A Discussion on Gender Diversity in the Workplace

By May 22, 20192019, Articles

By Paula Fay Evans, Senior Associate

I was delighted to be asked to be a part of a panel at this year’s Women in Construction Summit held in Dubai recently. The topic was gender diversity in the industry which is the subject of many discussions at the moment.

It was an interactive free-flowing panel covering many discussion points from women in leadership and how companies need to be more flexible to deal with the social pressures women face, especially in this region, to the importance of positive career role models and mentors.

One point I covered was my thoughts on the recruitment process and the very first contact a company has with a potential candidate. Now, I realise that this is a regional thing but in this part of the world you are expected to include a photo on your CV. My concerns here are that when an employer receives a CV with an image assumptions are naturally going to be made. It is human nature. Thoughts such as she is not smiling enough and looks too tough so won’t fit in with the team or she is smiling too much so she won’t take things seriously enough are immediate and natural reactions.

Then it’s the addition of your date of birth. This is another potential minefield throwing up blocks such as this person is too young or this person is too old so is therefore not experienced enough or over-qualified.

Marital status is also a tricky one. I really can’t see how this information has anything to do with a candidate’s professional ability. And by linking the date of birth to the marital status the thought process probably envisions that this particular candidate is married with a family or about to start a family. The candidate can, unfortunately, then be considered what some companies shockingly refer to as not a good asset. Basically marital status should be changed to commitment as ultimately all an employer wants to know is how much of your life you can give to them.

So, before the employer has even got to the part of your CV that highlights your skills, abilities and experience, they have already made several assumptions about you. Now, most employers will want to know this information at some point or it will be required on an online application but if I am submitting a CV I always open with a personal statement that highlights my key skills and abilities before the decision is made as to whether I am a good fit for the company and the role.

In my opinion, before a real change can happen, a shift in mindset is needed about the way women and men are perceived differently in the professional environment. Yes, as a women in a leadership position, I am empathetic and understanding but when it comes to it, I can also be assertive and stand my ground. The issue is the difference in how this is perceived for men and women.

For men loud and aggressive generally equates to powerful and assertive whereas for a women this is often perceived as angry and emotional.
This perception also is often how women see other women in the workplace too and there can sometimes be a level of threat and competition. I remember a quote that I read recently that really stuck with me “Supporting another women’s success, won’t make yours any less”.

This is so true and let’s not forget that no one defines what success is, this is all down to our perceptions. Naturally success means different things to different people. It also means different things at different times in a person’s life. So success today will look very different in ten or twenty years.

The event was a huge success, full of insightful keynote presentations that were truly inspirational. It really was great to see so many professional women all come together to support and motivate each other and share experiences.

You can read more from Paula at https://the-curious-designer.com