#WomeninLnD 2018

How women are treated at work and what women are able to do in work is an important discussion to have. This blog post is going to grow and change a little bit as new elements come to light, even on the day I published it!

Donald H Taylor recently published a follow up to his 2015 Women don’t get as far in L&D article, Women in L&D – still not at the top. Based on research of 2,635 members of the Learning and Skills Group, it showed that the senior roles in learning and development were filled more often by men than women. An infographic in the article highlights the split in the support roles as predominantly female, the practitioner and mid-authority roles as not quite 50/50 and the massive 69% of senior authority roles that are held by men.

Pay gap

This blog isn’t specifically about the gender pay gap, though that is part of the wider challenge for women in work.

The video below highlights the average differences between male and female pay, which in some cases is a lot. It’s important to note that this average includes both genders at the top and bottom, rather than like for like jobs. However it does highlight that if there are more senior men paid well (which there are a lot of), then this is where the huge disparities can come from.


From Don’s 2015 article, Lauren Keith of Brightwave wrote Why I don’t wear dresses: The status of femininity in the workplace. Lauren wrote about how she feels she behaves differently, “like a girl”, when wearing more feminine clothes and the impact that can have in the workplace. Lauren points out a summary of the problem women in the workplace are dealing with:

  • “We’re not socialised to be as confident and assertive as men.
  • Our ‘feminine’ characteristics are subconsciously judged biasedly by male bosses against a different set of ‘masculine’ ones.
  • Our ‘masculine’ characteristics are considered suspicious by our bosses.”

I’ve experienced men reacting differently to me based on wearing skirts rather than trousers and so on. I didn’t feel offended by it, but is it right that I noticed the difference? Did it have an impact on what or how I was doing something or perceived? Is this something you’ve noticed about yourself or others?

Behaviour at work

A fascinating article on gender in the Harvard Business Review by Gretchen Gavett shared a research study where people wore sensors at work to get data about their interactions, as well as email and meeting schedule data analysis. Shockingly, the results of the analysis showed: “No perceptible differences were observed in the behaviour of men and women. They had the same number of contacts, spent the same amount of time with senior leaders, and allocated their time similarly. They also spend the same amount of time in online and face-to-face conversations. Yet women weren’t advancing and men were.”

The study concluded with “Gender inequality is due to bias, not differences in behaviour.”

Another study looked at bias in online classes, with a field experiment about responses in forum posts from names that denoted gender and race. It found that “instructors are 94% more likely to respond to forum posts by white male students” and that “comments placed by white females are more likely to receive a response from white female peers”. This entrenched gender bias is something that we are not always aware of, but something that needs to be tackled not only at a societal level, but also within organisations.

Our own behaviour

Between the first version of this blog and the second publishing, I was having a Skype text chat with Vivien Hudson as a general catch-up and part of our conversation rang so true to me about the challenges we are discussing here.

Viv is talking about being busy and, before this screen grab, some of the effects that has on her as a person. But the response is a picture of a female super hero – a supermum. That this is just part of being a working mum and she has to get on with it.

And this I think typifies a some of the challenges with our own behaviour and how females are perceived. Viv has been selected for a keynote presentation, which is a huge professional accolade. And whilst excited, she also then immediately adds a comment bringing her down to earth.

Even this morning I got some feedback that I’m too self-deprecating, to the point that it’s annoying and impacts my credibility. And yet we are in a society where we don’t want to be seen as arrogant or big-headed. It’s a challenge. And thanks for the insight Viv and letting me share our conversation.

If you can’t see it…

Going back to Don Taylor’s 2018 article, he found that there were different reactions when he published the piece. There where the “I recognise this” from some women, the push back of “wrong article, wrong title” from a few men and an interesting third reaction from some other men, around the concept of “I’ve always had women bosses”.

On the positive, this is good news – that personal experience doesn’t trump the wider data, but it does add to the conversation. Don’s insight is looking beyond that experience, and focusing on what can’t be so easily seen, which is the blocker to that woman boss getting to the next stage in her career and the organisation hierarchy.

Donald H Taylor and Jo Cook at Online Educa Berlin 2016Don comments on the findings that “as men, it’s not part of our direct experience, so we need to be more vigilant to see evidence of it. That will come from keeping our eyes open, and – importantly – from having open conversations with women about their experience of work.”

If you can’t beat them, leave them?

