women were more likely to have concerns about losing their jobs.
the latest McKinsey Report on diversity reveals that businesses who embrace D&I are not only more innovative and profitable but are also attracting and retaining quality talent.
and you can see there is work to be done.
Our mission as a flexible working jobs board is to bring true flexible working roles to everyone. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, parental status etc. We work closely with employers who already value flexible working. We hope to bring the issue of automation and re-skilling to the forefront of their strategies.
We believe that with the TTC and their signatories we can drive a movement for change. One that benefits all members of society regardless of which gender you were born, what your socio economic background is or which ethnic group you belong to.
”The importance of greater inclusion and diversity in tech is, thankfully, no longer up for debate. Sectors and organisations now need to work together to shift the dial – and this will happen a lot quicker if we pool our successes, failures, ideas and learn from them to bring about real structural change.
In our inaugural report we stressed the importance of collaboration. One single company can’t do it alone, which is why we’re asking organisations to sign up to the Tech Talent Charter and join the movement (now approximately 500 Signatories). Companies can also access our TTC Toolkit, a set of free resources designed to help organisations improve their inclusion and diversity”.
Back in 2019 we discussed the digital skills gap, what it is and what needs to be done to address it. We still stand by the fact that flexible working opens doors to many more talented people able to plug this gap. But what else have we learned?
Since we discussed the matter much more research has been carried out by organisations such as The Tech Talent Charter, McKinsey, World Economic Forum, Deloitte and more – find a list of all the reports we think you’ll want to read at the end of this post.
So here are a few stats to get you warmed up
According to recent analysis from BCS: the Chartered Institute of IT, in the last quarter of 2020 women made up only 19% of the UK IT industry.
Flexible working is far more likely to be sought by women or other underrepresented groups such as people with disabilities (Timewise).
Further research by the Gender and Behavioural Insight Team found that job adverts offering flexible working attracted 30% more applicants and boosted applications from women by 16%.
In a survey of working women by the Tech Talent Charter, more than half of respondents were open to a career in tech, subject to being able to obtain the relevant knowledge and skills.
BAME IT professionals are less likely to be in positions of responsibility than those of white ethnicity – despite on the whole being better qualified, a new study has found (Chartered Institute for IT, 2020).
91% of UK employers struggled to find workers with the right skills over the last year (Deloitte, BITC 2020).
The percentage of organisations scaling automations was found to have doubled in the last year, making concerns surrounding re-skilling even more prevalent (Deloitte, BITC 2020).
Only 1 in 7 workers in roles at high risk of automation received training in the last year.
8 to 9 percent of 2030 labour demand will be in new types of occupations that have not existed before (McKinsey 2017).
Forty-three percent of businesses surveyed indicate that they are set to reduce their workforce due to technology integration, 41% plan to expand their use of contractors for task specialised work, and 34% plan to expand their workforce due to technology integration (WEF, 2020).
It is estimated that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines, while 97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms (World Economic Forum, 2020).
On average, companies estimate that around 40% of workers will require re-skilling of six months or less and 94% of business leaders report that they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job, a sharp uptake from 65% in 2018 (World Economic Forum, 2020).
So what does this mean for the future of work?
To try and condense a multifactorial concept of ‘The Future Of Work’ into a short paragraph is difficult but here goes. The way we work has and will continue to change. Automation will see mass job loss but also create millions of jobs too. Eight to nine percent of labour demand in 2030 will be in roles that do not exist today. It is clear that education and re-skilling are key to navigating this huge change. Without the investment it needs we could see huge unemployment. Yet in parallel there will be large volumes of vacant roles requiring skills few people have learned.
So what next?
With epic amounts of data to support what the future of work looks like. We know that these issues need addressing now. Our current workforce, especially those who are more likely to suffer job loss as a result of automation need to be re-skilled in skills for the future. Ideally this needs to be done whilst employees are still in employment. Tackling the issue once these people have lost their jobs will be more difficult as the urgency to find paid employment may negate the desire to change careers or study.
