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A Day In The Life Of... Equality and Diversity Lifestyle Mental Health

Journey to Success: Differing Cultures, Guard Your Mind & Inspire Others

In recognition Black History Month, the Find Your Flex team wanted to speak with a black business leader. One who might be able to share some insights on what a journey from childhood to employment was like and if they ever faced conscious or subliminal adversity impacted by differing cultures.

But we got so much more than this from Robert Upright: Public Speaker and Founder of Empowered Communicator; a company dedicated to helping others overcome struggles with public speaking and gain confidence.

Robert shares his inspiring and impactful journey from childhood to adulthood. He sheds a light on moments when cultural diversity did and didn’t play a part in his journey. And how how mental health presented some barriers and how he overcame them. And finally how he came to help others overcome their barriers and how helping and inspiring others is the greatest of gifts.

What was it like growing up in London?

You know, it’s interesting. We can only ever inhabit our own skin right? And therefore you have the perspective you have. And it’s only by comparison that you realise things, otherwise you’re just living your life.

I had a very happy childhood, family oriented. My family moved here from West Africa, from Ghana, when I was very little and you only know what you know right?

But definitely, what was interesting was the embracing of the two different cultures. For example; when I was little, my parents never spoke our mother tongue too us. Because they were told it would hinder our progress and our growth.

So back then, that was the recieved wisdom. So therefore, although it was spoken in the house amongst themselves, they would speak English to us.

That was quite an interesting dynamic; that we were from a background that wasn’t from this country, hearing a language. But then that language not being directly spoken to us, and then going into school and elsewhere and speaking English.

Things like your foods which were different and which I retain to this day; a love of the West African foods and a love of the British foods. I think it was having that perspective of seeing different worlds and existing in different worlds I think was a very interesting time.

You mentioned different cultures, in terms of your education did that present any barriers or achievements?

What’s interesting is that there is a very very high premium placed on education, certainly from the West African culture. That’s not to say that there isn’t anywhere else. But I think the mentality that I inherited from my parents was that; there may well be barriers that we’ll face.

And we could see certain barriers growing up; the way people might respond to you. I could see the way they might respond to my parents. But that wasn’t ever anything that they would allow to be used to prevent us from excelling.

I think that was the overriding message; to say that it doesn’t actually matter whatever anybody else does or what anyone else thinks, or thinks of you. It was drilled into us that education was the biggest weapon or tool to fight against any kind of inequality.

And so from that perspective, for my family; it was incredibly important that we were very well educated; that we respected education and we respected study and that was really drilled in from a very early age.

I think being in a society whereby obviously you are identifiably different- obviously there are lots of differences in society, but when you are identifiably different, people can look at you and say; ‘well you’re different to what we’ve seen and what we know’. In such circumstances, there’s potential for people to judge you or pre-judge you, and that’s kind of an unfortunate truth, but it’s a truth non the less.

So you have to quickly demonstrate that you are at least on par and worthy of being taken seriously. Otherwise you risk automatically not being taken seriously, and I think that’s something that was drilled in to me at a very early age:

That you can overcome any direct, indirect, overt or subliminal differences or discrimination shall we say, and education is one of your biggest weapons to do so.

Did you embrace the pressures that came with this: the importance of education and overcoming the cultural obstacles you talked about?

Your life is from a perspective that is obviously your own and that was just the norm, that’s just what we did and what we do. It wasn’t a case of looking and comparing to see ‘oh, we do have this or we don’t have this’, it just is the way it is.

And I think that’s an important point in terms of an attitude, that I think I adopt and one everyone can adopt. One that says:

If this is where you are, then this is where you are. There’s no two ways about it.

If you’re sitting in your front room or your kitchen, there’s absolutely no point in going: ‘Oh I wish I was sitting in Hyde Park right now‘ because you’re not. So the only issue is how are you going to get from there to Hyde Park if that’s where you want to get to.

In terms of a nine-year-old, I probably wouldn’t have articulated it like that. But on reflection now certainly. However, I think as any nine-year-old, all I wanted to do was run around and watch Metal Mickey, Rent a Ghost and things like that! But behind that, I knew I was from a disciplined background, a disciplined household. But that’s just what it was.

When making the transition from education to employment, was there any discrimination from employers?

It’s an interesting one, because if they did it, they did it well enough that I would never know! To be fair, I didn’t get a sense of that and I didn’t feel that on my employment journey. But again, I think that might go down to my attitude. I’m very very pragmatic about certain things and I think that is a very important point to take away.