Don and I got into a conversation about the research sample, the above notes, the “why” is this a problem as well as the “what” we can do about it. Something I had been pondering for a while, as a small business owner, is do more women leave organisations to start out on their own because of this?

In Don’s research he found that gender attainment of senior-authority roles by age showed that there was a difference (i.e. more men were senior) in people’s early 20s of 5%, through to a much bigger 11% by the time people are in their 50s, with that gap really growing from age 40 onwards.

However when Don and I dug into the unpublished data a bit more, I was surprised. Companies with 20-100 employees had 75% men and even smaller companies of under 20 employees had 70% men in their makeup. My experience is of knowing many female company owners, consultants or the self-employed – but my experience is very obviously biased!

What to do about it?

This is a huge issue, related to history, geography, culture and so much more. Looking at this through an international lens Sue Bryant wrote for Country Navigator with some ideas that can help women in different leadership cultures.

In this Training Journal article from 2015, women in senior L&D roles were asked how they got to their positions, with elements such as authenticity, establishing a reputation to have a voice and flexibility being commented upon. In the article, “finding the right organisation” was a key piece of advice. In Don’s article he points out that women appear more likely to achieve senior-authority roles in larger organisations. Why is that? Culture? HR policies? Something else you can suggest?

Watch the panel discussion I was a part of and of course, your thoughts and comments below.

Virtual classrooms are like aeroplanes…

Mark Gilroy guest blogger for Lightbulb Moment

Webinars airlines blog

The practice of facilitating in a virtual environment is unique in so many ways. When planning a piece of virtual learning, one of the key challenges is that it can appear incredibly abstract. If you’ve never designed a piece of e-learning, webinar content or other virtual learning solutions, it can be helpful to pick a meaningful analogy to make things more concrete.

In this post we’ll be using the analogy of an airline when considering the planning, design and delivery of virtual learning.

So, if you’d like to take your seats and place your luggage into the overhead compartment, we’ll get started…


Before boarding a plane, airlines take several steps to let you know that you’re in the right place to begin, long before you arrive at the airport. Clear, concise messages are sent out to remind all passengers about the important dates, times and location to minimise confusion. When passengers arrive on the day, there’s either an automated system or an ‘in person’ check-in to welcome you to your flight.

In the same way, it’s critical for virtual learning hosts to think about this stage of the learning process:

  • Most virtual facilitation tools have automated emails that are sent out when your participants register. Are these being sent in a timely fashion to give your participants appropriate notice?
  • Check the tone and impact of these emails – do they reflect the intended experience of your session? Are they clear and easy to understand?
  • As people arrive in your virtual ‘room’, consider verbally checking-in people by name as they arrive. If there’s anything you want them to prepare or think about before you get started – usher them in the right direction.
  • Signpost clearly when things are about to start. Some facilitators like to use a musical cue to distinguish between check-in and take-off (see below).

Pre-flight checklist

As passengers arrive on a plane, the airline team are busy working through numerous checklists to make sure that they all have a safe and smooth flight. Lists are an important part of airline protocol to ensure that processes are slick, nothing essential  gets missed, and things happen in the correct order. These are often checked by multiple people to ensure accuracy.

Similarly, with webinars and other types of virtual learning environments, it can be helpful to prepare a pre-flight checklist to work through on the day of the event, to guard against the unexpected. Be cautious of facilitating long sessions by yourself, and consider recruiting a crew to support you, including a co-pilot and technical support, to help keep everything ticking along. Potential checklist items might include:

  • Ensure any computer updates are downloaded and applied several hours before take-off.
  • Have a backup computer powered-up and ready to switch to in case anything happens mid-flight.
  • Run a test to check that your microphone/headset is working. All necessary polls/breakout rooms set-up and ready to go.

Safety announcements

As a plane is about to take-off, the hosts guide the passengers through a set of safety announcements. Where the exits are, how to fasten your seatbelt, how to blow that  funny little whistle, and so on. For frequent flyers, these are often a dull and unsurprising part of the journey, but for a first-time flyer, this is essential information.

Virtual training rooms can be a confusing and frustrating place for the uninitiated. Even for the seasoned virtual learner, different platforms can have slightly different rules and features, so ensure that some time is spent before take-off answering the following questions:

  • How do you want your passengers to interact?
  • What can people expect to see/hear during the course of this session?
  • How can people offer feedback during/after the event?
  • What are the ‘controls’ that participants can use, and how do they work?