Our children are the workforce of the future and the national curriculum should reflect this. Research needs to be done on how we teach children the in demand skills of the future.
investment in reskilling by organisations appears to be lacking
employees most at risk of automation are not spending time reskilling.
and it is getting harder for organisations to hire the skills they need externally.
Who should we re-skill?
It comes as no surprise that the technology industry is lacking diversity on all levels. According to recent analysis from BCS: the Chartered Institute of IT, in the last quarter of 2020 women made up only 19% of the UK IT industry. Research commissioned by the Fawcett Society revealed that 1 in 3 working mothers lost work or hours due to childcare needs, that women were more likely than men to lose work or be burdened with childcare during the crisis, and that ethnic minority women were more likely to have concerns about losing their jobs.
You only need to look at a handful of reports over the last couple of years to see the lack of diversity.
The Tech Talent Charter surveyed working women to see what would persuade them to consider a career in tech. More than 50 percent of respondents were open to a career in tech, providing they could access the relevant knowledge and skills.
Then we need to consider those more likely to lose their jobs as a result of automation. Those in industries such as retail, manufacturing and hospitality (McKinsey, 2020).
When should we re-skill?
Time is of the essence. With Covid potentially accelerating the automation curve we need to act now. We need to avoid the costs of job loss and a prolonged, expensive recruitment process. Not to mention trying to recruit people with skills that very few have trained to do.
We need to invest in reskilling our workforce now. It makes good business sense. Make the most of your employees now. Take the employees whose roles may be at risk from automation and ask them if they would be interested in retraining. Models for retraining and redeployment need to start now.
How are flexible working, diversity and inclusion and the digital skills gap linked?
Our own research has shown the diversity in our own audience seeking flexible working. This is backed by Timewise who say “flexible working is far more likely to be sought by women or other underrepresented groups such as people with disabilities.”. But until flexible working is more widely accepted and valued by organisations these people, talented and brimming with potential will be unable to access the careers they desire.
Research by the Gender and Behavioural Insight Team found that job adverts offering flexible working attracted 30% more applicants and boosted applications from women by 16%. Whilst this is great news that highlights the value of flexible working, much is still to be done to ensure that flexibility offerings are not just a tick box exercise. Something our team at Find Your Flex takes very seriously.
Open up a discussion on how, where and when is the best way to do a job and you will attract more talented and diverse people into roles. The technology industry needs to be as diverse as the people it serves. There is a whole group of diverse people out there eager for a career, they just require the flexibility to access it. This untapped group of talented people could be the part of the answer to the digital skills gap.
How will Find Your Flex address the digital skills gap?
We have exciting plans for 2021 – 2022 and have something up our sleeves that we think could not only address the issue of re-skilling but also provide a green solution too. We can’t say too much now but watch this space. We’ve also just joined The Tech Talent Charter as one of their signatories. Read more about the great work they are doing here.
A list of interesting reading on the future of work, diversity in technology and responsible automation
There has been something of a women’s revolution going on in society. Inspirational women are stepping forward and speaking out on a united front. To abolish stigmas, gender pay gaps and recognise how strong, smart, and savvy women are.
In honour and recognition of International Women’s Day 2021, we will be looking at some powerful and inspirational women; historical figures and current trail blazers. The Find Your Flex team have put forward their candidates for women who deserve recognition.
1: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
(Image Credit: The Telegraph/Holly Godfrey)
A woman who punched the glass ceiling until it shattered. No matter how many times the institutions and government of her time tried to reinforce it. In the early 19th century there were few roles for women to fill in life. In the 1800’s, a woman’s the best lot in life was to make an agreeable marriage. Living life as a wife, mother and lady of leisure. For Elizabeth Garrett Anderson this was nowhere near enough. Believing that if her education was as good as any man’s, she should could enter the same profession.
Anderson’s dream was to become a doctor, something unheard of in Britain during those days. This didn’t stop her from going down every avenue to get there. After exploiting to legal technicalities, the institution amended rules so no woman could do the same. Setting her own rules, Anderson opened her own hospital. As an added gesture of defiance had it staffed solely by women. Anderson became the first practicing female doctor in British history.
Thanks to her tenacity, the rules were changed to allow women in Britain to become doctors. Anderson would achieve another first, after retirement she became mayor of Aldeburgh. The first woman in British history to become a mayor. Anderson was a staunch supporter of the suffragette movement. Her own daughter (no doubt in part due to having such an inspiring mother) was a prominent figure. Anderson’s refusal to back down helped to break the mould of what women could achieve.
If you call Dolly Parton a legend of country music, you’d be right, but that would be such a small tip of the iceberg. She travelled to Nashville ‘the home of country music’, at the young age of 18. She used irony, stereotypes and her looks to get her foot in the door. But once inside, she used her personality to slam it behind her.
In looks Parton fit the mould of what it meant to be a female country singer. In personality she broke it into pieces. Dolly used irony to her advantage. While portraying a stylish, busty blonde, her music was attacking stereotypes. Her first chart record was “Dumb Blonde” took clear shots at misogynistic views on women. Many of Dolly’s songs had subliminal messages about the strength of women. Though in 1966, the was nothing subtle about a song she released called “Just Because I’m a Woman”. The song she challenged double-standards, calling out how poorly men can treat women and get away with it.
Despite clear implications of her music, Parton remained ambiguous about her views on feminism. Parton became one of the most globally recognised music stars of all time and in many ways does not get the credit she deserves. She was challenging female stereotypes and gender double standards during risky periods. Dolly Parton is not just an inspirational woman in music. But an inspirational woman period.
3: Anita Roddick
(Image Credit: Twitter @TheBodyShop)
Anita Roddick is an inspiring business woman and entrepreneur who founded The Body Shop. She was humble, claiming that certain things happened by accident and led to success. Yet those inspired by her can see that she had the business savvy to capitalise on these “accidents”. She was an understated figure of female empowerment. Recognised for this, she was awarded the 1991 World Vision Award for Development Initiative.
Roddick had the vision to look at the long term implications of her business decisions. When she sold Body Shop to L’Oréal, she faced some harsh criticism. At the time reports suggested they used animal testing. Something Roddick claimed to be against. Her response was that she likened them move to being like ‘Trojan Horse’. She would have an input on the company’s decisions, as would the suppliers of Body Shop. This proved to be true. L’Oréal currently claim to be world leaders in abolishing animal testing. Something Roddick may be directly or indirectly responsible for.
Roddick was also a notable activist and philanthropist, involved in many charities. She founded Children on the Edge (COTE). Aiding overcrowded conditions in orphanages dealing with catastrophic issues. Roddick became an advocate for people suffering with Hepatitis C, as she too suffered from this disease. Upon her death she reportedly donated the entirety of her fortune to charity. Anita Roddick was pinnacle of what it mean to be a great business woman. One who gives back, any young aspiring entrepreneur should take inspiration from her.
4: Serena Williams
(Image Credit: The New York Times/David Gray/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)
Serena Williams is arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, breaking and setting records. Williams has broken down race and gender barriers through her passion and outspoken persona. From a young age she faced racism, her father was protective over her and her sister Venus on this matter. Racial discrimination continued throughout her adult career. Her gender was also a point of contention as the world of tennis was a white male dominated world.
Serena was criticized for her cultural hair style and faced many other derogatory comments early on. Serena along with her father and sister, boycotted the Indian Wells when her family received racial abuse. She openly challenges officials for sexist discrimination and is often outspoken. She has done a lot to empower women. Inspiring them to push themselves in athletic professions and shedding light on the significant gender pay gap in most sports. Serena is a trail blazer in shattering the idea of a what a woman is “supposed to look like”. Abolishing the image of what conventional beauty is.
She has done much to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Vocalising personal concerns and what needs to change. Williams has stood up for the LGBT community. When other members of her profession have made disparaging remarks. She used her personal successes to abolish gender pay gaps and to push for more equality across the board. This included becoming one of the highest paid athletes in the world two years in a row through sponsorships. Owing to her immense popularity as a female role model, in any list of inspirational women, Serena Williams stands out.
