Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering women

International Women’s EVERYday: Why Businesses Need to #BreakTheBias

Article by Ayshea Robertson, People & Culture Director at Zen Internet

Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering womenIn light of International Women’s Day, now is an important time for businesses to take stock of the challenges and opportunities on the table to #BreakTheBias in the workplace.

With this March marking two years since the start of the pandemic, it’s clear that COVID-19 has exacerbated some of the pressure points faced by women, with bias, stereotypes, and discrimination still prevalent issues encountered by many on a daily basis. In fact, the ONS found the gender pay gap worsened in 2021, highlighting how the pandemic has set some women back even further in their efforts for workplace parity.

Despite the progress that has been made to date, it’s clear that there’s still a lot to be done to break the bias and create workplaces that are diverse, equitable, and inclusive, making this year’s International Women’s Day theme (‘#BreakTheBias’) a very apt one. But as great as it is to highlight these issues, it’s going to take more than a single day to truly make tangible, worthwhile change going forward. To collectively join this movement, businesses need to make gender equity a priority every day, rather than simply marking the occasion on one day a year.

With workplace trends such as ‘The Great Resignation’ taking centre stage, perhaps now is actually the time for ‘The Great Reflection’; businesses need to go back to the drawing board and consider what they need to do going forward.

Flexibility is non-negotiable

There’s been a widespread shift in terms of what work looks like, and for many current and prospective employees, flexible or hybrid working models are now deemed a non-negotiable. Indeed, lots of women have personal responsibilities at home, which makes travelling into a physical office a difficulty, or even an impossibility, meaning certain jobs were historically entirely out of reach for them.

Offering flexible or hybrid working options opens up considerably more opportunities for women (and men!) with external responsibilities, as an extended selection of remote roles are now more accessible. This expanding talent pool is also incredibly advantageous for businesses looking to tap into a demographic of talented and experienced women, strengthening their workforce with a broader selection of suitable candidates to choose from. Accommodating this working model shift can therefore make great strides in levelling up existing inequalities.

Bold new initiatives

There is often a reticence amongst businesses to take proactive action. However, there needs to be greater confidence across the board in enacting bold, progressive initiatives rather than being confined by legacy protocols that are simply maintained out of convenience. Instead of relying on momentum from elsewhere, businesses need to push themselves and lead by example. Progress will be slow or completely stagnant otherwise. Being complacent will also make businesses unattractive places to work, ultimately harming the business longevity and recruitment potential.

Zen employees doing #BreakTheBias pose for International Women's Day
Zen employees doing the #BreakTheBias pose for International Women's Day

If making such a change seems intimidating on your own, consider working with others to make a bigger impact. Drawing upon new perspectives and expertise can help make your goals a reality. Once such initiatives have been rolled out, businesses also need to be transparent internally and externally to keep everyone updated on not only the progress that is made, but also the focus areas where there’s room for improvement. This will help everyone align their priorities and refocus their attention where needed.

Change needs to come from above

The current leaders of today need to lead by example for incoming generations entering the workforce. Change therefore needs to come from the top and flow down; business leaders need to drive it and take ownership to prompt enterprise-wide behavioural change. It needs to become a measurable priority amongst leadership teams, and something that is reflected throughout the business in its strategies, business models, and KPIs. Having such targets and objectives will hold business leaders accountable, and help these visions become an achievable reality.

It is also important to ensure there is female influence in leadership teams so that employees across the business are truly heard and represented.

Ayshea Robertson About the author

Ayshea is an experienced MCIPD qualified HR/People Director, with a proven track record at strategic/executive/board level within a range of organisations and sectors. She works collaboratively with business leaders to design and develop people strategies which help organisations achieve their business /operational goals. Ayshea has particular interest and experience in: People First cultures, Leadership development and Diversity and Inclusion.

