• Sophie Tversky

Collective Individualism and Generation Equality

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

Every International Women’s Day, I look forward to the celebration of everyone who furthers gender equality conversations and actions. It is timely, early in the year, to reassess how our practices, policies and decision making further or hinder the gender diversity pledge and the wider need for diversity across our workplaces, boards and social activities.

UN Women’s IWD global theme for 2020 is Generation Equality, a campaign bringing generations together to ensure every girl and woman can fulfil their potential. This ranges from fighting for equal pay, equal division of unpaid domestic and care work ,to participation in decision-making. Part of this conversation has been the concept of Collective Individualism- individual actions playing a part in the collective cause.

In light of Collective Individualism, I’ve been thinking about how we can keep moving forward and put this concept into practice. In true Curious Connector style, I thought it would be interesting to look at the concepts of Collectivism and Individualism derived from Professor Geert Hofstede’s Six Dimensions of National Culture. These come out of an extensive study into how values in the workplace are shaped by culture and demonstrate preferential differences between countries.

I’m taking an analogical rather than a literal approach – drawing out principles and ideas from the model.

Individualism can be defined as a preference for individual-orientation and close groups, whereas Collectivism refers to tightly knit frameworks where responsibilities and loyalties are focused on broader societal groups. These occur on a spectrum and are not black and white. Within these categorisations are differences, for example: whether a culture is horizontal - flat in structure, or vertical – more hierarchical.

Global movements over the last couple of years demonstrate that our starting expectation must be equality but we still have a way to go. Awareness of stereotypes, expectations, pay differences, visibility and representation, opportunity prospects and education, all play a role in gender equality - progressing and shifting towards fairer societies.

What are some analogies or principles that we can extrapolate from Individualism/Collectivism to operationalise Collective Individualism?

  • Recognise and champion individual differences, achievements and growth

  • Our individual actions have a cumulative effect resulting in what we accept as societal norms - be conscious about how individual actions have a ripple effect

  • Hierarchies exist both explicitly and implicitly, so let’s help each other up the ladder

  • Collaboration, connection and joint responsibility can further collective interests

  • Recognise and build on progress in furthering gender parity

  • Create structures and opportunities that allow individuals to grow and lay the framework for the next generation

  • Build heightened awareness around client, employee and societal expectations of equality to drive action and conversations within workplaces

  • Develop a heightened awareness and take action around how our individual beliefs and biases can impact decision making

  • Develop a heightened awareness and take action around who has a voice and visibility

  • Lean on each other and share learnings across levels of seniority or industries.

Lastly, we should celebrate and further our interconnectedness as well as our individuality.

Wishing everyone a Happy International Women’s Day – a year of working together, across generations, to put into practice Collective Individualism.

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