5: Tanni Grey-Thompson
(Image Credit: The Telegraph)
Its one thing to make such a long lasting mark in sports. But to go on to a career in politics and make your mark defines inspirational women. Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson is one such woman, born with spina bifida and requiring a wheelchair. Grey-Thompson would go on to become one of the most accomplished disabled athletes in the UK. Grey-Thompson achieved a BA (Hons) Degree in Politics and Social Administration. She would return to the subject of her degree later on in life, after making an impact in athletics.
Tanni would start her Paralympic career at the Junior National Games for Wales in 1984. Grey-Thompson became an inspiration to women and people suffering with disabilities. She won 16 Paralympic medals, 11 of which were gold. She held 30 track world records during her time competing in both 100m and 400m. Grey-Thompson’s last Paralympic Games were in Athens in 2004.
She has won many awards including being voted UK Sporting Hero by UK sports. Grey-Thompson returned to her academic routes, becoming an Independent Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords. Aside from her role in sport and in politics, Grey-Thompson is involved with many charities. Being an advocate for disabled people in sports, using her own success to inspire others. She made an impact in the world of sports. And to transition from that into the daunting world of politics is beyond admirable.
6: Malala Yousafzai
(Image Credit: The New York Post/Getty Images)
There are still countries where women are confined to only having children and being wives. Malala Yousafzai was only a child when she began speaking out for women’s rights in Pakistan. Malala’s unyielding bravery brought her a lot of media attention. She gave interviews to both the BBC and the New York Times. She became so notable she was awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize.
At the age of 15, on her way home from school on the bus a gunman for the Taliban boarded the vehicle. Malala was shot in the head and left in a critical condition. She was sent to the Quean Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and would go on to make a full recovery. The attack resulted in the United Nations denouncing and condemning the Taliban. The attempt to silence her only strengthened Yousafzai’s resolve. She continued to speak out and raise awareness. After her recovery, she studied at Oxford University. Earning a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economy.
In 2014 she became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She brought awareness to the fact that in some parts of the world girls and women are no were near able fight for equal pay and recognition. Because they are still in the midst of fighting for basic human rights that we all take for granted. There are many inspirational women throughout history who deserve recognition. Malala Yousafzai will go down as one of the greatest activists in history.
In the world of figures that cultivated change, a name than cannot go unmentioned is Rosa Parks. Children today are taught about the brave, young woman who faced extreme racial discrimination. And refused to vacate her seat on the bus for a white person. Parks would become one of the most prominent figures in history. She was part of the civil rights movement, along with Martin Luther King Jr..
Her actions led to the Montgomery bus boycott. Where people of colour refused to use bus services in Montgomery for over a year. Rosa’s arrest would lead to the abolishment of bus segregation laws. This would have greater implications moving forward. Segregation was prominent in Alabama in the 1950’s. Furthermore, Rosa’s defiance was even more frowned upon due the fact that she was a woman. Its hard to believe that this event only happened 7 decades ago. As the years go on Rosa’s actions receive more recognition for the chain of events they led to. Rosa remained a part of the “Black Power” movement and continued to speak out for equal rights.
However, Rosa’s life after the event only became more difficult. She lost her job as a result of her arrest and began receiving death threats because of it. The long term implications of Park’s actions would come to fruition in later years. Despite this, Rosa remained outspoken about the need for further justice and change. Sadly, Rosa was correct in this regard, as the fight against racial discrimination goes on. Though, Rosa’s legacy gives strength and resolve to those continuing the fight. Without her actions the fight would be that much harder. Without a doubt, someone who stands up for themselves and others in the face of extreme adversity is an inspirational woman indeed.
8: Ronda Rousey
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There is an argument that the woman responsible for changing the gender imbalance in combat sports is Ronda Rousey. Ronda began a judo career and proved successful. Rousey became the first American to win a medal in judo since its inception at the Olympics. She began training in Mixed Martial Arts. The powers that be declared that no one wanted to watch two women legitimately trying to hurt each other in MMA. But with women in other sports becoming more polarizing. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) realised they needed to make a change.
The first female signee was Ronda Rousey. She became the inaugural UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. Rousey participated in the first UFC female fight in history. She would remain undefeated for years, gaining global popularity. During this time, Rousey was voted the best female athlete of all-time in a 2015 ESPN fan poll. After Rousey lost for the first time and again in her returning rematch, she retired. She was the first female inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2018.
