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Issue #6: The (let's get) personal issue  

As Suit & Pie comes up to its 3 monthaversary and another International Women's Day draws to a close, I have been feeling a little reflective.

S&P is now read an average of 1,000 times per issue (thank you so much #suities! - yes, I just tried to start a new hashtag there), but as the initial momentum starts to wear off and I realise that I kind of really miss hanging out in my jammies on a saturday morning watching E!, it helps to remember why I started S&P in the first place. 

Gender imbalance is a very real issue that I come across consciously (and more often subconsciously) every day in the workplace and it is the stories that women and men have shared with me of similar experiences and struggles which motivate me to write this newsletter. These are the stories I have chosen to share with you in this issue.   

The personal issue would of course not be complete without our first ever '3 minute' interview with none other than our resident voice of (male) reason - Mr Smith. We get a double dose of Mr Smith this week (by popular demand!) as he shares his regular musings as well.

We also check out some of the great work that new website Womanthology and authors Jo and Binna Kandola are doing in the gender diversity space. Pictures this week come courtesy of the great Femme Fierce graffiti event that took place on IWD.  

Please do share your own personal stories and let us know what you would like to see in upcoming issues at (and sign up!).  

Happy reading!

x  foong
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Issue #7 of Suit & Pie is out on 27 March 2014. Subscribe here to receive it straight to your inbox and catch up on past issues in our archive.
Reality bites - Why gender diversity is still an issue at work
The pay vs career conundrum

Over a meal, Phill tells me that his wife is 'literally stuck at home' because if she went back to work her salary would not cover childcare for their toddler. Kat, who holds a middle management position, would actually save more if she gave up her accounting job and worked at her local pub rather than paying for childcare and her lengthy commute to London. Because men often earn more than their partners, it is the women who are forced to give up their career when children arrive. Surely that is enough to make the case for equal pay and equal opportunity for women.

The problem with leading men

When my friend, a very competent female lawyer at one of the City firms, called on a male more junior colleague to make some changes to a report, she was taken aback when she was told in no uncertain terms that she would have to wait until he had finished his session at the gym (during office hours no less). He later admitted that he would not have treated a male colleague in the same way. Similarly, when Sophie was elected as students' union president at her university in London, she was told outright by a group of male students that they did not like the fact she was a woman. Sorry - did I just wake up in the 1950s? Attitude change needed please!

The diversity vs gender debate

I have recently been attending a greater number of meetings as part of a new role at work and have found that more often than not I will be the only or one of a small minority of women in any meeting. I asked a sample of my male friends whether they had ever been in a meeting where they were the only man - turns out there were only two instances in total! Oddly enough, they were however able to name a number of instances where they were the only Brit in the meeting and reflecting on this, it is true that racial diversity has never been an issue for me in the City (apart from when my oriental genes have prevented me from processing Jaegerbombs). When will gender diversity be as common place as racial diversity?

All my single ladies - put your hands up (here's more work)

One of my single girlfriends told me once that there was an expectation that she was able to work longer hours because she didn't have children or a family to go home to. I hadn't contemplated this before (having been with Mr F since time began) however as it turns out this is a rather common assumption made by both men and women who have families and results in 'parent resentment' as the findings of the 28-40 Opportunity Now survey show.
... and 3 minutes with Mr Smith
Mr Smith is a partner at Big Four accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers. He lives in Birmingham with his wife and four boys (all under the age of 8!). In his (very sparse) spare time, he plays some very good golf (+3), runs very quick marathons (sub-3 hours) and drinks lots of coffee. 

S&P: Mr Smith, why is gender diversity in the workplace important to you?

Gender diversity is fundamental to our business and its success. Restricting opportunities for half of our talent pool would be suicide! I consistently get more challenge from the women in the team than from the men.

S&P: What would a truly diverse workplace look like to you and what would you do to achieve this?

Women not having to act like men to be a success in business. Better use of role models and mentoring.

S&P: Who is your female role model and why?

Jessica Ennis - smart, unassuming and uber talented.

S&P: Perfect - thank you, Mr Smith! Our first ever interviewee.
Socks & crumbs (or the bit at the bottom)
Heard it through the (corporate) grapevine...

- great new digital magazine Womanthology launched on 7 March with the aim of encouraging women to be the best possible versions of themselves at work by championing positive female role models - we like!

- psychologists, Jo and Binna Kandola, did an engaging presentation (complete with actors and Kinder Surprise) at the launch of the Gender Balance Network at PricewaterhouseCoopers on 3 March to promote their thought-provoking book 'The Invention of Difference - the story of gender bias in the workplace'
This week I have been...

- produce shopping at the Lower Marsh saturday market - now I just need to learn how to cook!

- laughing at what a conference call looks like in real life (together with the 6.6m other people who watched this on youtube)

- trying (for the 10th time) to get Mr F to watch Behind the Candelabra with me
It's a man's world - maybe we aren't so different after all 

Double standards

I have focussed so far on personal stories about the gender imbalance in favour of men, but here are a few stories that sway it (a little) back the other way:

- When a working father told his team that he wanted to take a month off to spend time with his newborn child, his boss asked him how he was supposed to explain this to his clients. Mm, surely the same way you would explain a woman's maternity leave? 

- When my male friend, having just attended what was supposed to be an inspiring talk about ambition, drive and leadership told me he did not find it aspirational as he wanted to have a balanced life and spend more time with his young family.

- When three pints into a catch-up, "a man whose life achievements put 99.9% of other men very much in the shade" (I quote) is left stumbling over his words as he finally plucks up the courage to ask my working father friend if he would like to share a play date with their two respective young girls (no Mums). 

So as it turns out, it isn't always easy street for men either...

Pic courtesy of Doyin Richards' new book, Daddy Doin' Work: Empowering Mothers to Evolve
Mr Smith's corner

In this biweekly column, Mr Smith gives us his thoughts for the week (and discovers hashtags).
Highlights: Bonjour! as they say in Cannes, well, the locals do. I am joining you from #MIPIM this week where I am pressing flesh for Britain, literally. I forgot the sunglasses and apparently the €10 pair (in blue) I bought at lunchtime aren't appropriate (see pic). Net result is that anti wrinkle cream I got for secret Santa better work otherwise I will go home looking like my dad!

Lowlights: Having a very positive week on the basis that it is 20 degrees and I can see the sea! I appear to have deferred marathon training for #stockholmmarathon though for another week. No danger of peaking too early for that!

Lesson learnt: Be careful what you wish for! The 3 eldest junior Mr Smiths just got accepted into a great school. Financially ruinous. I can't do the maths but I need a pay rise! Well done dudes!! 
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