Create a memorable event in 2016: Use our ‘Serious Games’ Workshops

54d20fd6-4800-4375-a94c-afc21664a823Our sister company InclusIQ have used this year to create even better versions of their ‘Serious Games’ for Workshops which are popular with the Law Society of Scotland amongst other clients. As training that is customisable, consistent for remote teams, and has the ability to use your own trainers, clients are liking our innovative approach. As Mhorag Sharpe of the University of Edinburgh Business School MBA programme said about the serious games workshop we ran for her on mentoring skills:

‘The mentoring game provided a springboard far beyond a normal discussion. The different pathways meant whichever way the group navigated, they found interesting learning points about what it takes to manage mentoring relationships. It was a fun way to frame the discussion!’
InclusIQ’s games have been developed even since their UnConferences and they’ll be piloting them with corporate clients for their internal teams and external clients in the New Year. InclusIQ will also be running games based workshops for membership organisations like the National Association of Women in Construction. If you are planning 2016 and think one of our serious games on any of the below topics could be an innovative event for your audience, get in touch.
  1. The New Normal: Managing Flexible Working
  2. Progression to Partnership: Overcoming Barriers to Gender Balance
  3. Widening the Net: Reducing Bias in Trainee Recruitment
  4. New Opportunities: Building the Business Case for Diversity
  5. Seeking Support: Making the Most of Mentoring

Even the man who coined the term ‘meritocracy’ thought it was a myth

diversityA common question we get when we first engage with clients is this die-hard belief they already operate in a meritocracy – albeit one that inconveniently has too few ethnic minorities and women at the top. Meritocracy is the idea that the best people will always rise to the top. And we understand why it’s vital to hold onto the idea of meritocracy. If you are at the top of an organisation, or even rising fast – it’s deeply psychologically uncomfortable to think you may have benefitted from anything else than your hard work, your brains, your ability – your merit. But organisations are built through ‘homosocial reproduction’ – people hiring and promoting others in their own image and to be questioned on that is deeply unsettling as you are questioning their right to be at the top at all.

For example, let’s say you were managing a team and it’s pointed out that a lot of the people in the team are just like you. You’d likely become defensive saying: ’But they’re great! I don’t care if people are purple, green or blue – I just want the best! I’m completely meritocratic!’ Meritocracy sounds ideal, but it’s a myth. The irony is that Michael Young, who coined the term in his 1950’s essay ‘The Rise of Meritocracy’ wrote it as a satire – he said ‘merit’ would always be defined by those in power as justification for staying in power. This is why so many traditionally male, Western and let’s face it, American traits are deemed as ‘leadership’ traits. Because of this, Young didn’t even believe a true ‘meritocracy’ was achievable.

A few weeks ago, I was presenting this idea about meritocracy on ‘why the smartest guys in the room lead on diversity and inclusion’ and we talked about the prevalence of this myth. It’s recognisable because everyone notices how someone saying to you ‘You know, you remind me of myself when I was younger’ always precedes advice or a helping hand. No one has ever held the alternative; ‘You know, you remind me of myself when I was younger…and I was a real bastard.’ Progress will come from advocating more people – who don’t remind you of a younger version of yourself.


Pay Gap Myth: Women earn less because they choose lower paying sectors

Gender pay gapIt’s a long held myth that the gender pay gap is down to women’s ‘poorer’ occupational choices. While there are indeed more women in less well paid sectors, that doesn’t account for the gender pay gap. Is the answer simply in encouraging more women into higher paid jobs? Not quite.

Harvard labor economist Claudia Godin explains in her paper ‘The Grand Gender Convergence’ that the pay gap is actually widest in some of the highest paying fields – and is worst in fields that demand presenteeism to reward workers. For example, in the US, women in finance make 66% of their male counterparts and female doctors earn just 71%. Female lawyers and judges earn 82% – even after controlling for race, age, hours and educational level.

At the same time, men, especially white men tend to make more than women even in female-dominated jobs and advance more quickly into management roles within these sectors. We at Female breadwinners like Godin’s suggestions. Increase flexibility so that hours can be worked anywhere; not just those who can be in front of their boss 12 hours a day and increase incentives for paternity leave; so that men and women are likely to have worked equal number of hours when their children are born and it isn’t mothers alone who pay the ‘parenting penalty’ after childbirth.

University students post-2000 less empathetic than those studying in 80’s and 90’s

InclusIQ-iPad-intro-495x400Talking about tough topics is all the harder if we can’t put ourselves in the shoes of others. In sessions with our clients we often ask ‘How do you think your boss is feeling when you say that?’ or ‘What’s your employee thinking when you do that?’. It’s part of the reason the ‘empathy walkthrough’ in our sister company InclusIQ e-simulations is so popular. At InclusIQ, we focus on empathy because it helps people understand colleagues and clients better, reducing miscommunications and boosting morale.

