Across the Ponds: Is being a woman in resilience any different? Part 1. Collab with DisasterEmpire
Have you ever wondered if the experience of your fellow women in resilience across the pond differs to yours?
Does working in Public and or Private sector mean different experiences?
Are we just the same woman, having the same challenges and experiences in a different time zone, climate, and culture?
Want an insight and some tips? Read on:
Let’s get to it: This is Part 1: UK Perspective.
Part 2: USA head over to DisasterEmpire on Tuesday 05 October 2021 and let us know what resonates and what doesn’t.
Public v’s Private Sectors: Is it any different?
Interestingly, I found my experiences working in private sector quite the opposite of Ashley. Private sectors I worked in had to comply to set of rules across the varied landscape of resilience disciplines. It was much easier for me to deliver the works because compliance to legislations meant there was no choice. This is not to say that engagement was better. It was different. Money was a big factor. Not the salary but budgets to entice engagement from fancy lunch and learns to meetings. I was in a privileged position to get varied experiences in a variety of domains at a high level.
When I then went into public sector it was a different ball game. I was doing a lot more AND doing it alone and engagement was low. I had to get creative. I didn’t have fancy budgets to deliver technologically savvy exercises, or fancy lunch and learn budgets, I had to get into the heart of the business, be in their space and understand what it meant to be working as each department. This was key because when working for a big children's charity in London, UK, I volunteered at a fundraiser and noticed the staff and volunteers were taking card donations from tables. It gave me an idea. What if the card machine failed? Who carries around hundreds of pounds cash on them these days? What was the contingency?
Next time I saw the fundraising team, (who were a difficult bunch to get buy in to do BCM) I played this scenario. Turned out this had actually happened, and we created a plan to hold /borrow card machines. In the public sector the language I used was key. I never used fancy Business Continuity terminology but adopted the BCI lifecycle via what I called my invisible framework. I was doing everything per the books but not telling the business it was so and the buy in was so much better for this. Read my paper on it here.
Challenges faced as a woman
Three distinct challenges come to mind and I call them the triple whammy. At various points in my career these have been more prevalent. At times, I am on the receiving end of such micro aggressive behavior. As many of us are.
1. Gender. It was obvious at the time that there were more men on the scene, especially at networking events. Many were from military background and somehow it felt like all the opportunities to progress were centered around this prerequisite. Definitely something I could not compete against as someone who got into the resilience industry by chance.
Being a female also meant I was often mistaken for note taker, tea person or the assistant. I feel I was not taken seriously because of this and maybe at that time confidence also played a part as well as my age. I have often been dismissed because of this and not been listened to because I did not "fit" into a particular look expected.
Inappropriately , many males colleagues have sarcastically commented on aspects of my life that is none of their business. E.g., ‘you have too much time on your hands, have a baby’ Whilst it may be said as a joke, this is an example of micro aggressive behavior. It’s harmful and can impact someone especially if they fall in an underrepresented group like I do (being a female and Indian heritage)
2. Age. I was in my early twenties, working in resilience, progressing, and often heard remarks about how young I was and how I was not born when certain incidents had occurred. A senior position came up in an organisation I was working for, I applied,did a great interview and then got told I was too young and that is why I didn’t get the job. At the time I thought that was acceptable feedback. It’s not. They hired a Caucasian male in his fifties because he ‘fit’ the look.
3. Ethnicity. Being a British born woman with an Indian heritage has meant I have been on the receiving end of racism not only in the workplace but generally out and about. I used to work for a popular high street bank and a cashier and vividly remember being spoken to slowly by a Caucasian British man because he thought I could not understand English. The look on his face when he heard my very British, southern accent was a memory I still hold today. The bias was real. It made me feel horrible at work even though I was the top performer with no cash errors for consecutive years running and was always placed right at the front of the cash tills.
Demonstrating confidence when time and time again the challenges felt like making me give up was something I have had to do a lot of work on. To start off I made a conscious decision to:
1.Demonstrate my worth (because if I don’t who else will?). I started blogging about Risk management and my blog was called RISKERCIZE, it gave me the traction to get a new job at the time when unemployment was at a high. I enjoyed writing.
2. Created a platform when non was available. Time and time again, I would get overlooked for opportunities. Maybe I didn’t fit the type, know the connections or how to market myself. I never got to know other professionals who looked like me either. I got tired of waiting for someone to give me a chance and enhanced my blog to RESILIENCEPOD ®, started doing video podcasts and gained a following and a global platform which I now use to give others that boost I never had.
Being the Chair of the BCI Women in Resilience adds to this and my main goal is giving those women a platform and representing women from diverse background too. This happened because I have spent many years building my capabilities outside of work. Not luck, hard work and grabbing opportunities.
3. Networking and volunteering. I get it is tough but putting myself out of my comfort zone when it felt uncomfortable has given me so much confidence to maintain small talk and network. Remember it’s about them, not you.
Tips to help you.
Job titles and companies are NOT your brand. Ask yourself:
Who am I as a person and what do I have to offer? What makes me different to everyone else in our industry? How do I do this? Audit your LinkedIn profile. Is it updated, does it reflect you, your personality, have you demonstrated your thoughts and opinions? If I look at this, will I know what you have to offer? Once you have done this, contribute to industry events, webinars, write an opinion piece.
2. Be flexible and get out of your comfort zone.
Not only in your approach to resilience, but who you interact with. Read things that differ from your opinion to get a rounded view. Put yourself out of that zone. It doesn’t’ have to be dramatic but attending a networking event on your own and saying hello counts too.
3.Call out unacceptable practices and behaviors and do not be afraid.
Processes and policies exist to protect you of wrongful behaviors and discrimination. Use them to challenge bad practices to ensure the next generation of practitioners, (male or female) can come to the workplace that will serve them better than it served you.
I know it can be scary but doing the right thing can be difficult. Workplace bullying is so prevalent and unless you be brave and call it out nothing will change. I only wish I had the confidence and empowered knowledge to know and address a variety of things in my early career. All I know now is that if something is wrong, I will call it out.
Did this resonate with you?
So as I sign off my dear reader, take my final words as a call to action to be not only a man/ woman of resilience, but a man/woman of action and do one thing that shifts your dynamic.
Until next time, Keep Investing in YOUR Resilience | Rina. x
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P.S Don't forget to head over to DisasterEmpire to read Ashley’s view which will be published tomorrow (Tuesday 05 October 2021)