The doors are closed, the plane has taxied to the runway, and the flight is ready to begin. Suddenly the engines fire-up and you’re in the skies. Most of the time, this is such a smooth process that passengers rarely even notice the series of complex steps that allow this to take place.

The official start of a webinar can be a make or break situation for both the hosts and the passengers. How are you going to make it as smooth as possible to let your passengers know they’ve made the right decision to fly with you?

  • If you’re the type of facilitator who prefers a flexible, unscripted approach, consider scripting the first two to three minutes of your session. This has two positive effects: it’ll leave you feeling confident as a presenter in knowing what’s about to come next without having to wonder what to say/ask, and also will give your participants confidence that you are in control.
  • Consider recording a ‘dummy run’ and listening back to the first section of your virtual learning event. Notice, and capture, the things that work well which can be repeated in the real thing. Equally, notice the things that don’t work, so that you can try and avoid them next time round.
  • I remember after hearing myself back for the first time presenting virtually, I was struck by how the noticeable and numerous my use of words such as “um”, “right”, and “OK” were. In an audio-only broadcast these conversational ‘fillers’ really stood-out and I still work hard to try and minimise them, without sounding too robotic.
  • Occasionally, things will not go to plan on take-off. Passengers may be late, your presentation slides might appear in the wrong order, or (worse case scenario) your internet connection might cut out. Practice and plan for the eventualities that you can control, so that you can avoid panic in the heat of the moment.

In-flight entertainment

The flight has taken-off smoothly, your passengers are in their seats and engaged by everything they’ve seen and heard so far. Now, it’s time to keep them there. For short flights, a timely snack or drink help to keep everyone refreshed. For long-haul journeys, a varied selection of films, TV boxsets, and music is available, to enable passengers to entertain themselves and avoid boredom.

We’ve all sat in on webinars that are ‘broadcast only’. It’s a dull experience that invites distraction. Virtual learning is unique in that it usually takes place via a medium (your laptop, desktop, or mobile device) that is already screaming distractions at you in the shape of new emails, notifications and vibrations.

  • You may find that there is a balance to be achieved between your content and inviting learners to input their own. This will very much depend on the context of your virtual learning session, but I would suggest it’s highly unlikely that your content should take-up 100% of the airspace. Hint: if you think it should, do yourself a favour and record a video/screencast – you’ll be saving everyone a lot of time!
  • At the other end of the scale, running a live poll or Q&A session every two minutes can slow things down and create a list of questions that might never be answered in the time you have together.
  • Consider variety in your in-flight entertainment. Become familiar with the tools at your disposal so that you can select them when necessary: live chat, polling, breakout groups, whiteboards, and video feeds are just some of the popular ones. Is there anything physical and/or tactile that you can have people working on to avoid boredom with a screen?
  • Attend other people’s sessions to keep your toolkit fresh. It’s just as important to practice being a passenger as it is being the pilot.


The journey has nearly finished – it’s been a safe flight, passengers are feeling nourished with snacks and drinks, and appropriately entertained. Now, for the finale. Statistically, the most likely time for something unexpected to happen: landing the plane at your destination.

The end of a webinar is a great opportunity to re-engage and revisit the highlights of the session. A space to recap, ask questions, and share reflections before everyone goes their separate ways. An equally useful time to thank people for joining you, and to consider using some of their ‘loyalty points’ towards a future event.

  • What is the last thing you want people to be thinking/feeling/doing as their final impression of this piece of virtual learning?
  • Are any calls to action made clear?
  • Do you want to encourage people to fly with you again? Is there an opportunity to showcase a benefit of upcoming events that people may be interested in?
  • Consider scripting the final few minutes of your event so that you can ensure all bases are covered.

There we have it – a handful of parallels between running an airline and being a successful virtual facilitation ‘pilot’. There are many other areas that I haven’t included here: refuelling (managing your energy when presenting), navigation (letting passengers know where you’re headed, and how far they’ve travelled so far), baggage (ensuring the ‘journey’ isn’t weighed down with too much non-essential content). Mark GilroyPerhaps you can think of others – please do feel free to post them in the comments below.

About our guest blogger

Mark Gilroy is Managing Director of TMS Development International Ltd, a leading global provider of psychometric development tools designed to create, nurture and sustain high performing teams. Mark has a background in psychology and has been working in the L&D arena as an executive coach and team development facilitator for over a decade.