Because life’s experiences will give you a certain armour, I think that it will either break you or embolden you. To a point where at times you can be oblivious to certain things because it’s simply what you do and you simply get on with it.

The problem is; if you are to notice everything, it can just get too overwhelming. There is this thing in life called habituation isn’t there? Like when there’s a really bad smell in the room, you’ll notice it immediately, but the brain goes; ‘well I can’t be focusing on this all day’ so the smell just blends into the background and you don’t even notice it.

And I think in life it perhaps is one of those things where that because of my upbringing, background and therefore mentality, there’s a certain amount of armour that gives you.

If these things were going on to some extent, I just didn’t notice or it wasn’t something I would focus on. Because it wasn’t necessarily that helpful to do so, it was more helpful to carve out the path I wanted to carve.

What did you do between education and starting your own business?

I worked in the publication industry. I did my degree in psychology, which is quite interesting because around that time in my teens is when I started struggling with agoraphobia and panic attacks. It was quite a difficult period and that went on for many years.

A lot of that will inform much of my own personal experience. Which isn’t necessarily race-related per say, because anybody could struggle with that, but that was just another thing to factor in.

I was very conscious about how I would show up in places. Very conscious, being a black male that there may well be a narrative or a stereotype that wasn’t necessarily that positive, yet that’s out there in society, in the media etc. I was always aware of that from a very early age and felt that wherever I went I had to show up in a way that would combat that narrative.

There is that on your shoulders and that is something I took upon myself. But the problem with being agoraphobic and having panic attacks and anxiety and all of that suddenly coming along is:

How do you still show up that way? At your best and trying to combat a narrative?

So that was an additional kind of pressure, that I think exacerbated things at the time, and on reflection I possibly didn’t have the life experience to be able to cope with that as well as I can do now.

And in my work, where I engage with people who might struggle with things around confidence or how you show up. Because I have an intimate understanding of what they’re going through having lived that for so long. It’s the nuances around that, that you can really pick up and start to help them address their challenges.

What led you to become a Public Speaker, in spite of having phobias and mental health issues that would make this career path difficult?

Interestingly, in the workplace, what I would find is that I was functional and I could get on with things. The panic attacks and so forth, I found that I could manage them well enough that I could function and people wouldn’t really know, I would hide in places etc. But what it did mean is that for a long time I wouldn’t pursue career advancement.

I didn’t want to be in positions whereby I’d have such authority that I would be responsible. Such that, if I had a panic attack, I couldn’t show up and therefore it exacerbates the whole; ‘well you’re not showing up at your best. You’re affirming a narrative that is not very positive‘. And it wasn’t anything about who I am or what I am, it was what I was going through and that was kind of like a silent struggle.

So, that was an interesting thing, for a long time that would be going on. And then that goes into areas around; when/if you are struggling, who do you turn to? Where do you turn? That’s true in society anyway, I think everybody has their own struggles with that regardless of who you are.

There’s just that extra little bit of salt on it whereby certain communities have no space to have those conversations around your mental health. It’s just not the ‘done’ thing. So that was probably quite a bit of a pressure cooker that lead to me avoiding trying to get advancement for quite a while.

But I think the way life goes and the way it unfolds, I started looking into things around self-development, going to seminars and reading more around that subject. I studied psychology, but that was more an academic exercise, as opposed to informing how I lived my life or coped with everything. So that was a really interesting experience, that even though I studied psychology, it wasn’t that that was necessarily the breakthrough thing for me.

How did you transition from that to actually becoming a Public Speaker?

The transition I think, came when I did start to look at things around self-development, around self-empowerment. Ultimately, when you can be in control of who you are; your mind. I have a saying you know that I love, it’s one of my favourites:

Stand Guard at the Gates of Your Mind.”

I’m always saying that because it’s so important. You’ve really got to be aware of what you feed your mind and what you allow to get in. It can really start to shape your opinion of life. What you think shapes your outlook. It’s like the whole garden and the farmer analogy; what you plant, you will grow. Basically, you can’t plant a lemon seed and expect and orange tree to grow.

So realising that, there was an opportunity to go to a training on public speaking. And it was a real decision to make, thinking; ‘well I have this history, I have this background and I know I struggle with this kind of thing.’

