Blair McPherson on workforce stereotypes

Barbie and Action Man may have left the workplace, but there are other stereotypes to beat, writes Blair McPherson

Faye Turney is in the Navy and hit the headlines around the world when she and her male comrades were captured on a mission. The fact that Faye is in the Navy and on the front line is proof that attitudes have changed. The gender stereotypes of Barbie and Action Man no longer describe the roles of men and women in society. However, the way work is organised has yet to catch up with modern family life where both parents work and want a career.

It makes good business sense to retain experienced and skilled employees to promote the most able, suitably qualified and experienced. So why are so many managers deciding that promotion isn’t worth the sacrifice or that both parents can’t have a career? If this trend continues, where will the senior managers of tomorrow come from?

Long hours, early starts, late evenings and overnight courses have traditionally been the way an ambitious manager proves their commitment to the organisation. It no longer makes sense and we must change the way work is organised.

We have the technology to work from home but we need to change some attitudes before it becomes acceptable to do so.

What we need is a climate of trust where it is assumed people are working even if we can’t see them, a system that measures people’s achievements rather than hours spent at their desks.

Women know only too well the conflict between career and family caused by inflexible working arrangements, lack of practical support and a traditional office culture. What a dramatic change we would see if senior managers, who are predominantly men, led by example, if directors and assistant directors entered into job-share arrangements, worked a four-day week, regularly worked from home or routinely took a lunch hour. The measure of the success of more family-friendly working practices would be achieving equal numbers of mothers and fathers in management posts.

Blair McPherson is director of community services, Lancashire Council

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