This week, we celebrate International Women’s Day 2020. The day dedicated to recognising the achievements of women across the globe has been acknowledged for well over a century. Despite ten decades of conquering challenges, both old and new, the need to shine a spotlight on the accomplishments of women is still as important today as it was during the celebration’s inception in 1911. Many will use this day as a time to advocate, highlight and unify. Today, I reflect on my own experience within my workplace, Uprise Digital, and the evolution that’s taken place here.

Uprise Digital, a digital marketing agency, was founded in 2009 by two young men. I joined the agency in 2014 and while I wasn’t the first female employee, there was a significant period where I was the only woman in the organisation. I look back on these days as some of the organisation’s weakest times. The team was and continues to be an amazing crew, but we simply suffered from a lack of diversity of thought and challenges in culture. It wasn’t apparent hour by hour, or day by day and no one was doing anything wrong. However, you didn’t have to dig too deep to see unconscious bias and groupthink.

This wasn’t exclusive to Uprise. It was a reflection of many organisations in the digital industry where the problem wasn’t always necessarily an unbalance of gender, but often an unbalance in the status of roles. While there were certainly female leaders in this space, they were the exception rather than the rule. The awareness and acceptance that something needed to change was a conscious step for Uprise founders, Matt Rowe and Tim Pointer. They embraced it and I have been lucky enough to be a part of the transformation.

A collection of our Wellington wahine at Uprise Digital

Today, Uprise has a near even split of staff in both the organisation as a whole and in its senior leadership team. It’s no coincidence that the organisation’s performance has flourished alongside its diversity. I believe that the growth is intrinsically linked. 

This transition hasn’t always been smooth. But one area Uprise has always done very well in, is the team’s enthusiasm for reactive learning and fixing on feedback. A recent display of this that personally affected me was the organisation’s attitude to maternity annual leave. The Government’s policy which Uprise and many organisations fall back on is simply gender-biased. 

In New Zealand, employees still accrue annual holidays whilst on parental leave. Under legislation, annual leave taken during the first 12 months of your return to work is payable at the average of your previous 52 week’s earnings. Having been unpaid for a portion of this time, your holiday pay is incredibly low for any annual leave taken early in your return period, and it slowly increases back to full pay by the end of your first 12 months back at work. 

With women being the majority maternity leave takers, this Government policy is a clear example of bias. For Tim, CEO of Uprise, the fix here was a no-brainer. While making changes like this come at a financial cost to an organisation, operating in a system that disadvantages people purely based on their gender comes at an even higher cost.

Uprise is still not perfect in 2020, but we’ve come a long way. As individuals and as an organisation, we see the benefits in diversity, equal rights and balance. I’m proud to work for an organisation that encourages me to speak out internally and externally about gender issues. I’m proud to work for an organisation that aims to learn, to help its employees, all of its employees, and to grow in the process.

Written by Ash Duncan

#iwd2020 #diversity #equality #genderequality #iwd #internationalwomen #uprisenz