A female speaker talking to the audience of the N26 Womxn Balanced event.

9 Things I Learned From the ‘Balanced Work’ Womxn’s Day at N26

4 min read

On 17th October 2019, in Berlin, Germany the Womxn26 team at N26 (an employee resource group) held a day of events for the company called ‘Balanced Work’, aimed to help employees better understand, talk about and achieve balance at work; but more directly, to empower womxn, and their allies.

Between meetings and the general busyness of day-to-day, I managed to catch three of the events and left the day feeling, moved, pensive and just that little bit wiser. Here are 9 things I learned.

1. On the topic of inspiring confidence through communication we learned verbal ways we can inspire a lack of confidence in ourselves and skills. Less I think / more I know. Less asking for validation after a conversation by asking “does that make sense?”. Of course it does! Interestingly, the upwards intonation at the end of the sentence was also mentioned, “do I do that?” (I asked in that very same way, inside my head).

2. We also learned about the non verbal behaviours we can avoid to appear confident: less fidgeting, being conscious of your body language, and how, if you want to keep your hands busy, you can do so in a more effective way than pulling down your sleeves or fondling a bottle of water.

3. On the subject of trying to influence people and make an impact in communication we received some gems on using external sources to create validation to what we are trying to communicate, and where and when to involve allies to achieve your outcome.

4. The session on pushing back, learning to say no, and dealing with conflict session was rightly started with group meditation. Two employees who knew each other graced the stage to help us navigate these types of situations. We learned that often the resolution comes in a moment after the misalignment has been established. “Does it always have to happen in a separate session?” An audience member asked. “How many times have you solved the conflict in that heat of the moment?” The speaker probed, to a nodding room.

5. We also learned that in difficult conversions repeating “I hear you saying that…” and confirming you have heard the other persons words, then asking them to explain more, can be a good way to promote listening and navigate differing perspectives.

6. Naturally, we then drifted to how to deal with people who are saying things that seem utterly ridiculous to you, a man in the room used the example “imagine someone said oh, women shouldn’t be allowed to drive” and we approached the difficult task of operating from a non-judgmental space. We acknowledged the swiftness and susceptibility of the power dynamic to change, from student to teacher. What might you have to learn?

7. On large topic of how to be an ally, it was highlighted that everyone has the ability to be an ally, because privilege is intersectional, but the question is more, whether they want to?

8. The tension between fighting the good fight and making sure you are in an environment that is safe and that your mental health is in good shape, was also acknowledged, but the panel majority advocated for ultimately, protecting yourself.

9. We discussed how to be an ally and how to create a safe space for allies to learn. One woman said “I am white with blonde hair (albeit dyed), how can I know what I don’t know?” Which lead to the topic of curating a curious mindset and the wealth of information out there on YouTube, Google and other platforms. Beautifully, this topic ended by a panellist telling people to be kind to themselves, be grateful for what they do know and continue to seek more knowledge on how to be better. “You can’t continue to grow and be of service if you feel crap about yourself!”

Initiatives by companies of this nature can often feel contrived, forced, and maybe a little understood. But perhaps the employee-led nature deterred this; I came away with tools, plus a better understanding on how to achieve this balance, feeling grateful for having witnessed some really honest conversations, and truly quite moved. Enough to write this blogpost, anyway — thanks for reading.

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By Kyomi Wade

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