In 2015, WWE began evolving its women’s division to focus more on wrestling rather than looks. Many believed that Rousey’s success in UFC was a large part of inciting this change in wrestling. Rousey began competing in WWE in 2018. She would feature in the first ever women’s main event in Wrestlemania history. Ronda has broken down many barriers for women in sports, earning many “firsts” for women. She has spoken about how she suffered with body image as a child. Bullied for looking too masculine due to her athletic physique and interest in video games. Many have credited Ronda as being one of the driving forces for change in women receiving equal recognition to men. Proving herself a force to be reckoned with and can be proud to know she is one of societies most inspirational women.
9: Bethenny Frankel
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Most people reading this may recognise the name Bethenny Frankel as one of The Real Housewives of New York City. Bethenny had a mentally abusive mother who had a physically abusive relationship with her step-father. Bethenny would leave home and moved to Los Angeles with one goal: to become a success. She worked as a nanny for Paris Hilton before becoming the personal assistant of Jerry and Linda Bruckheimer. After this she started her own baked goods business. When the Bravo network contacted her to be part of RHONYC, she saw an opportunity to promote her business.
Bethenny became a fan favourite for her blunt, snarky, charismatic attitude. She was unafraid to laugh at herself, while equally unafraid to call people out. During this time Frankel created the ‘Skinnygirl Margarita’. A move that would have major implications for her. Frankel published several books and was offered her own spin-off and talk shows. Bethenny launched the first ever low-calorie cocktail line branded Skinnygirl Cocktails. Through partnerships, she grew the line to include other alcoholic beverages, foods and apparels.
Suffering mental and emotional abuse throughout her divorce. Her experiences would lead her to found Bstrong. A charity providing financial support for women that feel trapped in abusive situations. When Frankel saw the devastation caused by natural disasters, she raised millions. Travelling to destinations such as Houston, Mexico City and Puerto Rico. Bethenny Frankel ticks all the boxes of what it means to be strong in the list of inspirational women. Someone who has suffered abuse, became a successful business woman and given back to people less fortunate than herself.
10: Rose McGowan
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One of the biggest movements began when women stepped forward revealing the corruption and abuse of Hollywood. The most notable case involved then movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Rose McGowan was one of the “Silence Breakers” to step forward and accuse Weinstein of rape. McGowan’s first notable appearance was in the horror film Scream. She starred in some other notable films. In 1997, she was recommended to Weinstein and an encounter took place in which she was sexually assaulted.
In 2017, a story broke in the New York times. Many well-known figures in the film industry, accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. The number would grow to over 100 people and McGowan’s voice was one of the loudest. These events would lead to the MeToo movement. A massive global movement that encouraged victims of sexual abuse to step forward and call out the perpetrators. Rose would continue to bring awareness to the corruption of Hollywood. Calling out other industry figures for being complacent and looking the other way.
McGowan became an outspoken activist for LGBT and women’s rights. She shaved her long hair. Stating the image of conventual beauty depicted by Hollywood needed abolishing. That women should perpetuate their individual beauty. She has published her auto-biography Brave detailing her experiences. One thing is without dispute, Rose McGowan is the pinnacle of what brave, inspirational women are. One who refuses to fall in line and be silenced. By those who think they will always get away with it because of their gender and position.
Inspirational Women, Honourable Mentions:
Audrey Hepburn – Hepburn was a notable actress in the 1950s onwards. As a child she survived Nazi occupied Holland. She became a globally recognised actress. She did a lot for charity. Hepburn travelled to third world countries to meet underprivileged people and raise awareness
Kelly Hoppen – Hoppen is a notable business woman how began a career as an interior designer at the young age of 16. She built her empire and would go on to design home, yachts and private jets for celebrities and high-end clients. She would be a ‘Dragon’ on the show Dragons Den. Helping to support small businesses through investing and mentoring.
