International Women’s Day 2022: Rethink behaviours and #Breakthebias
8 Mar 2022
Group People and Culture Director
International Women’s Day (8th March) is a day to join voices around the world to celebrate all women, in all of their diversities, and to champion their achievements be they social, economic, political or cultural. This year’s theme is breaking the bias. The day provides an opportunity to reflect and re-build a post pandemic work environment without bias, and act upon opportunities for change to the benefit of everyone.
International Women’s Day matters because we’re not there yet.
Research undertaken by Pearson in October 2021 found that two-thirds of women in the UK believe bias and discrimination are still stopping them from finding jobs. Furthermore, a study by Samsung Pioneers (2021), found that less than one in five employees believe there is gender equality in their workplace and nearly half of workers believe certain jobs are exclusively ‘male’ or female.’ STEM industries, within which Pick Everard rests, are particularly affected by such views. Girls and women are systematically tracked away from science, technology, engineering and maths throughout their education. This creates obstacles for the attraction, retention and progression of women in STEM careers. In turn, those that do make it into these industries widely report that they have to work harder than men to prove themselves.
Bias can be seen in the conditions that women experience also. Covid-19 had a near-immediate effect on women’s employment with more women being furloughed or out of work as a result of the pandemic. Research undertaken by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey showed how the implications of the virus dealt a major setback for women, with working mothers, female managers and black women particularly challenged. Women with children under 10, for example, were reported to spend more time on household responsibilities and home schooling during the pandemic compared to men. This is likely to have had an impact on the widening of the gender pay gap that was reported in the largest UK organisations last year.
It is clear that a failure to overcome bias could cost employers and society overall.
As well as being the right thing to do, addressing bias, conscious or unconscious, is critical to furthering the diversity, equity and inclusion agenda. Bias affects our people-related decisions, especially when it comes to recruitment, promotion, reward and development. A reduced talent pool, negative impact on employee experience, untapped potential and a lack of creativity are all risks of a workplace with bias. There are sound commercial considerations too. A work environment underpinned with dignity and equality is one that is more productive and more likely to be profitable.
The theme of #breakthebias for the 2022 International Women’s Day provides the opportunity for individuals and organisations to re-think their role in this crucial area, challenge existing norms and aspire to level the playing field.
With so much still to do across the industry, we never stop looking to make improvements to our own approach at Pick Everard. Some of our work in this area over the last couple of years has included enhancing our family-friendly policies and benefits such as enhanced maternity & paternity leave and childcare support. We’ve also joined the movement to hybrid working which has presented a positive opportunity for greater balance for everyone. This will unlock new professional opportunities for women, but we’d like to go further still with consideration of ‘time-out’ programmes.
We also recognise the importance of taking personal responsibility for our own biases. In 2021 we rolled out Dignity at Work training which included information on unconscious biases and how to overcome them. We know that if we strive to be more aware, adapt our behaviours and lead by example to inspire others we can be more mindful, measured and fair in our approach and the decisions we take. Training ourselves and our line managers on different ways of working needs to be at the heart of this.
Developing women for their first management or leadership roles is also important. In November 2021 we launched our new RISE mentoring programme, enabling staff to benefit and develop from the experiences of others within the business. As well as this, we provide external coaching, extensive self-led learning opportunities and a new management programme is under development which will include consideration of the unique experiences and support that women need when leading teams.
There is more we can do at Pick Everard to shine a light on the attitudes we hold and the behaviours we demonstrate together. We are passionate about supporting women in their career development and we’ll be opening up more conversations about what our female colleagues experience so that we can continue our own approach to inclusivity and #breakthebias. We hope that you too will join this important journey.