But it got to a point whereby, your biggest opportunities and your biggest successes lie on the other side of your personal fears don’t they? And although that might be something people read and think; ‘yeah, yeah’, it’s actually so true. In that, if you remain within your comfort zone and you remain within what you know, all you will ever get is what you know. Something pushed me towards doing that training.

On the day I recall I woke up at about 4 AM for the training I was going to and I woke up in sweats at the thought of going to this thing. And I was looking for every single excuse not to go. But fortunately, I went and was able to get through it, and from there my training continued and I just really became a lot more. And then was able to then transition to who I have become today.

What is your experience of running your own business that helps people overcome some of the same struggles?

Do you know it’s the greatest gift, without sounding sounding sort of “woowoo” about it. But it really is. The thing is everybody has something extraordinary within them and about them. And the biggest shame I think in this life, in this society, is for people who don’t ever get to realise that, or see it or embrace it.

And if you can shine a light on somebody’s gift, so that it reveals it to them, then that moment is one of those incredible, beautiful and most important moments in a person’s life. It’s not that there are violins playing out there or doves flying in the air- it’s just this moment of realisation that somebody who perhaps feels like they can’t, suddenly realises that they can.

Now of course there’s work to do, it’s not a magic wand. But if you don’t believe it, if you don’t believe in you, then how likely is it that anything that you dream of will ever happen?

Once you do believe in you and once you have a kind of road map and some steps, guidance, support and belief. Because there will also be days when you don’t believe in yourself and days when you slip back a bit. So it’s really important to surround yourself with the right people; mentors, friends, your inner circle; who understand that particular journey you’re on.

But it is incredible to do and having known what it’s been like to feel quite lost, out at sea, a little bit in the dark. Now it’s like being able to perform that function of almost as a lighthouse isn’t it? Which really helps to illuminate the environment for others as to what’s possible. And then perhaps give them some tools in order to embrace that and show up in a way that is more confident, more empowered, more impactful.

What’s interesting about self development is, it’s not just about the thing that you think is stopping you, it never is just that. It’s all of the other things that radiate off that. It’s everything about who you are and who you become.

Often at times, what you find is people are existing with a kind of a shield or a front right? You don’t want the world to see you at what your perceive as your weakest. So a lot of the time people may show up as an image of themselves as opposed to as themselves.

One of the things I talk about is being confident and natural. That word natural is so important as it really goes back to; if you can just sit alone and be yourself with yourself, then you can be yourself with other people. That’s the important part of the journey that a lot of times is missed. Often times people look at the external and its not just about the tools; ‘okay do this and say this at this moment. Put up this slide or stand in this way’.

It is really a journey of self-discovery, of self-realization and of self-love really. And recognizing all the warts and the things that have happened have actually happened in order to serve you.

I know that can be a very emotive and for some people may be a triggering statement. So it is not to in any way dismiss or discount anything that has happened, or anything you may have been through. I know there’ll be people who have been through extraordinary traumas and I have worked with people that have been through extraordinarily difficult things.

The thing is, at this moment in time, are those things going to continue to disempower you? Or is there a way that by shifting one’s mind, by embracing who you are and taking those things and using them almost as fuel to empower yourself in whatever direction you wish to go. But to be empowered is the most important thing so that you don’t end up living a life of regret.

What advice would you to someone trying to reach a goal and how to overcome any barriers along the way?

Ultimately I think there is the practical side and then there is the personal and internal side. A lot of times with goals or destinations, people are quite vague about it. And if you were to articulate or tell someone your goal, could they easily repeat it back to you? Because there is that thing about; if you can make something understandable by a 7 or 8 year-old, then it’s clear.

To be clear and concise is very important, because fate, loves clarity. And if you can be clear on what it is that you want, it’s the first step in helping you to reach it. So there is that; be very clear on what it is that you want.

Then it is about milestones, there will be certain milestones that you will need to hit, referring back to the Hyde Park analogy. So for example; you might just say, ‘well just get up and go’ but, have you put your clothes on? Have you showered? Have you brushed your teeth? So they’ll be the steps, and there will be bigger steps and milestones so you need to map those out, so that you can actually see a road map.

By simply putting up a kind of map of your journey, suddenly it allows the mind to rest, and be reassured and it brings a certain element of reality. Because what you’re doing with a dreams is that you’re dreaming and there will be a part of your mind that may fight that dream, particularly if you’re struggling in this moment. So what you need to do is to bridge that gap between your current reality and the dream that you have.