Amelia Sordell – “I am a boss. Not a girl boss. I am an entrepreneur. Not a female entrepreneur. I am a business owner. Not a woman in business. The sooner we drop gender from these phrases the better. Maybe we should start calling people ‘Male Entrepreneurs’ and ‘Boy Bosses’ to see how stupid it sounds.”.
There are many more inspirational women, past and present. These inspirational women have made a difference either by actively seeking change or achieving it through their personal success. We honour all women on International Women’s Day 2021. Which strong, brave, clever, tenacious woman do you take inspiration from?
Did you know that Equal Pay Day falls on the 20th November this year?
Equal Pay Day is recognised each year as the day in the year when women effectively, on average, stop earning relative to men. How crazy is that?
The Fawcett Society uses the full-time mean average gender pay gap to work out the day each year, which in 2020 is 11.5%, down from 13.1% in 2019. That means that Equal Pay Day has moved 6 days later in the year, compared to 14th November in 2019. The mean gender pay gap for all employees, not just those working full-time, is 14.6% this year, down from 16.3% last year.
So while most of us spend the rest of the year essentially working for free, we thought we’d take a look at some absolute badass ladies who’ve taken 2020 and smashed it against a wall.
Kamala Harris just wins 2020 in our opinion. She is the first woman – and the first woman of colour – to be elected Vice-President of America. Being the first to do something seems to come naturally to Harris. In 2017, she became the first South Asian-American senator in US history, and the second African-American woman elected to the senate. For countless women and girls, Harris’ achievements represent hope, validation and the shattering of a proverbial glass ceiling that has kept mostly white men perched at the top tiers of American government.
Sundas Khalid is a data science leader and a passionate advocate for diversity in the workplace. She leads search engine analytics at Google and participates in their IamRemarkable initiative, empowering underrepresented communities to celebrate their accomplishments. Outside of work, Sundas volunteers with organizations that promote diversity and inclusion, including Pakistani Women in Computing and North Seattle College, and provides career coaching to help people achieve their dream jobs.
Lizzie is an American motivational speaker, activist, author, and YouTuber. She was born with an extremely rare congenital disease called Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome that, among other symptoms, prevents her from accumulating body fat and gaining weight. Her conditions resulted in bullying during her childhood. During her teenage years, she faced cyberbullying, which ultimately inspired her to take up motivational speaking. In addition to being a motivational speaker, Velasquez campaigns for awareness of online bullying, taking part in Kylie Jenner’s #IAmMoreThan project and supporting anti-bullying legislation across the United States.
Model and transgender activist Munroe Bergdorf was featured in the 2020 100 Great Black Britons list and in September was featured on the cover of Teen Vogue. Bergdorf was hired as L’Oréal’s first-ever trans model in 2017 but was axed weeks later when the Daily Mail seized upon comments she had made as white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia and killed anti-fascism protester Heather Heyer. After L’Oreal sought to align itself with Black Lives Matter, the author and DJ lit into its “meaningless”, hypocritical show of solidarity and called out its “racist snakes”. Bergdorf told Vogue how her outcry prompted a phone call with the brand’s new president Delphine Viguier-Hovasse, who joined after she was fired, and the offer to be L’Oréal Paris’ diversity consultant.
Taking home The Glass Ceiling Award this year. this award-winning journalist took the BBC to tribunal for being paid six times less than a male journalist hosting a similar show – and won the case in a landmark victory that could change the lives and salaries of so many in the future. Her move came after the BBC published the salaries of its highest earners in July 2017 under the terms of its new royal charter, which revealed that only one-third of the list of talent earning more than £150,000 were women, with all the top names being men.
The Woman of The Year 2020 award was presented to the inspirational Adwoa Dickson by Lorraine Kelly, for her work with Amies Freedom Choir. The unique choir aims to develop the musical and cultural awareness of young women who have survived trafficking. It also helps them to explore songs and musical styles from each others’ cultures and languages.
Equal Pay For Everyone
In 2020 things really shouldn’t still be this bad. Equal pay should be a fundamental right and not something that women have to fight for.
Though there are some absolute trailblazers out there paving the way for the rest of us, we need to consider what we can all do to ensure that everyone is treated equally and paid fairly.
Article written by freelance marketer & copywriter Jessica Ross.