…is the campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2022: imagine a gender equal world, free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable and inclusive, where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality and collectively we can break the bias.
The focus on women’s advancement is, of course, not restricted to one day and nor is the call to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion. However, International Women’s Day, IWD, focuses our thoughts by celebrating the achievements and contributions of women in every aspect of our lives.
It is a great opportunity to raise awareness and encourage positive change. Also, such events remind us that without gender equality today, it will be difficult to achieve a sustainable future. Despite the enormous steps we have taken to embrace differences in gender, race, orientation, origin and people of all types, there is still a long way to go – significant growth and development is needed to create inclusive, unbiased and diverse environments.
“Women already suffer from the bias that they can’t balance a career alongside family responsibilities. If you’re a woman of colour, you are trying to break two kinds of barriers. It’s important to have someone who supports you – a group of like-minded people or an employee resource.” Christina Buu, Human Resources Business Partner, Smiths Detection.
Addressing bias in the workplace
International Women’s Day is one of the biggest employee engagement days in the year. Employers truly supporting this and other events, promote a diverse workforce and increase employee engagement, satisfaction and profitability. They help to create an inclusive culture and feeling of belonging for those under-represented groups who can begin see themselves as an integral part of a more extensive network.
“Sometimes it is difficult to say “believe in yourself” when you’re really stressed out. Something that can help is to seek inspiration, mentorship and support. Seeing other female role models who have pushed through the challenges and succeeded in different ways can be helpful. In my experience, they’re always open to discussion and sharing their experiences.” Selina Kolokytha, Physicist Engineer, Smiths Detection.
Awareness around gender equality must be sustained throughout the year and made part of the work culture. Creating and maintaining a more acceptable, equal working environment is a long term process. Education, targeted conversations, seminars all aimed at empowering people to speak out; and others to listen and support those who may not yet be very well represented. Constant feedback will establish if the process is succeeding.
“Companies can partner with non-profit organisations to give young girls an environment where they directly learn how technology, software or code is developed. Seeing real products in action can fire up certain ambitions. If we start from a fundamental level, it will certainly help bring more girls into a field where they are still a small minority.” Vivek Mehrotra, Global Director, Digital & Architecture, Smiths Detection
Breaking the bias
First, we must understand, recognise and accept that we all naturally have unconscious biases about various social identity groups, which stem from our tendency to organise the world by categorising.
Then we can very consciously refuse to allow societal pressures to impact our perspective when judging abilities and not use gender to determine who is right for a particular role. We have to question our own attitudes; apply common sense; challenge the restrictions women face; and take action to break the boundaries.
“Upon reflection, I wish I had created my own narrative much earlier. I was fearful about saying out loud how I wanted to be seen. I think reflecting on how you define yourself and repeating it openly with the right language, means people will repeat it back to you. This way there is less room for unconscious bias because you’re filling that gap with the right words and description.” Phaedra Gibson, Global Service Training Director, Smiths Detection.