The Brexit effect on working women and what to do to protect yourself

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  • This is a momentous time in UK history, with many experts predicting women may be hit the hardest in terms of job cuts and a rollback on legal protection. Former publishing CEO, entrepreneur and co-founder of AllBright, Anna Jones, advises four ways to futureproof yourself

    Today is a historic day for the United Kingdom. As of 11pm this evening, two years after Article 50 was invoked, three General Elections and two Prime Ministers later, the day has arrived when the UK will no longer be a member of the European Union.

    And whether or not you thought it would come, this is actually it.

    In many ways January 31st marks a new era for the UK but there’s no denying that after almost half a century of membership, we are entering unchartered territory. A number of EU-led laws that we all take for granted may well change, so it’s important that we take the time to understand how this might impact our everyday working lives.

    As co-founder of the women’s member’s clubs and network, AllBright, supporting wellbeing, female empowerment, and positive outcomes for women is something I am deeply passionate about. There is no denying that Britain has benefitted from the progress made by the EU in protecting rights for women. However, many of these rights exist in our domestic legislation, and several UK provisions pre-date the EU instruments.

    So, there’s no reason to panic just yet.

    And to cite a very British cliché, whilst we collectively continue to navigate uncertain times, it is essential to keep calm and carry on. For women at work and those planning on returning to work, now is the time to get on the front foot, swot up on the small print and ultimately, to focus on building flex and resilience. Here are just some ideas on how to get started in this post-Brexit working world.

    Brexit effect women

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    Negotiation skills

    In the event that the new laws that work to protect our rights and pay are diminished, it would be beneficial to develop your negotiation skills. Research says that 20% of women never negotiate. There are a number of reasons for this including fear of being disliked by colleagues and assuming it to be a confrontational conversation. There are techniques we can all learn to improve our negotiation skills. It’s really just a conversation just one with a specific desired outcome. The main tactic is to prepare beforehand – work out what you will give as well as what you require in return. What are your absolute ‘red lines’. Then it’s about practise. If you’ve practised beforehand (we suggest doing it with someone in your network who can behave as a ‘loving critic’) so you feel rehearsed and ready for anything.

    Strengthen your sisterhood

    The former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said, ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’. This has become a mission statement of ours at AllBright. In the face of uncertainty and potential adversity, it is essential to develop a strong network of peers and inspirational mentors. Surrounding yourself with others who are able to empathise with the challenges you are facing can considerably alleviate against stressors and stand to build resilience.

    Know your rights

    One of the sure-fire ways of feeling more empowered in the workplace and reducing stress is to be more informed and quite simply knowing your rights. In terms of Brexit, my initial advice to all working women would be to take some time to better understand your legal rights – so should you be in a compromising position, you are well equipped to deal with the situation at hand.

    Continue your professional development

    Even as a co-founder and ex-CEO, I believe that it is essential to continue building your skills toolkit. It is crucial to have a bank of fundamental transferable skills to enable you to understand and action any scenario. At AllBright, Our Academy courses and events provide women at all ages and stages of their careers with the tools to succeed. From professional development content to an online community, the AllBright Academy offers support, guidance and professional networking opportunities to executives, freelancers and entrepreneurs. With Brexit here at last, it is critical that we are sufficiently prepared to tackle challenges head-on with confidence, composure and certainty.

    2020 is the year to take on new challenges. Perhaps this will be a time for us all to turn Brexit on its head, seeing it as an opportunity to hone in on and develop our leadership skills, confidence and knowledge, smashing our respective glass ceilings.

    * Anna Jones is the co-founder of AllBright, the collective that empowers women through physical spaces and online communities

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