How to Best Achieve Equality in the Workplace
In this episode, Ankush speaks with Nicky Bartley about equality and the importance of it in the workplace. Some of what they discuss include:
– What is the value to businesses of achieving workplace equality?
– The connection between equality and productivity
– The connection between EQ, intuition and presence.
– The real cause of inequality and what businesses can do about it.
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To contact Nicky Bartley and find out more about her work, visit www.nickybartley.com
[00:00:00.00] Ankush: Welcome back to another episode of The Business Series. Today, I’m joined by Nicky Bartley. Nicky is a coach and trainer working both with organizations, non-profits, social work, and individuals, and she’s really passionate about equality, both in and outside of the workplace, and I’m really pleased that she’s joining us today. Hi Nicky.
[00:00:27.00] Nicky: Hi Kush, thanks for having me along.
[00:00:28.21] Ankush: Great to have you. Today we are going to be talking about a real, I think hot topic, how to best achieve equality in the workplace. And we’ll be talking a little bit about what is workplace equality and the impact of that and Nicky’s view and the work she’s done in organisations around how to best achieve it which is quite a unique perspective, so I’m looking forward to this conversation. So, without further ado Nicky, what do you, how would you describe workplace equality, how would you define that?
[00:01:06.18] Nicky: I define it really simply actually Ankush. Given that it can be very complex, I see it as it’s an environment where everyone’s contribution is recognized as valuable, regardless of gender or sexuality or any of the other stuff that we can tag inequality onto. So it’s quite a simplistic view.
[00:01:33.05] Ankush: And I know you’ve got a real passion around equality around gender. But I guess on this topic when we’re talking about equality, this is equality across the board, so you’re saying equal value for every employee regardless of their race, religion, age, sex, the whole works?
[00:01:51.14] Nicky: Yeah absolutely, absolutely, I think there are realistic problems in the world when we take stuff into labels and put things in boxes, and I like it taken it out of them, and seeing the human essence of really what’s going on, that we’re all in the same boat.
[00:02:12.25] Ankush: And why is this useful, this might sound like a really silly question, but what is the advantage to businesses to have a workplace where everybody is treated the same, everyone’s valued equally, what’s the benefit to them, why should they do it?
[00:02:28.15] Nicky: You know one thing that I’m really passionate about in my business, is taking stuff off people’s mind. And when you’re not worrying or thinking about, I’m not being treated equally because… Then you’ve got more capacity to do the job that you’re there to do, and to enjoy it. And you’re more likely to do good work, you’re more likely to come up with good ideas, you’re more likely to get along with colleagues, it just makes for a whole simpler more fulfilling job/business/career, wherever you’re at, or just life in general, if you’re coming from that place.
[00:03:02.07] Ankush: So what I’m hearing is, this is about productivity, getting the best out of your, one of your resources, which is your people, and do you see this translating ultimately to the bottom line, that companies will make more money if they treat their workforce equally?
[00:03:19.01] Nicky: Yeah, very much so. You know, when you can focus on work, when you’re focussing on what you’re there to do and not all of the other stuff that you’re used to be focussing on, you know, equal pay, equal rights, all of that stuff, more gets done. The better ideas come through, people are more enthusiastic, more likely to turn up to work with that joy and enthusiasm, and you know, it carries through into the work, absolutely.
[00:03:45.11] Ankush: So I guess the big question is how? So I think what we’ve discussed so far, probably a lot of people would agree with that it’s good to have a workforce where everyone is treated equally, it seems to be like a hot topic. But I guess the maybe the unique perspective you have is on how we do that, because I know this is something that there are maybe differences of opinion on different views on this.
[00:04:08.11] Nicky: Yeah there are, there are definitely, and I’m not even seeking to change anyone’s view or opinion, you know I want to say that from the outset. I think it could be less of that, actually, and respect people’s views and opinions and see them as valid. That alone is a weight lifted, when I don’t have to deal with someone’s opinion, and I can feel that their opinion is as good as mine or my opinion is as good as theirs. So it’s about doing less of that for a start, recognizing that everyone has a view, everyone has an opinion, and what I found Kush, not only in my own life but in the organizations I’ve worked with, it’s easy to, and no I’m not saying that inequality doesn’t exist, for anyone listening I want to make that clear, because there are situations where inequality clearly exists. But, it comes from a misunderstanding, that inequality comes from misunderstanding, and I’m a woman, so I’m one of those, in one of those categories that are likely to experience discrimination or inequality in some way, and I can’t say that happens, however, I really don’t focus on that anymore, because it’s a made up problem, basically it really is a made up problem. And when an organization or business leader is battling that inequality, then they’re not actually solving a problem.
