Have you ever worked with a Forger? Or a Helicopter? Or an Interpreter? I’ve worked with them all, but not because I work alongside James Bond. What’s more, I bet you have too, along with their colleagues, the Monopoliser and the Interrupter.
These five behavioural meeting archetypes were identified by the ILO’s SCORE (Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises) programme, as part of research to improve workplace cooperation in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs).
The Monopolizer dominates the conversation. The Interpreter re-explains something you have said while the Forger takes ownership of your idea. The Helicopter talks over you and the Interrupter, well, interrupts, so your opinion or idea doesn’t come over clearly.
We’ve all endured meetings where one or two people dominate discussions. But these behaviours are more than just annoying or rude. After a decade working to improve productivity and working conditions in Latin America, Asia and Africa, research by the SCORE team revealed that by undermining equal gender participation in meetings these archetypes were making key discussions less effective and, in the long term, damaged work climate and hindered SME potential and productivity.
In Colombia, the SCORE team sat in on meetings in more than 150 SMEs, where key enterprise issues such as productivity or quality were discussed. Yet the opinions and ideas of women participants were regularly not heard or considered. When they were invited to join, women were usually used as note-takers or coffee-servers, and when they did speak, their ideas were usually disregarded.
We organized two gender training sessions with trade unions in Colombia, buta only women attended. Why? Because they believed, in common with their male colleagues, that issues such as equal opportunities and non-discrimination were lighter, less serious topics, more appropriate for women.
However, once the workshop started, the union members were able to share some of the difficulties that prevented their full participation in meetings. They identified different strategies used by their male colleagues to silence them and reduce the importance of their ideas. Similarly, rural women taking part in a workshop on gender equality were surprised to learn about the lack of equal treatment and opportunities in SME workplaces and in their own unions, and recognized from what they heard some similarities with the strategies used to silence their own voices, often in violent or passive-aggressive ways.
After the workshops, we realised that if we were to counteract this power imbalance and create conditions for equality and inclusion at the factory level, new and specific tools would be needed. So, we designed a new SCORE Training model for supply chain development: Gender Equality Model (Modelo de Igualdad de Género) or MIG SCORE.
MIG SCORE focuses on five key issues: voice equality, inclusive hiring, equal pay for work of equal value, work climate, and work-life harmony. Taking into account the managerial and financial realities of SME’s, the eight-month training and technical assistance is divided into four steps, including a baseline assessment, manager-worker training, development of an Enterprise Improvement Plan (EIP) and expert enterprise visits to provide support and advice.
To boost voice equality, MIG SCORE designed and promotes an “equal time rule”, a tool to ensure women and men have equal time and conditions to express their ideas in meetings. MIG SCORE fosters an environment where organizational and process innovations are more likely to happen.
To date, although SME’s are a major source of job creation they have not been seen as central to discussions on gender equality in the world of work and are often not even aware of the ILO´s commitment to promote equal opportunities and treatment for women and men or the convention on non-discrimination (C100).
But, SME’s are too important for that. Worldwide, they employ around 2.8 billion people. So, what happens in SME’s has a major impact on the success of the ILO’s work to promote equal opportunities and treatment for women and men, inclusion and development.
On September 12, 2018, the ILO and the Colombian concrete and cement employer association Asocreto signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote gender equality in the sector. MIG SCORE is now part of the employer´s association portfolio and complements their Women in Concrete Alliance (WICA) initiative.
What’s more, I believe that the research that underpins MIG SCORE isn’t just for SME’s. It can help the rest of us too. In your next meeting, identify your style: are you a Forger? Perhaps an Interpreter or an Interrupter? What about your colleagues? Could you propose an equal time rule to improve communication and create more effective, productive, meetings?
Promoting voice equality is a responsibility for us all. What can you do?
Visit the Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises (SCORE) page for more information here.