And it’s those practical things that you can do and which is why it’s so important not to miss those steps. Because a lot of the time people will throw them away and think; ‘well what’s the point of writing it down? I’m here, I’m struggling, it’s never going to happen. What’s the point in putting in my milestones?’. And so once you understand the way the way that crafting your future works, then you’re a lot more likely to embrace it and do it.

From the personal side, number one: stand guard at the gates of your mind. Who have you got surrounding you? And when I say who; that could be people, it could be the media that you allow in, the messages. What messages are you allowing into your head and are they ones that support you?

Often times, this is why people go to coaches, or get help from consultants, or do various courses etc. It’s so important because what that does is; it shifts your mind and it shifts your environment. You start to surround yourself with people who perhaps believe in you more than you believe in yourself.

It’s like crabs in a barrel; you be trying to crawl out, but if you’re amongst the wrong people, they will drag you back down. So it really is about auditing your life; who you surround it with- it doesn’t mean you throw them away or anything. But recognise what impact certain people are having on your dreams. Then doing something actively to put yourself in an environment or around people who will genuinely lift you, push you and support you, towards a goal that is now crystal clear with a map to guide you along the way.

Thank you so much Robert for sharing with us your personal journey to a successful career!

We hope our readers find your story as inspiring and uplifting as we did. And perhaps gained some perspective on some of the issues, barriers and achievements you mentioned. If you want to learn more about Robert and what he does or even if you relate to some of the struggles he mentioned and require some help and guidance, you can reach out to him at Empowered Communicators here.

Robert touches upon differing cultures, to read more about this topic take a look our article on whether Culture Change starts in Schools.

Categories
Equality and Diversity Future of work Parental

Does Culture Change Start In Schools?

Does culture change start in schools? There’s a very short answer to this: No. Culture change starts in the home. It’s the culture and values of someone’s family that creates change. That said, schools have a significant role to play.

Schools are the first big institution most of us have contact with. It’s the place where most of us are introduced to influences our parents have no control over (especially secondary school). They are in a very good position to drive culture change and make it more inclusive.

My experience versus my children’s

Before I look at the data that’s available on this subject, I have noticed some significant changes between my experience at school and the experience of my children. My kids, for instance, think nothing of having wheelchair users in their classes. There are lifts and ramps in schools and children with physical or educational needs get the support of teaching assistants.

This simply didn’t happen when I was at school. Anyone with special educational or physical needs would have been packed off to a specialist school.

I can also still remember the day my eldest child came back from school one evening and started moving her hands rhythmically in front of my wife and I. After a few moments I realised she was doing Makaton sign language. The very basics of which are taught in most English primary schools for the first year or two (and a great shame it isn’t taught for longer).

Ethnic and cultural diversity in schools

The other big difference between my education and my kids’ is that I attended schools in rural areas. My children, meanwhile, go to schools within the orbit of London. While predominantly an ethnically white area that we live in, it is much more ethnically diverse than the area where I grew up. My children’s classmates and friendship groups also reflect this.

There simply weren’t the opportunities to mingle and learn from people from other ethnic and cultural backgrounds when I was growing up (A few people from the USA, maybe one or two from France but that was it). I received a crash course in multi-culturalism when I was 16 and spent a summer working in a hotel in central Paris. What a crash course it was: I was a teenage country boy having my first ‘big city’ experience hundreds of miles away from my parents in a different country. (There are many other blog posts I could write about this experience, the majority of which are not suitable for Find Your Flex)!

Speaking from personal experience, yes, individuals who attend inner city schools and suburban schools probably will have a more organic view of how diverse society is. What, however, does the data say?

I tried to find out, but the data simply doesn’t exist. I could find nothing comparing ethnic and cultural diversity within rural and urban schools. That said, the Office of National Statistics has some very interesting data on school performance (what follows applies to England only).

Looking at the data

Based on data from 2017/18, 67.3% of rural school children left school with English and Maths GCSE at grade 9-4. The figure for urban schoolchildren was 64%.

In a strange twist, 22% of urban secondary schools are rated as outstanding by Ofsted, versus 18% of rural schools. That said, 26% or urban schools were either deemed inadequate or requiring improvement compared to just 20% of rural schools. (I say “just,” that’s one in five rural schools and just over a quarter of urban schools that need major improvement so the numbers are very worrying).