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

VIEW OUR 100 INSPIRING LEADERS

#BreakTheBias: Thoughts from top female tech leaders & executives

#BreakTheBias is the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, and to celebrate, we’ve collected thoughts from top female tech leaders and executives on how everyone, across every industry, can encourage a gender-equal world that is free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.


Shanthi IyerShanthi Iyer, Chief Information Officer at DocuSign

Bias, whether intentional or unconscious, makes it difficult for women to advance. It is not enough to simply recognise bias; action is required to level the playing field. With women disproportionately affected by the pandemic, particularly those from minority Black or Asian backgrounds, it is more important than ever to ensure that businesses are taking the steps necessary to achieve more equal representation and opportunity within the workplace. 

Acknowledging and eliminating bias is crucial to achieving the diversity, equality and inclusion agenda and critical in establishing more sustainable, responsible, and successful organisations.

My biggest advice for women is to know what you’re good at and how to express it. It is not uncommon for women to find it difficult to find their voice, particularly in male dominated industries. When I was younger, I was particularly shy about speaking up, as I was often mocked for having a deep voice. This impacted my confidence and meant I overlooked it as a strength. It was not until later in my career when a coach told me, “Your voice is your power. Everyone stops talking and listens when you speak.” For me, that was a eureka moment. I began to practise being more succinct in my speech. I also had to learn how to communicate openly about my skills without coming across as arrogant.

Kadri Pirn PipedriveKadri Pirn, Head of Engineering, Pipedrive

A UN report in 2020 found that almost 90% of men and women hold some sort of bias against women worldwide. International Women’s Day is an incredibly significant opportunity that allows people across the world to join forces to combat the inequalities, gender bias and discrimination women face. But also, it is a time to celebrate the achievements of women who have overcome these obstacles.  

With the world focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic for the past two years or so, progress towards gender equality in the workforce has almost certainly taken a backseat. It is vital for business leaders to reprioritize gender equality and continue breaking the bias. Not only that, but businesses also need to develop a culture that allows people to pinpoint any issues, call them out and ultimately eliminate the challenges to create a workplace where all people feel valued, no matter the gender, cultural background or social position.

Sonja GittensSonja Gittens Ottley Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Asana

International Women’s Day is an important reminder for businesses to scrutinise their diversity and inclusion efforts. As a first step, businesses must establish a culture of trust, which is the foundation on which all inclusive practices can live. Crucial to this is creating spaces for employees to express themselves; where women can be vulnerable about challenges they’re facing and be honest about any changes they believe the business needs to make. 

Once businesses have created this foundation of trust, they can then set out their inclusive practices. Working in tech I realised replicating the approach used for building a product when building a diverse and inclusive culture can be a powerful approach. Treating company culture like a product means constantly assessing and evolving through direct consultation with employees, analysing data and reviewing processes and policies. Inclusion isn’t a check-box exercise and the work does not end when these initiatives are started. Much like a product, it requires review and iteration to ensure that it is successful – only then will business truly break through biases.

Samantha Wessels, Vice President, EMEA Sales at Snyk

More and more women are entering the typically male-dominated industries of technology and sales, often at graduate level, and it’s important we take the right steps to nurture and retain them. Seeing more women in leadership positions is key, while effective mentorship is equally important and something I am personally passionate about. 

In order to bring even more women into technology sales, we need to “Break the Bias” that it is an environment where only men can thrive.

I’m seeing a shift in the industry, where leading with empathy, a traditionally “feminine” style, is bringing out the best in people and in turn driving revenue. If women can be clear about who they are working for and what they believe in from the outset, they’ll be more likely to stay.  Progressive, forward-thinking businesses that foster diversity must make it clear for existing employees as well as new joiners that they offer an environment where everyone can thrive, no matter their gender or background.

Sarah Clark, Clearco (1)Sarah Clark, Head of UK at Clearco

This year’s theme is break the bias and the VC community is no stranger to these issues. We need to ensure that the businesses which receive funding have diverse founders and allow women to take the plunge to start a business. When raising capital it can be more about who you know and who you are rather than the potential of your business. Revenue-based financing is paving the way for all founders to have better access to capital.

