It’s Friday night, and I am having dinner over at one of my closest friend’s apartment. Over a bowl of ravioli and a bottle of Pinot, she discusses how things are going at the clinic where she works, and I give her the latest update of life at placement. It was during our second glass that her phone rang, she hesitated but I reassured her that I did not mind if she picked up. She put it on speaker and after a short exchange of pleasantries her friend on the other line said, “Ok I’m at my car now, I’ll speak to you tomorrow, goodnight!” I was confused and sought further clarification, “why did she just call you to talk about nothing much and then hang up when she got to her car?”
This question sparked a conversation that both horrified and intrigued me. My friend disclosed all the strategies she and her friends employ, especially on a night out, to keep themselves safe. There was calling each other while walking to their cars, there was also giving the Uber driver the address three doors down, so he would not know where you lived, and there was crossing the street if someone was walking that little too close to you (just to name a few). As she talked about changes in behaviour needed to ensure safety, I could sense that she knew that these routines are so remote to me. Instead, I talked about how I have no apprehension of putting on my noise cancelling headphones and walking through the park at night on the way home from work, something I know she felt that she could never do.
I have had the privilege of having both men and women in my life, both in a personal and professional context, that have supported me in building a robust value and thought system. A system that allows me to be more open to new ways of thinking and gives me an ability to critically evaluate issues from a multitude of perspectives. Although, I do not, and likely never will, completely understand the experiences of women. I am grateful that through this support, I have a capacity to at least appreciate and sympathise with the reality of the female experience.
However, as I continue to expand my knowledge and grow to understand the many challenges faced by women, the more I grapple with a sense of discomfort that this is not enough. That is, simply gaining a better awareness of an issue will not help to turn the dial in any significant way. Through reflection, it has become apparent to me that it is not enough for me to sit on the side-lines and watch, and that the only alternative is to get off the bench and join the game by stepping into the arena.
But where do I start? There are so many open positions for me to play, how do I know that I can make a significant change in that arena? I am currently studying to become an organisational psychologist, so it was a natural transition for me to begin by becoming involved in contributing to the improved experiences for women at work.
Through my formal education, my placements, and increased engagement with the business world, I once again became more aware of the significant roadblocks women face not only at work but also how that then impacts them socially and financially. But then I once again found myself stuck, stuck in the thought that this is such a high mountain to climb and how can I contribute to significant change. Then through my placement at People Measures I was told about The 100% Project (www.the100percentproject.com.au) and its research committee.
They say if you want to make meaningful changes you need to “think global, act local”, and for myself the research committee was where I could make a “local” impact. The research committee of The 100% Project provided me with an avenue where I could leverage the research skills and training, I had developed through my tertiary education with a group of diverse and driven individuals working towards a worthy vision, one that wants to see “100% of Australia’s leadership potential, female and male, equally contributing to our social and economic future”.
Any research and knowledge we can generate obtain as a research committee, which can then be shared with those in the business community, can create an impact on the advancement of women both in and outside of the work context. Through evidence and knowledge attainment, we have an opportunity to influence the ways in which organisations operate. It is hoped that through our research we are able to positively impact the culture, values, and behaviour of organisations to improve both the male and female experience at work.
Additionally, we all know that our experiences at work which build our values and our perceptions of the world are not left at our desks but more often than not carry over into our personal lives. Therefore, if our research can stretch the way employees think about their colleagues and themselves, influence middle management and their behaviour, and guide the policies and procedures of the C-suite we can make a real difference, at work as well as in the broader community.
After dinner I hugged my friend goodbye and walking in the night, I reflected on the fact that I did not feel the need to reach for my phone. When I got home, I texted her and thanked her for dinner but also for the conversation we shared. I believe these conversations between men and women where we can exchange our experiences and build a better understanding of what life is like for the opposite gender is a significant first step in shifting the dial. And I am grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of that.
-Nathan Sciulli, Author & Member of The 100% Project Research Committee