It’s seems empathy is only going to get more important as it seems to be on the wane amongst millennial. New research from the University of Michigan found students attending university after 2000 are not as empathetic as college students of the 1980s and 1990s. After doing a meta-analysis, comparing 72 different studies of American university students conducted on 14,000 students between 1979-2009, there was a 40% drop in empathy scores. Sara Konrath, the lead researcher said they found college students today are less likely to agree with statements such as “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective” and “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.” The research was then correlated with other studies seeing these changes in the American public over the same time period.

Konrath and co-researcher Edward O’Brien explained: ‘Many people see the current group of college students ? sometimes called ‘Generation Me’? as one of the most self-centred, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history. It’s not surprising that this growing emphasis on the self is accompanied by a corresponding devaluation of others’.

Why is empathy declining amongst millennials? Konrath and O’Brien make several suggestions and based on our work, we’d suggest two more.

1. Rise in violent video games usage: As Konrath and O’Brien explain: ‘Compared to 30 years ago, the average American now is exposed to three times as much non work-related information. In terms of media content, this generation of college students grew up with video games, and a growing body of research, including work done by colleagues at Michigan, is establishing that exposure to violent media numbs people to the pain of others’.

2. Social media usage: O’Brien explained: ‘The ease of having ‘friends’ online might make people more likely to just tune out when they don’t feel like responding to others’ problems, a behaviour that could carry over offline. Add in the hyper-competitive atmosphere and inflated expectations of success, borne of celebrity “reality shows,” and you have a social environment that works against slowing down and listening to someone who needs a bit of sympathy’.

We see two more potential reasons:

3. The amount of university work that can be done remote to others. As David Toy, on our InclusIQ team explained: ‘To be successful at university, historically meant you had to get on with others. You developed social interactions. You dated, you worked with your professors, you needed the help of librarians – now all of this done online and at a distance. The rise of digital means you are no longer mastering non-digital interaction – the key skills for empathy’.

4. Ubiquity of online pornography: Never before has pornography been so widely available, shaping the attitudes and expectations of men and women. Sexual practices, such as homemade ’sex tapes’ and naked selfie shots that would have been rare in the past are now commonplace and even desirable. This has had unexpected consequences with the rise of ‘revenge porn’; – the posting of intimate pictures of past partners, usually women. This is so prevalent American legislators are having to consider how to combat this practice.  When sexual content becomes so commonplace, people become desensitised and eventually only the most explicit acts serve to stimulate. Educators are observing a drop in the social skills of students, particularly young men who are the main consumers of online porn. It leaves us with the bigger question – how much can you ever empathise with others if you see them as commodities? We would go further to suggest online porn cannot be positive for the way men and women relate to each other in the workplace either. How seriously can you ever take female colleagues if you routinely watch online porn where women are consistently degraded and made to take subservient roles?

If new mums fear for their jobs, is there hope for dads to take more paternity leave?

Parental leaveIn April new expanded parenting rights came in with more generous benefits for fathers. This was ideally aimed at encouraging more new fathers to share a greater proportion of leave with mothers, but early data suggest take up has been dismal –  estimates ranging between 2-8% of eligible new fathers. While this is unexpectedly low, it shouldn’t be taken as a sign of a lack of interest –  more likely of a lack of incentive. With statutory pay (£139.50 per week maximum) being even lower than minimum wage (£234.50 per week) for a 35 hour work week, it’s perhaps no surprise dads are stepping forward. While we talk a lot about female breadwinners, men are still likely to be the bigger earner in any family, which means these derisory amounts are hardly affordable for most families.

Maternity Action, a charity aimed at working mothers, says heir helpline gets lots of calls from dads whose employers discourage them from paternity leave. A second likely factor, is that job insecurity in the modern workplace has never been higher – for men or women. It’s estimated that 60,000 women in the UK are illegally sacked or forced from their jobs because of pregnancies. While there is no data on new fathers, it’s not a leap to suggest they too would be potentially seen as ‘not committed’ and ripe for a redundancy if raising their head above the parapet to ask for these legal entitlements.

The assumptions we make on these topics are all vital situations to explore. Our sister company InclusIQ is building a new e-simulation for a client whereby a female character asks for a reduced work week to pursue other interests. By contrast, a male character asks in order to be a more hands-on dad to new twins. Getting people to play through these scenarios is a great way to raise discussion on gendered expectations and best practice. Get in touch if you’d like more information on our e-simulation based training.

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