When it comes to educational attainment, individuals from ethnic minorities often perform very well. London’s schools are renowned for their GCSE success. White British pupils make up 34% of London’s school children. This compares to 84% in the rest of England. Data from a study carried out by Bristol University found London’s pupils outperformed their English peers by eight GCSE points on average. The very same study said the diverse ethnic make-up of London’s schools may explain their success.

What can really have an impact on educational performance is social deprivation. In the most deprived urban areas, 49.1% of schoolchildren will obtain GCSE maths and English at grades 9-4. While for rural areas, the figure is 46.6%. In the wealthiest urban areas, 81.9% of children attain maths and English at grades 9-4 while the figure in rural areas is 80%.

What can be done to make schools more successful and change culture?

The evidence shows some interesting patterns. Rural schools are less diverse than urban schools but they are more successful. The most successful schools of all, however, are in London and they happen to be the most ethnically diverse.

One factor will determine your school performance: Social deprivation. Your ethnicity counts for nothing if your family is deprived. It also doesn’t matter if you are a city or village dweller. If you’re deprived, you’re likely to underperform at school.

It’s the Government’s job to deal with social deprivation. Schools, meanwhile, can and should promote different cultures. This is particularly important in rural locations where students simply won’t have the opportunity to mingle with those from other backgrounds.

Author: John Adams, Find Your Flex editorial team and Founder of Dad Blog UK

Categories
Careers Equality and Diversity Future of work

Are We Doing Enough For Women In STEM Roles?

There’s no denying the gender gap that exists in so many industries, women in STEM roles are sadly no exception to this. But research into this has raised some concerning questions and even more concerning answers. There are not enough women in STEM roles, that much is clear but is enough being done to change that?

With the Edinburgh Science Festival coming up, we at Find Your Flex thought this is a topic we want to discuss. Exploring why this is still an issue and the possible solutions to this and why change in this area is so important.

Is there a gender gap in STEM industries?

Naturally we don’t just want to state there is a gender gap without backing it up. But the short answer is yes; there is a significant gap when it comes to women in STEM roles. This is proven by the PwC’s Tech She Can Charter and their report on Women in Tech in the UK. In 2017, WISE conducted research that showed that only 23% of people in STEM occupations were female. This makes over three quarters of the workforce in these roles male. Whats worse is that a separate study in the US shows that only 5% of women were in STEM leadership roles.

Now it would not be fair to say there has been no progress. As the research of WISE revealed that the number of women in STEM roles had increased by 2% from the previous year. Is this progress? Yes… is it enough? No. If this increase per year holds steady it would still be over a decade before there is an equal number of men and women in STEM roles. That is also not taking the pandemic into consideration, this could have had an impact on that increase percentage one way or the other. Either way it is not good enough, the gap needs to be closed at a far quicker rate. So, where does the problem begin?

The Lack of Girls Studying STEM Subjects in School

There are a lot of employment issues that when traced back to their source can start in education. PwC’s research shows that this issue may be no different. They conducted a survey that of over 1000 school students; 83% of the males were studying STEM subjects, compared with only 64% females. Now 19% may not seem like much of a difference however, when you take into account the number of STEM subjects and the number of students, this is still a concerning gap.

A similar statistic in university students studying STEM subjects shows a 52% male versus 30% female difference. But when you break it down the results are more shocking. For example Engineering takes 13% of male STEM students but only 2% female, which says a lot. But it still doesn’t answer the question of why? During interviews, young women stated they didn’t want to study STEM subject as it does not factor into the career they want. Though what is worrying is the response when asked if at any point during their education (including careers advice) a role in technology was suggested. Only 16% of girls had technology careers suggested to them, whereas 33% of males were given these suggestions.

This goes hand in hand with the fact that during interviews many of the young women indicated that many STEM subjects and roles are male dominated which is why they did not wish to study them. And they are right, these statistics prove that. But they also sadly prove that schools are not doing enough to encourage otherwise. And this needs to change.

Early years education and STEM

As signatories of The Tech Talent Charter we are aware of such organisations such as Tech She Can. A charter in which signatories pledge to work with  schools across the UK to educate and inspire pupils and teachers about technology careers.

Let’s not forget the importance of early years education. These children are our future. A future that needs the brightest and most imaginative individuals to be able to flourish, regardless of gender or background. This is the point when children absorb information like sponges. The formative stage where children learn more quickly that at any other stage in life. It is at this point we need to inspire our children. Our young girls need role models and a complete removal from gender bias in STEM. Perhaps the focus should be on our teachers and equipping them with the tools needed to do this.