To ensure that bias is eliminated from the funding process, we, at Clearco, use AI to evaluate a business and decide whether it is a sound investment – this helps to remove bias. Technology holds the power to help women break through the barriers to investment and power new businesses 

At Clearco, nearly 30% of businesses in our UK portfolio are led by women, with a staggering 50% of our current global portfolio are businesses led by women. Our leadership team at Clearco in Europe is almost entirely women, and we’re proud to create a diverse and inclusive work environment to support a gender equal world. 

Peggy de Lange, Vice President of International Expansion at Fiverr 

The Equal Pay Act received its Royal Assent in 1963, making it illegal to pay women less than men for the same job. Yet, almost 60 years later men are paid 20% more on average than their female counterparts – showing there’s still a lot of work to do to buck the trend around pay. 

Fortunately, the freelance community is reversing the trend and breaking the bias. By offering individuals the platform and the power to negotiate their own salaries, Fiverr research reveals female freelancers on our platform are actually earning 9% more than their male counterparts. 

What I love about my job as part of the international freelance community is being able to offer opportunities to women who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic – in terms of job losses and pay – and showing them that by going freelance they may be compensated generously for their talents. Fiverr for example, is a platform where individuals are judged solely on the quality of their work. Credentials and reviews are the key criteria freelancers are judged on, which means gender, sexual orientation, race or religion do not affect the hiring process. 

I am a huge advocate for inspiring women to know their financial worth, and selling their skills accordingly – as the famous saying goes, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get.’ 

June Ko, CircleCIJune Ko, General Counsel, CircleCI

“International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on whether you live and work in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive world. We’ve certainly made progress over the years, but important work remains ahead of us. From the recent nomination of the first Black woman to serve on the US Supreme Court, to companies publishing annual Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) reports, I have a lot of hope that we are creating positive change for future generations. However, bias still exists, and to break the bias we need to call it out when we see it – in short, creating awareness with others is critical. We need to lead with empathy and get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations.

This is especially true in tech. Technology touches everything in our lives and has consequences for everyone across every background. It’s more important than ever that women and all who are underrepresented have a voice and are involved in decision making, research and technology. We can empower each other by recognizing achievements along the way, while promoting a clear vision of how greater diversity and equity in tech is not just a box to be checked off, but is vital to designing a world that works for everyone.” 

Laura FinkLaura Fink, VP of People, Healx

Despite 50% of the UK population being women, only 26% of all workers in one of the most sought-after sectors to work in – the technology industry – are women. On International Women’s Day (along with the other 364 days of the year) it is vital for companies to tackle the bias women face working in technology and build the necessary frameworks to allow them to thrive. At Healx, we strive to be leaders in setting an example for this change and, as a mission-driven company working hard to find treatments for people who are often excluded from access, inclusion sits at the very heart of what we do. 

We understand the wide benefits that a diverse workforce can bring. Teams from different ages, genders, races and backgrounds offer a melting pot of knowledge and experiences that a homogenous group simply do not. This has been proven in a study that found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation. The more that businesses focus on creating a diverse workforce, the bigger the impact on innovation and growth.

Companies also need to consider what it takes to attract this diverse talent.

Only once employees – and potential new hires – can see themselves reflected in their work, their teams and their leaders, will they be more likely to join or stay with a company. This means actively going out to where diverse candidates are and developing attractive growth, development and people policies that create an environment where employees feel genuinely seen and valued. 

It also means cultivating a culture internally that demonstrates your commitment to diversity and inclusion. At Healx, employees are encouraged and empowered to share their unique experiences with the rest of the company – and this cycle of sharing and learning is really helping us to raise awareness and learn about the biases and assumptions people face day to day, as well as reflect on what we can do to check our own biases and show up as allies.  