[00:05:42.21] Ankush: Could you say more about that because I think some listeners might listen to that and go, well we don’t quite get it, what do you mean it’s a made-up problem or a misunderstanding?
[00:05:51.16] Nicky: Yeah. So I’m not suggesting that we ignore inequality at all, I’m suggesting that we look at really what’s causing inequality, so, I might give you an example actually, I went to work with an organization last April first of all, an organization, it’s a tech organization, they were referred to me by friends and a colleague, who had seen me talking about inequality, and saying that, “in my humble opinion, I’m not sure they’re doing a great job of solving the problem, by bringing in more laws and, that I would rather open up the conversation,” because we’re adults and we can have an honest, loving conversation about it. And so this friend got curious and referred me to this organization and I had coffee with the CEO, in fact I had several coffee’s and it was kind of curious because none of us knew what we were really there for, we kept having these conversations, to being suggested that we have them, and he told me all about the business that he works in and it’s a tech industry and traditionally not many women break through in the tech industry, although thankfully that’s increasing, and they’re really actually unusual in terms of how they recruit, they recruit purposefully for women, they employ 52% women for a start, so, they’re erring in favour of bridging the gender gap. And I was loving that, I was really curious, and I think on our third or fourth meeting, he suddenly said something like, “I love this organization, we’re building a real strong culture of equality, the only problem is some of the male leaders, feel like the female leaders behave like men.” And that to me was like, oh wow, that’s where my ears pricked up, we decided that we could do some work around that, he came from the point of view, that I would do the work with the female leaders to stop them behaving like men. And actually what I did was, I worked with the female leaders, but I also worked with the male leaders and it was about 2 or 3 sessions with each, first of all just to say what they saw the problem as, and not many of them saw an issue with inequality at all. When we started digging and asking questions, like “what’s going on here?” No One actually said, “the female leaders behave like men.” And so, it was, is that the real problem? It obviously wasn’t and actually as we dug into what’s behind it and the power of thought and the power of consciousness and how that’s creating their day-to-day existence, they started to see that problems with colleagues, problems with their own life, problems with relationships in general, weren’t actually coming from anything other than principle of thought. And so the question never got really answered, this women behaving like men thing, was never an issue, and I’m not even sure their behaviour changed that much, but certainly what happened was the company started to grow, and they started to drop their policy now on recruitment, and naturally just recruit leaders who are the best person for the job. And for me, if an organization can do that, regardless of gender, then that’s addressing inequality, because as a woman, and I know most women I speak to don’t want to be recruited because they’re a woman, they want to be recruited, because they can do the job.
[00:09:48.15] Ankush: So you talked a little bit about thought and consciousness there, are you saying that what was going on was… inequality was the surface level problem, and what you did was to dig in behind that and see what thinking and beliefs that the leadership teams, both of them had, which gave rise to that feeling of inequality, and once you help people explore that, and kind of see through that, then the issues disappeared, is that kind of what you’re pointing to?
[00:10:20.19] Nicky: Yeah well, they start to just see the real issues, the started to see the real issues were actually in terms of, they’d spent so much money and energy on recruiting 52% women, when they could have recruited 52% of the best workforce out there, regardless of gender, and no doubt some of them would be women, because we have got some amazing women leaders. Also, what was interesting about the female leaders in that organization was we never uncovered their behaviour or looked at it or picked up upon, “oh you’re behaving like a man, what does that look like?” At all, we spent zero time on that, because I just wasn’t interested, I was just really interested on how getting into work was an experience for them, you know, and how supported were they with that, and what was interesting from that was, they actually felt very supported, this is a really forward-thinking organization, so it turned out within 2-3 sessions there were no issues and from there we spent sort of 10 months there looking at, right okay, where are your next ideas coming from? And it completely just threw out the gender issue very quickly.
