“Every single person has a responsibility to show kindness and to help undo the bias that exists in society between different groups of people. International Women’s Day is not about putting women over men, it’s about equality. So, regardless of gender, be the force for change. Challenge people’s bias comments. Challenge the nastiness. Support women, because yes, it is needed. The world is so bias towards men that we NEED to over rotate the focus onto women, we need to help women make it into tech/science/leadership roles so that we can live in a more equal society.“
I’ve been really torn on how I wanted to tackle International Women’s Day 2021. Last year I wrote an emotionally fuelled piece for International Women’s Day; I was infuriated and needed an outlet. The above is an excerpt from my piece last year. I bring it up now because this year, the International Women’s Day theme is Choose to Challenge and I thought I could write a piece that showcased some of the actions taken to pave the way for gender parity. I have felt more uplifted over the past few months about the actions I am seeing companies make. However, upon watching various events unfold throughout yesterday, (cough, Meghan, Harry, Oprah, cough) I realised that we still haven’t made the progress we need to. I can’t share a piece that doesn’t reflect my internal emotions and is at complete odds with what’s being seen in the UK media this week.
So instead, I’ve decided to write something about how we can all choose to challenge gender bias, stereotypes and inequity. Now is the (overdue) time to let the frustration fuel the action. Changing a culture doesn’t happen overnight – we know this. It doesn’t come from statements from huge corporations once a year, it comes from everyone choosing to play their part every single day.
I will be doing a much longer piece on the role of media vs. sexism, racism, hate vs. businesses. So keep an eye out for that. But for now, just how can we all play a part in our own success (as women) and other women’s success (as people)? Some practical tips, as a woman:
For the woman…
- Seek out mentors: don’t fall into the trap of JUST seeking out women to help guide you, think about strong male role models as well. I speak from personal experience when I say that a male perspective can help you breakdown the anxiety around being in a male dominated world.
- Look for opportunities to ask for experience. Don’t sit their idly wanting things but never taking the action to do something about it. Use your voice. If you’re nervous then find an ally who can help sponsor you in asking for opportunities.
- Educate yourself from other women who don’t look like you, especially if you are white, heterosexual and able-bodied. Understand that intersectionality has a huge part to play and that we need to learn about the experiences of all women. Women need to be allies to each other, and we can’t do this unless we educate ourselves and challenge our own unconscious bias. We should be making sure we are lifting up women, particularly those who are from other underrepresented groups – whether that be by race, sexuality, gender, disability or other.
For the man…
- Listen: when a female member of your team is voicing a concern and listen when they are silent. Often women, particularly younger women in the workplace, feel intimidated to speak up. Learn to notice those moments and understand how you can help them use their voice.
- Actively look for ways to champion the women around you. And do so. Put them forward for opportunities, showcase their achievements to the people who matter. Advocate women to men. Encourage other men to champion women. It really is true what they say – people relate to and believe people who look like them. If a man is standing up and championing a woman, fighting for equity then you can be sure as hell more men will follow suit than if it was a woman standing there asking.
- Be open for advice & mentoring. Please, if a woman has plucked up the courage to ask for your mentorship/advice/thoughts.. share them. It’s SO important to be a good role model, be an ally and use your privilege to help those in underrepresented groups.
Do you have any other tips?