Paula Flannery, ProcorePaula Flannery, Strategic Product Consultant, Procore

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day rings truer than ever: businesses need to break the bias and change the career stereotypes which women face everyday by offering new opportunities to learn and develop. The construction industry represents fertile ground for women to do that. And never has it been more vital to do so, especially as the construction industry’s output begins to bounce back. However, it isn’t just about putting more boots on the ground at construction sites, but opening up the vast opportunities construction offers on the whole, to women. Whether it’s as an engineer, an architect, a surveyor, a data analyst, CEO, or sales person, the industry needs to ignite greater enthusiasm for bringing women in. Tackling the gender divide in this way not only offers a more diverse set of voices, experiences and perspectives, but also skills which lead to a more creative, fast-moving and innovative industry.

Pip White, SlackPip White, Senior Vice President and General Manager of EMEA at Slack

International Women’s Day offers an opportunity for businesses to reflect on how they can further encourage diversity, equity and inclusion, and, as the theme indicates this year, break the bias. This is vital to employee experience, as our Future Forum survey shows that employees who rank their companies the highest in investment in DE&I score the most for overall engagement. The current shift towards a digital-first world offers a great opportunity for businesses to redesign work and integrate diversity, equity, and belonging, throughout their policies and practices.

One way organisations can really make an impact and level the playing field is by listening to what employees want and by offering increased flexibility.

Our research reveals the desire for flexibility is particularly strong among those who have historically been underrepresented in knowledge work, such as women and working mothers. But in order to really make a difference, managers must lead by example. Firms also have a responsibility to evaluate how they can redesign workplaces, not only to enhance belonging and social connection when employees gather in person, but so women feel they can be heard in a safe space. The time is now so let’s take action.

Clare Loveridge, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Arctic Wolf

The technology industry has historically always been a male dominated industry but I am proud to see so many incredibly talented women coming through the industry and breaking the bias. If we want to continue on this upward trajectory, businesses need to take a proactive approach on their diversity and inclusion initiatives and strategies. While it is important to attract and hire, it is more important to be creating a culture of inclusivity and belonging so that when hires are made, they stay!

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

VIEW OUR 100 INSPIRING LEADERS

A group of miniature men and women standing on either side of a pile of coins, equal pay, gender pay gap

International Women’s Day 2022: Overcoming unconscious bias for a more equal future

International Women’s Day has been raising awareness and striving for gender equality for 111 years.

Whilst much has been achieved in this time, Shirley Knowles, Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Progress, reminds us why such a day is still so important in 2022: “International Women’s Day is meant to celebrate women and recognize their achievements. For too long, women have been left out of the history books and decision-making conversations, and that is especially true for the STEM fields. Names like Rosalind Franklin, Katherine Johnson and Mae C. Jemison should be just as recognisable as Steve Jobs. Women’s contributions to the STEM fields should be acknowledged and praised, and we need to continue this momentum for all girls and women pursuing these fields. And how do we do that? By investing in them.”

With this in mind, WeAreTechWomen spoke to industry experts to determine why there is still such a gender gap in society, and the technology industry in particular, and what organisations can be doing to close the gap and support their female employees.

Institutional bias from a young age

One of the main barriers preventing women from entering the technology industry is the pre-existing gender bias that makes the sector so male-dominated.

“The biggest barriers in technology for women are what we believe they can accomplish, and attitudes surrounding that on an educational level,” explains Lucy Zhang, Senior Digital Designer at Plutora. “Most people can agree that the idea that women are better suited for certain types of work is outdated, but this notion still permeates society and is difficult to tackle head-on.”

“Of course, the lack of diversity in tech is not a problem solely facilitated by the employment sector, for many, the issues begin far before entering the workforce,” adds Caroline Seymour, VP of Product Marketing at Zerto, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. “Young girls face notable obstacles from very early on in their schooling, whether that is unconscious bias, or being actively discouraged from STEM subjects. Therefore, by the time they are making career choices, many have not taken on higher STEM education and therefore do not have the necessary qualifications to enter the science and technology sectors as easily as their male counterparts.” 