[00:11:39.29] Ankush: What you’re saying is, in your example that workplace inequality was a bit of a red herring and actually, once you kind of managed to drop that that opened up a conversation on a whole host of other topics. So someone might be listening to this and saying, well that’s all well and good Nicky, with this one organization, but maybe there are other organizations where there are structurally different set ups maybe there are different views. How would you work with an organization like that, or what could someone, who maybe if someone’s in a leadership role in an organization like that, wants to change the culture of the organization, what would you suggest to them?
[00:12:21.12] Nicky: So, I would always suggest looking at the cause rather than put… you know it’s so tempting, to say, right we’ve got a problem here, and this is how we’re going to solve it. And it’s always worth just spending a little bit of time saying, you know, what really is the problem, and once we do know that there a problems coming from our experience, so I’m going to repeat it again, I’m not saying people are not discriminated against, but even that, comes from someone’s misunderstanding that the other person is just as good, just as worthy, just as valuable, just as capable of leading, just makes an amazing contribution, it’s someone’s misunderstanding and once that someone realizes that that misunderstanding, is a misunderstanding, that it’s not a real thing, it enables them to behave more compassionately anyway, you wouldn’t discriminate against someone, if you really knew that the reason you were discriminating is you were reacting to your own feelings, which is simply thought.
[00:13:30.09] Ankush: To put it a different way, are you saying that a workplace that isn’t treating others as equal, whether it’s due to race, gender, age, that’s actually down to prejudices and personal discrimination of individuals in that organization, as opposed to having the right structures in place within the organization. And so what I’m hearing is, you’re saying, if we focus on the structures, which may or may not be helpful, but if we focus on that, rather than the individual prejudices that leaders and employees have, and they’re thinking that they might not even be aware of what you’re saying is than, we’re not being the most effective, whereas if you focus on that, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but this is what I’m hearing, if we focus on their prejudices, their beliefs their misunderstandings that they might have about other people because of their race, religion, gender, age, then if we focus on that, that’s when we can really start shifting workplaces around.
[00:14:33.05] Nicky: Absolutely, and we find we don’t need as much policy, we don’t need as many guidelines, people are naturally coming from a loving, compassionate, helpful place, people really want to share leadership, leadership isn’t all about taking control, leadership is about knowing your path and knowing what you can contribute and then knowing what other people can contribute and there’s a lot of softer elements around leadership that really understanding this can help support.
[00:15:04.21] Ankush: It sounds like a really big job to change the prejudices and thinking of an entire workforce, but it sounds like you feel it’s not as big a job as some might think?
[00:15:16.21] Nicky: Yeah, I think it’s… I find it anyway, it’s really simple, you know it sounds very counterintuitive when I say I don’t go and work on that problem, but that problem clears all on its own, so, and I understand if you’re listening to this it might sound very bizarre, but it’s kind of, it’s muddy in waters, if we go and fish around for that inequality problem, we’re missing what the real problem is and I just want a discussion about that. So and it also enables people to stop taking things so personally, I know that I was really sensitive to stop, for a few years ago someone would say something, I’d take it really personally, but when I realized that nothing could harm me in terms of what people say, that enabled me actually to be more loving and more compassionate and more understanding towards the other person, knowing that they were coming from a place of insecurity. I didn’t have to react to them, whereas 3-4 years ago, I would of definitely reacted to someone who insulted me or not treated me equally.
[00:16:30.01] Ankush: This is a fascinating conversation Nicky, and I’m sure we could keep on talking for a long time, but, what’s the one takeaway, I know this has just been a very short amount of time we’ve been talking, but what’s the one takeaway you’d like our listeners to leave this conversation with?
[00:16:48.13] Nicky: Relax, we’re all in the same boat. It’s definitely my philosophy, I see that the more we see that we’re all the same, that we all come from the same place, that we’re operating with the same operating system, the more we can chill out and leave it alone, and just crack on with life.
[00:17:06.24] Ankush: Fantastic. If people want to get hold of you, maybe they’d like to carry on this conversation, maybe they’d like to find out more about the work that you do, how might they do that?
[00:17:14.29] Nicky: They can reach me on my website: www.nickybartley.com or they can find me on, I’m all over Facebook, or LinkedIn under Nicky Bartley, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
[00:17:27.11] Ankush: Fantastic, well thank you for joining us today, that’s been a very fascinating conversation, and I will be back next time with another interviewee, another person joining me for another topic related to business. Thanks for joining me Nicky.
[00:17:43.19] Nicky: Thanks Kush.