International Women’s day yesterday was a fitting day for us to launch 50+50 Women in Digital here in the UK.
We kicked things off with a session where everyone was invited to post topics, suggestions or stories related to women’s issues on a Women’s Wall. These ranged from examples of sexism to topics such encouraging more women working in technology to join us. It was fantastic to see both men and women engaging with this and discussing the issues posted. Over the coming year we will be holding sessions to investigate the issues raised with the aim of finding positive ways forward.
50+50 was started in 2016 by our colleagues in the Montreal office. Creative Director Roxana Brongo, on her recent visit to some our offices around the globe, shared the concept she founded with us and the history of how 50+50 came into being, inspiring us to join.
For a while here in the UK we had been talking about setting up a women’s group. Through our casual conversations — especially since #Metoo — it was apparent that we had all experienced some kind of sexism or harassment during our careers. We recognised that together we could begin to work through some of the issues we’ve faced and try to a find positive way forward.
I was actually Mansplained something quite recently. If you don’t know what it’s like to have something Mansplained then I want to try and describe why something that is seemingly small (when compared to much more serious discrimination or harassment) is so frustrating and demeaning. In my experience, it often comes out of the blue. You might have been working with the man in question for many months. You’ll have gotten yourself into the position where you believe, this is OK, this man rates my intellect. Then it comes… the “Lydia, what this means is…” an explanation of something technical or trivial that of course I wouldn’t know about… Then you realise that actually, they don’t quite see you as an equal.
Part of our up-coming work for 50+50 will be educating everyone on why even smaller issues, like the one described above, matter and how men can be part of the solution to empowering women in the workplace.
My experience is not all negative though. I feel very fortunate as a woman to be working at Valtech. Without their understanding and flexibility during my two pregnancies and then since having my two boys, I would not be the working Mother I am. I am very lucky. Plenty of my friends have been forced out of jobs following the birth of their children. I believe lack of flexibility by employers is a key reason why many Mother’s in the UK don’t return to their jobs. I now work part time so I can also spend time raising my children. It frustrates me that many companies don’t provide opportunities for part time work or job sharing, for me this seems like an outdated practice — lucky for me that Valtech have a more modern approach.
I’d like to finish by thanking all the women in Valtech UK for coming together on the launch of 50+50 UK and helping make it happen. Together this year I hope our work can be just as successful as our colleagues in Montreal. And I hope that next year we are celebrating International Women’s Day with a global 50+50 event — something to aim for at least!
This blog is part of a series we’ve been running this week to celebrate International Women’s Day. Please check out our other posts in the series: