In 1908 New York, 15,000 women marched through the streets demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. This was the first celebrated International Women’s Day in America, with other countries swiftly following suit. Although we have moved on leaps and bounds since then, gender bias is still alive and well in some organisations with many industries still male-dominated, even with hugely influential women such as Beyonce, Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey still fighting for women’s rights and equality.
The fight for equality isn’t any one person’s responsibility, but the collective efforts of everyone who cares about human rights. Men have a huge role in the fight for gender equality, gender partnerships at work require commitment within the corporate culture as well as with individual employees. It’s simply no good to only have women attend events and workshops about gender equality – the collective mindset needs to change and become aligned.
Belinda Parmar OBE is the CEO of The Empathy Business, which aims to embed empathy into businesses and organisations, and she believes ‘we must promote empathy to avoid power struggles and neutralise fears and suspicions. In these fractured and divisive times, empathy has the power to unite us’ (The Guardian). Increasing a companies’ level of empathy and humanity benefits all employees, not just a specific group. Belinda argues that it not only helps with colleagues’ relationships but also with complaint handling, product development, company culture, and the environment we work in; which can only be a good thing for everyone regardless of gender or race, right?
Hayley Barnard is a speaker and expert on unconscious bias and inclusiveness, and her talks are designed to ensure employees reach their potential in a culture of inclusivity, allowing people to truly be themselves at work. She aims to draw attention to how common unconscious bias is and if we make it a conscious thing we can create an environment which is more inclusive for all employees. Inclusion is feeling welcomed, included and integrated, it is being given equal access to opportunities and being able to contribute ideas and concerns whilst also being treated with respect.
Hayley discusses how organisations can be truly diverse, but they must also be inclusive, as Vernā Myers explains – ‘diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance’. Unconscious bias is not premeditated, it isn’t intentionally malicious, and it is displayed subtly through micro-behaviours and micro-inequalities. Hayley explains that bias is often displayed very subtly – we lean forward a little less, turn away slightly from him or her, close our body a bit, listen less, or be a bit less expressive. We stand a little farther away, smile less, make less eye contact, laugh at jokes a bit less. Our bias comes out in our behaviour, whether we intend it to or not, but the more aware of it we are the more likely we are to consciously stop these biases. Hayley says ‘diversity is a reality; inclusion is a choice’ and it is a collective mindset to make that choice.
We have seen a shift in the past decade for organisations to become more diverse, and to try and instil this into their employees and colleagues. With many organisations focusing their annual or quarterly events on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, with particular focus on the LGBT community and gender diversity.
Hayley gives 5 steps on holding yourself more accountable and becoming more conscious of our thoughts and actions:
- Question your first impressions
- Justify your decisions
- Report clear D&I workforce metrics
- Benchmark with colleagues
- Ask for feedback from colleagues & ask how they feel
To celebrate International Women’s Day & diversity and inclusion within business we have hand-picked some of the world’s leading diversity, inclusion and empathy speakers to gain insight from at your event or conference:
Amy Beeton is the only living British female mountaineer to have attempted K2, operating in a tough male-oriented environment.
Belinda puts the case for businesses to be more empathetic, drawing on tangible ‘nudges’ that companies can implement to improve their empathy levels to drive profit.
Vice-Chair of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills external Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Panel, Charlotte is also leading the City of London’s Diversity Programme “The Power of Diversity”.
Hayley tackles issues surrounding unconscious bias and inclusiveness, ensuring that her ideas have real value for audiences’ working lives.
#BeBoldForChange this International Women’s Day!