This year's theme for International Women's Day is #BalanceforBetter, something that we feel is particularly relevant here at Mention Me, given that one of our cultural values is Balance.
Whilst we strive as a company to offer employees an environment where they can achieve balance in their life, yesterday we hosted a panel discussion with some of our female employees, to see if we were living up to the challenge. We also wanted to understand their experiences in the wider environment and previous employment to see whether we could see an improving picture.
Panel consisting of Anca from Product, Elizabeth from Client Success, Catherine from Engineering and Natalia from Sales - hosted by Simon, Head of Client Success
First up, Simon asked the panel about what being a woman meant to them and how they achieve balance at work and at home.
What was most striking and encouraging was that the younger panel members didn't think specifically about being a woman in the workplace, and had never encountered being treated differently because of their gender. As someone who has been employed for far too many years to divulge, this really highlighted to me how far gender equality has come - at least for this small focus group.
In terms of achieving balance, a key theme was finding the tools and tricks to balance the different demands on our time, whether that is work, family or friends, whilst still having time for ourselves. Time was seen as a currency and whilst we get paid for our time at work, we should maximise this currency by learning to say "no" occasionally.
Anca was the one panel member with children, so achieving balance raises a different set of challenges. Whilst she felt in some ways things were more clear cut, in that she had set times she needed to leave the office to pick children up from childcare, she had to be more creative in finding balance outside of work. This often meant getting up at 5.30 am to find time to exercise, or taking a day's holiday to enjoy a leisurely breakfast with her husband.
Everyone on the panel agreed on one thing. The flexible working offered at Mention Me was one of the most positive contributions to achieving balance. The opportunity to work from home and work flexible hours where necessary, combined with regular perspective days, means that everyone is able to deliver their best work in a style that suits their needs. And because this flexibility is afforded to everyone, not just parents, this seems to result in more understanding and a strong commitment to the company.
Technology seems to be the biggest hinderance to achieving balance. In our "always connected" environment it can sometimes be a challenge to truly switch off from work. Whilst some might be aghast at the thought, Catherine from the Engineering team achieved this be turning off her wifi and having her phone off late in the evening. Maybe we should all take a leaf out of her book?
And one of the most unusual tips for leaving work worries behind during family times? Taking a pebble which you transfer all your work issues to which is then kept under the stairs. Out of sight, out of mind.
On International Women's Day it would be remiss if we didn't also take a look at how we are doing in terms of diversity.
Looking around the office it appears we are doing pretty well. Indeed, we are currently at 45% women to 55% men. Compared to many businesses, and in particular a tech start up, this is a great achievement.
However that doesn't mean that we don't face many challenges. Certain departments attract far more male applicants. Recent Engineering roles generated hundreds of applications from males and only a handful of female applicants. There are certainly societal issues that will take a while to overcome.
As the panel drew to a close we took the opportunity to enjoy a break and some delicious pizza and cakes. Balance in the workplace if not in our diets!