Women in STEM roles in the Media and Pop-Culture

In PwC’s study, only 22% of students could name a well-known female working in technology. The truth is when you think of famous people in STEM roles, the vast majority are male. There are of course many pioneering women in STEM roles throughout history. Women like Ada Lovelace or Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and many more. Yet despite the numerous women who have revolutionized the world through their work in STEM roles, their names don’t immediately spring to mind. We tend to think of the Steven Hawkings or Albert Einsteins, but why? It could be down to the fact the media over the years have recognized and celebrated the male figures over women. Perhaps the media should be doing more to promote women in STEM roles. Especially during the pandemic, both men and women dealing with this issue have given information and opinions via news channels and in print.

In terms of pop-culture, there are women portrayed in STEM roles in film and particularly television. One that comes to mind is The Big Bang Theory, a comedy that originally started with a cast in which all the scientists were male. Though this changed as the series progressed with female scientists being showcased and two becoming mainstay cast members. Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz with a Ph. D in microbiology and Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler a neurobiologist, the latter of whom’s actress has a Ph. D in neuroscience in real life. The show and characters are to this day extremely popular. The two showcased how the females of the group were just as intelligent and successful as their male counterparts and had equally large personalities.

Though other hit television shows have also portrayed STEM female role models. Shows such as Body of Proof; featuring a female protagonist Dr. Megan Hunt; a former Neurosurgeon turned Medical Examiner who has a straight-talking, never-back-down attitude. Even featuring a female in a STEM leadership role as Dr. Kate Murphy is the Chief Medical Examiner. Though there are other shows that showcase females in STEM roles: Grays Anatomy, Casualty, Holby City, Doctor Who etc. So in terms of pop-culture there isn’t a lack of fictional females in STEM roles, so why is there still a lack of non-fictional females in these roles? Its high time life started imitating art on that score.

How to get More Women In STEM roles?

PwC believe that the technology sector must take steps to deal with some of these highlighted issues. However, this should be the responsibility of all STEM industries to get more women into STEM roles as a whole. First and foremost it is the responsibility of STEM organisations to get more involved in the education of young people. They need to do more to raise awareness and showcase the importance of these roles. Make them attractive to young women as well as men. Many students did indicate the reason they wouldn’t consider a role in technology is they don’t know enough about it. STEM organisations should also look inwards to ensure they are providing the women in their company with the same opportunities as the men. More women in senior STEM roles creates more role models and inspirations for future generations.

Schools also need to do better in encouraging girls to study STEM subjects and pursue STEM careers. The statistics above show there is not enough encouragement or access on either front. If girls voice concerns on entering male dominant industries, there needs to be encouragement to overcome this. The research showed roles that make a difference were appealing to young women. Therefore there should be encouragement from both schools and STEM organisations that pursuing these roles makes a difference. A shift in perception is the first and arguably most important step.

The media need to do better at portraying female STEM role models. Make a bigger splash about the life altering contributions females make in STEM fields. Its important that these women are at the forefront of STEM fields to give young women something to aspire to and show them that they are just a capable as any males in this area. Pop-culture is doing a good job at presenting women in these roles, however there is room for improvement. Perhaps television, film and books aimed at a much younger audience should feature more STEM characters. This very well could plant the seeds of girls pursuing STEM fields when they are older.

Hopefully when young girls are grown up enough to make a decision whether or not to pursue a STEM career, the world will be a different place. One where there are just as many female role models in this sector and no obstacles. Its up to society to drive these changes, we need do our best now to set the wheels in motion.

If you want to read more about inspirational women in this and other fields click here! Or more about The Tech Talent Charter then click here.

Categories
Careers Flexible Working Future of work Output

Input and Output – The Human Mechanics of Work

In work, how much focus is there on input as opposed to output? Jobs and projects are often defined by the number of hours that must be worked, where and when they must be worked, the personal qualities and experiences that are required to be inputted and so on. By defining such matters at the outset, there is a sense that this will inexorably lead to the desired result.

Time and Motion

A prominent human time-motion study was carried out by Frederick Taylor. An employee’s work in a factory would be timed with a stopwatch and from that the output would be calculated. Human beings were treated as automatons and indeed much of the manufacturing work done in Taylor’s era would be done by machines today. There was an emphasis on control within strictly defined limits with no flexibility for a person to manage their own input in the way that suited them and their lives in order to reach the same output destination.