Text personality

“Face to face is the only way to communicate.”

“You can’t pick up on tone of voice or body language if you aren’t in the same place.”

“Remote communications lack so much.”

I hear this a lot of the time from people who don’t work remotely all that much, or communicate a lot with people across different geographies or time zones.

People think you’ll miss out on so much by not speaking face to face or on the phone. There’s a certain amount that’s true about that, I’m not going to argue. But like any communication or detail, there’s a lot more richness you can get without realising.

This screengrab below shows a Skype text conversation with Debbie Carter, the Editor in Chief at Training Journal.

For me this was just a normal communication typing between us. It’s only when Debbie said that I don’t sound like my bubbly self it made me think – how is she picking up on that? What is different from normal?

There’s no tone to my voice, there’s no facial expression for Debbie to pick up on.

Let me share this one just as an example of a much earlier conversation from Skype:

This is a time where Debbie didn’t say I wasn’t bubbly. This was a “normal” interaction.

So what are the differences between these two? What are you picking up from text conversation? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments, below.

Learning Technologies 2018 – videos and more!

Learning Technologies is a huge free exhibition and paid-for conference in London every year. I’ve been going for more years than I care to remember and it gets better every year.

You can see the conference programme here.

You can see all of the tweets on #LT18UK. The back channel is a great way to get involved with an event if you aren’t there in person.

Day one exhibition walkabout

Ar Deputy Editor of TJ, I thought doing a live Periscope video broadcast at the exhibition might be a great way to get the message out from some of the exhibitors, as well as highlight the event to people who aren’t sure about coming, or can’t make it.

This walkabout included:

There was some great feedback on the exhibition walkabout, so we decided to do more on day two!

Quick reflection

Towards the end of day one Jon Kennard, Editor of Training Journal, and I did a quick review video:

Towards Maturity research launch

L&D research company Towards Maturity exclusively launched their latest annual benchmark report at LT18 and I was proud to do the Periscope live video broadcast of it from TJ. This was delivered by Laura Overton and Genny Dixon.

Day one reflection with Mike


  • David Kelly and Steve Wheeler
  • Charles Jennings
  • Sukh Pabial
  • Towards Maturity and Laura Overton
  • And more

Day two walkabout one

Walkabout two

The final walkabout

#LT18UK second day reflection with Mike

Mike and I reflection day two, talking about:

One of Mike’s tweets was included in the DPG Storify round up too!

Ross Garner from GoodPractice did a great “1 second a day” video, which gives a lovely insight to activities:



Learning technologies – what do managers really think?

In November 2017 GoodPractice launched their third piece of research about what managers think and do. This piece of research specifically focused on the perceptions about technology from those managers, that their organisations provide them with for learning.

This post has some comments and links to resources for a one stop shop on the research.

Audio interview

I spoke to GoodPractice Managing Director, Owen Ferguson, ahead of the report being published.

You can listen to the more in-depth Training Journal podcast interviews part one and part two.


I was very lucky to get a pre-release copy of the report, and another chat with Owen, before the launch in London. From that I wrote a couple of online features about the results.

  • Training Journal feature I wrote on the day of release
  • Training Journal feature part two

From GoodPractice

Obviously getting information about this report from the people that did the research is the best thing! So, here are a few resources:

A blog from Stef Scott, report co-author.

Stef looks at five myths on learning technologies and debunks them, based on data from the report.

The original report can be downloaded as a PDF from the GoodPractice website.

At the launch of the report, GoodPractice recorded an episode of their brilliant podcast, live, with the audience interaction. It was great fun to be there (and I asked a question towards the end too) and brave of the guys to do.


The #GPWMRT hashtag has had all sorts of infromation and sharing. Here’s a scatter of top tweets, including my own from the @TrainingJournal account:

Learning Exchanges at Learning Technologies Exhibition

Jo and Sunder Ramachandran after the Learning eXchange at the Learning Technologies Conference

Another year, another Learning Technologies conference and exhibition – and more Learning eXchanges!

The Learning eXchanges are an opportunity to have a more intimate and informal conversation with Conference speakers, on the free exhibition floor.

These conversations are always hosted on the Towards Maturity stand and co-facilitated between TM and Training Journal.

Read more about the 2018 eXchange programme here.

And on Twitter you can follow these specifically with #LT18ex this year.

Want a flavour of what to expect or if you should bother to sign up? Read more below from me on previous years 😀