Broadcaster Claudia Winkleman was the celebrity guest at Vodafone UK’s hour-long webinar celebrating International Women’s Day 2021 on Monday 8 March.
Chaired by Anne Sheehan, Director, Vodafone Business UK, with contributions from Helen Lamprell, General Counsel & External Affairs Director, and Shelley Malton, Customer Services, Operations & Digital Director, the conversation covered issues of gender equality and the challenges facing women in the workplace.
But there was also light-hearted banter about how to encourage men to do more of the household chores, for example, how to cope with “impostor syndrome”, and how to embrace rather than suppress women’s emotional and empathetic qualities.
Have a nap, be yourself and be rubbish at something
A video featuring female Vodafone colleagues relating how they’d coped during the pandemic, whether managing chronic health conditions, looking after vulnerable relatives, or home schooling their kids, proved inspirational.
“What amazing ladies – I feel quite emotional,” Anne commented.
The webinar also celebrated the many remarkable women working for Vodafone who have juggled work and family life during the lockdown. There were more than 60 nominations in the company’s ‘Extraordinary In The Ordinary’ competition and Claudia announced the five winners.
Each winner had demonstrated admirable resilience and compassion during the pandemic, balancing their career with home schooling, caring duties, and community volunteering.
“We have some truly amazing women in Vodafone and we really wanted to celebrate those who do extraordinary things in their ordinary day-to-day lives,” said Shelley, explaining how difficult it had been to choose the winners.
The panel also stressed the valuable role of male allies. “They are just so critically important,” Anne said.
Burden of care
While there have been many advances in gender equality, the truth remains that women still take on the lion’s share of unpaid caring duties, research shows, whether looking after young children or caring for ill or vulnerable relatives, and this burden has only increased during the pandemic.
So Vodafone’s new global parental leave policy, offering 16 weeks of paid parental leave to non-birthing parents regardless of gender, sexual orientation or length of service, was a welcome step forward in helping women to balance work and family life, the panel agreed.
We’ve made progress, but we haven’t made enough progress
There were also other achievements to celebrate, from Vodafone being voted one of The Times Top 50 best places for women to work for the fourth year running, to the company’s aspiration to have 40% of women in senior management roles by 2030.
“We’ve made progress, but we haven’t made enough progress,” Helen admitted in a challenge to the company.
The wit and wisdom of Claudia Winkleman
With her trademark wit and quirky humour, Claudia answered questions from Anne and those sent in by viewers.
How had she coped during the pandemic? By taking a nap every day, she said – “sometimes two!” – learning to knit courtesy of her mother-in-law, and reading voraciously because it helps her sleep.
The Strictly Come Dancing and BBC Radio 2 presenter paid tribute to her “staunch feminist” mum, journalist Eve Pollard, who “kicked through so many glass ceilings” and once deliberately burned her husband’s shirt with the iron to make the point – quite effectively – that ironing wasn’t a woman’s job.
Here’s a selection of Claudia’s other – sometimes tongue-in-cheek – sage pieces of advice:
“You can’t be good at everything – decide now what you’re no good at and don’t beat yourself up about it.”
“Put the pink sock in with the white wash – you’ll never have to do the clothes washing again.”
“Why should women be penalised financially for having a baby? I’d have a creche in every business and even a school!”
“Ask for help when you need it – admit when you’re not coping. Fuel your friendships with all your energy.”
“Have a nap, be yourself and be rubbish at something.”
Advice for men: “Stop asking ‘What’s for dinner?’ but ask ‘What are we having for dinner?’ and go and make or get something yourself.”
“Take your share of the school WhatsApp group messages and emails and help with the homework.”
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