Start at the destination

Output is crucial as it is how we define and measure attainment and how we tackle the bottom line of making money.

Begin with the end in mind.

Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People

This method requires having a clear, overriding vision of what the outcome should be and then crystallising that into a useable set of statements. If you have an output mission statement, the question arises as to what extent you need to control input.

Job descriptions

The most immediate way of controlling input is through a job description which refers exclusively to inputs rather than outputs. Many such statements also contain a plethora of attributes that may not actually be required for the job in hand.

For example, “outgoing” may be used as recruiting requirement for new employees. But if a person is working from home on invoicing with little direct human contact, is “outgoing” really an absolutely necessary quality? The output is that a certain number of invoices need to be processed in timely manner. If that is fulfilled, the intended outcome has been reached. The employee concerned may indeed be an introvert or someone who is neurodiverse but who thrives on procedure and steadily gets the job done well.

Monitoring

Getting the most out of employees and hitting targets is an art form, with styles ranging from micro-management to complete laissez-faire. By focusing on the output, however, a worker has more freedom about how to reach the point of success.

Clearly some sectors are, of their nature, regimented. NHS nurses and those operating customer service helplines must be present at certain times and follow defined procedures. But a more nuanced approach can be used to effect where there is scope for autonomy.

For example, if you need a project to be completed in a month, is it necessary to dictate exactly how it is done? A person can work flexibly to suit their needs, doing the work later on in the evening, at home, or whenever is convenient. Obviously, the worker would need to be available to participate in relevant team meetings and would need some supervision along the way. But checking in on whether the work is being doing correctly is not the same as checking up how the employee is doing it in terms of personal time management and working strategy.

Mechanisms

When it comes to machines, we have chemistry and physics equations to help us determine precisely what goes in, when, in what proportions and what should come out. Humans are rather more complicated, approaching matters according to their personal characteristics, commitments and lifestyles. When it comes to people, different inputs can create the same output. With that in mind, it’s now time to take the “output challenge” and review how we recruit and manage people

Categories
Careers Equality and Diversity Flexible Working Lifestyle

Equal Pay Day 2020: Women Should Not Be Working For Free

What Is Equal Pay Day?

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

(Image credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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

(Image credit: Instagram @sundaskhalidd)

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 Valedquez

(Image credit: Today.com/Wire Image)

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.  

Munroe Bergdorf

(Image credit: The Guardian/Luke Nugent)

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.

Samira Ahmed

(Image credit: The Telegraph/Jeff Gilbert)

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.

Adwoa Dickson

Image Credit: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Women)

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.

Categories
Press Release

FIND YOUR FLEX LAUNCHES NEW APPRENTICESHIP AND RETURN HUBS

Applications for Flexible Working Triple and CEO Wins a Community Maker Award.

FindYourFlex, the job platform for parents and anyone who needs flexibility at work, has launched its popular apprentice and return hubs. These are designed to help job seekers find roles offering flexibility. 

The apprenticeship hub showcases roles to suit people in their early careers as well as midlife career changers. Whilst the return hub targets people returning to work after an extended career gap, offering re-training and leadership courses. 

Cheney Hamilton, CEO and Founder of FindYourFlex (to include Mummyjobs.co.uk and Daddyjobs.co.uk) comments: “Since the start of COVID, more than 51% of women have said that the pandemic has made them want to change industry or set up in business alone” She added: “We have also seen our audience double since the relaunch of these hubs and applications for flexible working have tripled

FindYourFlex has also commissioned an extensive D&I survey. Designed to show that flexible working is the key component in driving inclusivity and organic diversity in the workplace, due to the accessibility to work that flexible working affords.

Cheney added: “Our research shows that 14% of our audience has a disability, 36% are male, 43% are non- white British, 39% identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community and 58% are Degree educated or higher”. Although these are early figures, they demonstrate diversity in the audience.

Last month, Cheney Hamilton, CEO and Founder of Find Your Flex was delighted to receive the Community Maker Award by She Has No Limits. These prestigious awards are held annually and celebrate women’s achievements in the workplace. 

The Community Maker Award recognises a woman who has been successful in creating and leading her community to the benefit of all. With care and consideration, she has gone the extra mile to make her tribe feel supported.

