Stephane Auberval, one of the newest members of our team, reflects on the continued challenges of gender equality, and the role that Enabling Enterprise can play.

As a 21st century reader you would be keen to think that ‘genders and jobs’ would no longer be a relevant topic for conversation. Thanks to social and legal victories there is a much greater variety in terms of which jobs can be accessed by both men and women nowadays.

So is equality totally achieved? Sadly only in theory. It can be surprising that despite the evolution in mentality, the gender gap remains very real when it comes to salaries and leadership roles.

I was inspired to think about this anew by a 2-part documentary by ex-Dragon Hilary Devey called Women at the Top explored some of the reasons why women were still in the minority in senior positions in larger companies. More importantly, the documentary also suggested some of the possible solutions to address the issue, and enable equality to truly reflect the ideal view mentioned above.

Luckily, businesses of all scales are gradually shifting practices towards an increasingly inclusive approach in terms of recruitment and promotion. Not only that, but at a base level too, attitudes are changing, helped by an education system that has improved over the past few decades overall.

How is it relevant to Enabling Enterprise?

At Enabling Enterprise we’re pleased to have an equal split between male and female senior associates, our senior leadership and our Board. But more importantly, the work we do with students and businesses across the UK could very well make documentaries like Devey’s sound like a thing of the past.

We now work with children from the age of five to build the core enterprise and life skills that are essential to succeed in today’s society.

Taught through project-based learning, three of these skills are worth commenting upon, with regards to helping rectify the gender imbalance:

Firstly, working in a team is paramount in order to get projects completed. More often than not, the teams that students work in will have been randomly mixed, regardless of age or gender where possible. This enhances their team-building spirit, working at best when stimulated by a variety of viewpoints, and bringing out the better of them, even from the shyer students.

Secondly, listening and understanding is an essential underpinning of teamwork skills in order to develop group cohesion and clarity in achieving common goals. Along with sharing ideas, which bolsters students’ oratory skills when presenting, these reinforce vital communication skills regardless of who takes part.

Finally, and perhaps most crucially, leading is where some students have been known to unexpectedly shine out on a particular project, transforming their experience of education, compared to the traditional classroom context.

What is the result?

Judging by the feedback we get from school staff on business trips and challenge days, it has become more and more common to hear about children who emerge as effective leaders and communicators, be it with peers or adults. Maybe the key in developing those skills lies in the contexts we provide for students to applying their learning to the real world – both school and work. Again, those contexts will provide opportunities for both boys and girls to get fully involved and have a go at practising their leadership skills along with astonishing teamwork in the majority of cases.

One compelling example that is worth noting to illustrate girls’ excellence is with St Ursula’s Convent School. Indeed, the direct application of our entrepreneur skills is perfectly in tune with one of their core values: the development of leadership skills for every individual. As one of their students testified, after being initially reluctant to engage in our Day in Politics challenge, “Now I want to be a politician.”

All in all, gender need not be a barrier to leadership roles – with the right support, context and flexibility. Hilary’s positive attitude and assertiveness may be relatively atypical. But what we do at Enabling Enterprise instils new habits and mindsets which we strive to spread more widely every day, aiming for a society where the Hilarys of this world would be the norm, and where there would no longer be any ‘glass ceiling’ for anyone.

If you’d like to find out more or get involved, just contact us.

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