Everyone knows the stories. Whether or not they’ve experienced them personally, they’ll have happened to a mother, a sister or a friend. It’s the interviewer asking about your ‘family plans’. The passed over promotion. The looks when leaving early to attend to a sick child. The tea rounds that fall to one person. It’s downloading the Just Not Sorry app while furtively looking over your shoulder and quietly hating yourself. The laddish canteen, the struggle to not be interrupted…. these issues are small. And they’re big. They’re every day and they’re that one time you’ll always remember.
I’m proud to say I work somewhere that has made a promise and commitment to eliminating behaviour that holds women down wherever possible, however possible and as quickly as possible. I’ve worked at Uniform for seven months now, and in that short time I’ve seen numerous demonstrations of policy and attitude that decidedly circumvents problematic gendered office behaviour. From the male Director that thought to take the plate of cakes out of the hands of the female Client Manager when walking into a pitch saying, let’s not set that precedent, to the Uniform-branded baby onesies, to our frequent team meetings that celebrate milestones such as marriage or pregnancy, to our above average paternity leave to our recent roll out of flexible working.
This is not about being grateful - I made a decision a long time ago to never be grateful for what is simply right. This is about recognising and lifting up the best working practices for everyone. Uniform isn’t perfect. There’s still work to be done and conversations to be had; but what I see is a company that not only acknowledges that, but actively plans for it.
We were 4 female employees in 2008 and are now 15 (about to be 16 with our most recent hire). We actively recruit female employees, not for positive discrimination at its worst (hiring an unqualified individual to tick a box) but at its best: seeking out worthy individuals who will balance the gender difference within our company. This is a struggle when many of our teams have deep gender enrolment differences that trace back to the bowels of Britain’s educational system.
Image: The author running an IoT & VR workshop with Uniform employees prior to SxSW 2016.
Our senior leadership team is ⅗ female. I have strong female role models and a clear path to whatever I define as success. For the first time in my working life, I can’t see anything on that path I’ll need to smash my way through. We may not be level with the Bristol company hitting headlines for implementing a policy that syncs time off with women’s menstrual cycles (here’s looking at you, Bex Baxter), but we’re on a journey that consistently promotes equality within our team. I’m heading to SxSW on Friday to run a workshop on two male dominated subjects - technology and sport - with the support of my company and my colleagues. I’ll say it again. I’m not grateful, I’m proud. This is why I’ve chosen to be here, somewhere where I can freely get on with my work and have faith that progression is down to my individual worth.
At Uniform, we’re pioneers in creativity and digital technology but we’re also pioneers of diversity. I’ve found a company that recognises its role at the front of a better future and in making their commitment public, I hope I’ve shown the palpable shift in the culture of a creative agency. It’s about the future. My future. I’m pulling on the jersey of a team that supports me as a person.