For more information contact: pr@findyourflex.co.uk or cheney@findyourflex.co.uk

Or see our press page here

ABOUT US 

The Find Your Flex group of companies was founded in 2017. FindYourFlex want flexible working to be the norm in all jobs in the UK. Cheney and her team of flexible working warriors came together to get employers and the Government to recognise flexible working as a viable and essential, working way of life. Over the years, FindYourFlex has worked with over 300 companies, promoting the benefits of flexible working to both employees AND businesses. 

Cheney Hamilton, CEO and Founder of the FindYourFlex group of companies is taking a different root to change and took the first step to become an MP by joining the 50:50 Parliamentary Group in Summer 2020. The group that brings together women with a passion for politics and change, is supported by the Labour Party female MP’s. Cheney’s ambition is to make change from within parliament for everyone in the UK. 

Categories
Industry Flexers

Focussing On The Candidates – Diversity In The Recruitment Industry

“If companies want gender balance and diversity, they need to embrace different ways of working.”

A guest post from Karen Camilleri, Associate Partner at executive search and interim management consultancy Green Park. Karen specialises in the recruitment of Business Transformation and Change professionals. She is also the proud mum of a little boy of 6. Here she discusses life in recruitment and why flexible working is necessary for a diverse workforce.

How Do You Feel The Recruitment Sector Has Changed Over The Last 20 Years And Why?

Industries have been changing at a furious pace. As organisations fight to stay relevant, we’re seeing greater demand for professionals with experience in leading change and transformation projects.

Leaders with these skills are a commodity and the recruitment sector, which 20 years ago was client-led, is now much more candidate focussed. Organisations are therefore looking for recruitment partners that bring a human touch. One’s that have structured and well supported talent networks that they can tap into. Employee Value Proposition is now a key consideration and element of any talent strategy.

In Your Opinion How Can The Recruitment Industry Best Facilitate Flexible Working?

I think the industry needs to think about deliverables rather than face time in the office. For example, I’m measured against targets which don’t reflect on the number of hours I spend physically at my desk. Instead I work two days from home and I use the office as a base for business meetings.

Companies need a culture where employees are trusted to deliver and manage their time how they see fit. After all, if employers want to address gender balance and diversity, they need to embrace different ways of working. Otherwise they will be fishing in a narrow pool of candidates!

Employers should be proud of their staff and support them as they juggle family needs and work priorities. It’s a proven fact that employees who are able to engage with family or other personal needs are happier and this reflects in their productivity and output.

What Is Green Park’s Diversity Practice And What Are Its Aims?

Today, most business leaders know that diversity and inclusion (D&I) are critical to performance. However, many lack the expertise to achieve their D&I goals. Our D&I Consultancy helps clients approach diversity in a more skilled, mature way. They help them to build their internal capability and knowledge.

Our D&I services include assessments, audits and diagnostics; independently validating diversity strategies, role model development and leadership training; business intelligence and market mapping, talent management and direct hiring strategies.

The Green Park Diversity Team Are The Most Diverse TFL Board In The Organisation’s History. Why Are diversity And Inclusion Initiatives Vital To Creating Successful Talented Teams?

We believe that our clients deserve more choice. That means widening the talent search to look beyond just the usual suspects. Studies have consistently shown that more diverse organisations perform better in many ways. Team collaboration, retention, productivity and market share are all areas where companies that rate highly for D&I, score better than those that don’t.

How Can Candidates Be Assured That Potential Employers Are Committed To Diversity And Inclusion?

Green Park actively campaign for measures to boost diversity, equality and inclusion. But for now, candidates may want to look at a potential employer’s pay gap reporting. It’s also worth exploring whether an organisation puts its money where its mouth is. For example, Intel put $300m into hiring programmes for women and minorities between 2015 and 2020; and spent $1bn with women and minority-owned suppliers.

Thank You For Speaking To Us. Any Words Of Wisdom To Candidates Who Are Embarking On A Career Change Or Returning To Work After A Career Break?

Believe in yourself – if you don’t, hiring managers won’t either!

Look for a work-life balance that works for you. If an organisation won’t accommodate your terms, then use this in your deselection process – don’t work for a company that’s not culturally aligned to your values. Whatever working arrangement you organise, remember the employer is getting great talent out of it, so don’t feel guilty.

Don’t plan too far ahead. Live in the moment. That’s for the returners! As for the career changers, use your network and keep track of the movers and shakers. Connect with coaches and sponsors who have also made those step changes in their career. They can provide you with insight and tips.

Karen Callimeri from Green Park Consultancy