On 3rd June 2014 the Women's Business Council launched its one year anniversary report and set of 100 case studies that showcase what business and others are doing to help women succeed at work. It's published here and on launch night was tweeted about here #wbc1yr.
Of course it is absolutely brilliant that there is continued focus on what needs to change in organisations to make them more humane, equitable and fulfilling places to spend the huge amounts of time in our lives that we do. Not that the explicit driver for the WBC is articulated quite like that; the WBC is looking to promote women's productive contribution to economic growth.
There are some good case studies in there, and by that I mean write-ups of what organisations actually do and the difference it makes to women's position in the labout market. But it is a mixed bag, and occassionally comes across more like marketing than advice for the practitiioner who is trying to change an organisation's culture ...which is what, incidentally, the WBC points out (as many others' before them) needs to change...
But perhaps the WBC is not targeting practitioners. And it isn't a campaign as such, or is it? It is difficult to work out what outcomes WBC are claiming as successes since its launch and for whom, so broad is its focus from work experience for girls to maternity rights and leaves, to flexible working mid-career and retirement transitions.
Sure more insights about how other organisations do things in the form of case studies help. A bit. But if I were a Diversity & Inclusion practitioner, or an Organisational Development person, or 'change-maker' or 'champion', I would be looking for creativity and honesty. I want to know about the things that didn't work and why, because this tells me much much more about about how to tackle some of this stuff. I want to see a bit of dirty laundry. How to deal with the really tough stuff: the bad attitudes and discriminatory behaviours towards women and girls in work for example. Sexism and harrassment might not look like the Benny Hill-style chasing of the secretary round the office desk anymore, but it is there in a different form. In 'private' emails between senior male colleagues for example.
But then this kind of insight is never going to be shared in such a public way. Who does most to support girls into 'good' jobs and women into 'productive' careers is now a site of competition between employers. Great! That is if competitive behaviour drives action on the inside of organisations and is not simply a new marketing opportunity. How will we know? We will know when individuals talk about their personal experiences in work. Then we will know how close the promises are to reality, and how consistent experiences are of flexible working, of career development, of pay and reward and many other employee experiences across whole organisations from shop floor to top table.