Monday Hustle: An Even Playing Field — A Workplace Utopia
Some women dream of a big family - the house, the car, the significant other. Some dream of travelling all over the world to see the nine Wonders that history has left behind. Some women, however, dream of gender equality in the workplace, a dream that may look something like this...
The alarm clock gently awakens you at six a.m. Despite residing in the UK, the morning is surprisingly warm for a January, considering the rest of the week has been abysmally wet. Almost on autopilot, you bumble to the kitchen to whip up a pot of morning brew.
You have been with your significant other for several years now; you have two young children under the age of five. You thought that being a mother may halt your chances of climbing the ladder at work, but that was the old thinking of 2017. In 2030, you are never judged for wanting to have children and a fulfilling career with progression up the ladder. Returning to work after maternity leave was a piece of cake, and you felt welcomed as soon as you stepped your foot back in the door. In fact, policies and law have been in place for the past 12 years now to support women in the workplace — the Times Up Initiative was the umpteenth wave of women's rights activism that made employers - and lawmakers - finally listen.
You place your partner's brew next to them, and the faint smell drifts through their nostrils, waking them up. They take a few sips, and fully energised, goes to the children’s room to start getting them ready for school while you are free to go about your morning routine for work. The stilettos and uncomfortable, tight-fitting suits are long gone - no one has heard of a strict dress code for work in years, knowing fully well that the professional woman knows how to dress herself and still feel comfortable, all with no risk of having to head to hospital with a sprained ankle. You head on your merry way to the train station knowing full well your partner is very capable of taking care of the children and doing the school run before they also go about their working day.
The train is jam-packed as per the usual morning rush, but there's a seat left between two men. You take the seat, but after a while one of them starts to manspread, leaving your legs with little room and sat at a very uncomfortable position. However, the man realises he is doing it, without being told he is doing so or asked to move politely, apologises, and moves his legs to a position where you have plenty of room. Manspreading has drastically gone down since men realised that women are allowed to take up as much room as they do in the world.
You get into the office and check up on any emails and do any outstanding work, when the female CEO calls you into an urgent board meeting. The board of directors is made up of mixed men and women in equal parts, but in this instance a few of the men are off with man flu (it hits men much harder than women y'know), so for today, it's mostly made up of women. During the meeting, the CEO asks an open question. As you go to answer, one of the men slightly interrupts and answers, but upon seeing that you were going to answer, stops midway and reflects that, ‘actually, you are the expert on this, I apologise for interrupting you, please tell us what you think.’ You tell the meeting room your answer, and delegate actions to the people in the room, including the man that interrupted you, who has no qualms whatsoever with taking commands from a female.
You venture off to get a coffee, and you find that following behind you is Paul, one of your few male co-workers who isn't in bed with man lurgy. He approaches you as you reach the staff kitchen, and you pour the pair of you a cup of Joe. You talk about your projects, the meeting you've just finished, even your weekends. Not once did he mention your appearance, make a crude comment, or proposition you. Your company rarely has to deal with sexual misconduct cases, because the men know how to behave in a professional environment. On the occasion that a woman does come forward with a report of sexual harassment in the workplace, the allegations are taken very seriously and dealt with fairly and promptly. Cases like this always end in a dismissal, but it's not the woman packing up her desk.
Once back at the desk to continue working, a colleague asks how your partner is doing at their new job. ‘Very well,’ you reply. 'They're doing a job they love with the same flexibility as me, so that we can have equal part in raising our children. They do the morning school run and go into work later and I finish work at 2.30 to pick them up and carry on working at home in the evening.' Your manager is so supportive of your flexible hours and completely trusts your work ethic and ability. In fact, you work from home more often than you are in the office some weeks, yet all of your targets are hit on time or earlier. Who would’ve thought that?
Your colleague reminds you that such support would be borderline non-existent only a mere 12 years before. She then continues the conversation speaking about her boyfriend who is enjoying being a stay-at-home dad to their newborn, since her job supports the both of them and he can spend time in the day pursuing his own projects. ‘The law making the wage gap between men and women illegal helped make that possible’ she reminisces, ‘when they matched women's salaries up to men’s, my salary more than doubled!'
After a day of work in the office, you pick up the children from school and go home to find that there's dirty washing on the floor. Slightly pissed off at the mess, you ask your partner what it's doing there. ‘Don’t worry, I had to take a quick phone call for work but I'm putting the washing on now.’ You're grateful for your partner's emotional intelligence; they treat the place like their home, rather than a hotel where you're left to do everything. You head into the kitchen to start preparing dinner and wash up.
Once the kids are settled after dinner, both you and your partner log back online to finish your work as you please, or settle down yourselves to enjoy a quiet glass of wine and taking a chance to catch up with each other. You've reached your deadlines for the day, and the world didn't explode from the new way of working.
And then, you wake up.