Samantha Humphries, Head of Security Strategy EMEA at Exabeam agrees that “the biggest obstacles women face often start long before they enter formal employment. Young girls face conscious and unconscious bias throughout their entire schooling and as a result, often overlook or are actively discouraged from pursuing STEM subjects. But, is encouraging girls to participate in traditional STEM subjects the only way forward? I’m a big supporter of adding an ‘A’ for ‘Arts’ to the acronym. Creativity is needed across the board in tech roles, and often girls do levitate towards these kinds of subjects. If we did a better job of promoting the importance of creative thinking in technology, we could inspire more women and girls into the industry – both as they begin their careers, and to join the industry later in life too.”

Fight for fairness

With awareness of the institutional bias that is still so prominent within society, it is important that organisations fight against this and have initiatives in place to support women in tech. 

“We continue to champion the women in our business and celebrate their achievements around the world,” emphasises Dominique Fougerat – EVP People & Culture at Axway. “We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations, and celebrate women’s achievements. We support local education programs to contribute to start inclusion earlier in life than just at work. We are on an irresistible path to a different kind of society and tech must reflect this challenge to all businesses: We challenge all businesses to join the discussion and, if we pull together as an industry, we can improve as a sector and support the technology women of today and inspire those of tomorrow.”

In order to make these big societal changes, smaller steps are needed. Focusing on making recruitment and progression processes inclusive is an important first step for achieving these bigger aims.

“Recruitment, personal development, and promotion processes are key to building a work environment that fosters gender equality,” states Eulalia Flo, Sales Director, Iberia at Commvault. “We have to be careful that they don’t continue to perpetuate inequality. If I want to recruit more women and I know that there are not many female graduates in one career, it would be good to ask in which other careers I can find them (for example, there are more women in aeronautics than in mechanical engineering, or in biomedical engineering than in telecommunications).”

“Using language that is female inclusive and drawing out the benefits that would attract within HR sites and in job descriptions is also key,” adds Sharon Forder, SVP Marketing at Glasswall. “Practising what you preach by actively promoting females into leadership roles and helping them to become part of the ‘face of the company’ will contribute to breaking down the long standing perceptions of ‘it’s a male dominated sector’.” 

Furthermore, with domestic duties and childcare responsibilities falling on many women, it is important that organisations are mindful of this and don’t prioritise men without these burdens for promotions and other workplace advantages. The COVID-19 pandemic has been beneficial in this case by bringing about a greater appreciation for flexible working.

As Bruce Martin – CFO at Tax Systems explains: “Organisations need to open their businesses up to the large diverse talent pool that is too often overlooked – the part time workers, which statistically are more likely to be women. Challenging the traditional 9 to 5 / 5 days a week approach is one way to achieve this.

“At Tax Systems we have embraced agile working practices and worked hard throughout the company to encourage and support part time and flexible working before, during and now after the COVID pandemic. By being more accommodating and taking on the objective approach of trusting our team to get the work done, we are able to widen our talent pool and get the right people in the right roles – irrespective of location, time constraints or personal circumstance.”

A brighter future

Organisations are certainly becoming more aware of their role in closing the gender gap and diversity is now a topic of boardroom discussion in many businesses. As we continue to move in the right direction and push further for equality, International Women’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to “celebrate women all over the world who pushed forward in an effort to #BreakTheBias so others could thrive,” notes Julie Giannini, Chief Customer Officer at Egnyte. “While the journey is far from over – with women in leadership remaining underrepresented and gender biases still prevalent across many industries – we can take the time to celebrate the women who got us here, as well as those who keep pushing.”

Mariam Karamyan, Associate Software Development Manager at HelpSystems concludes: “This International Women’s Day I want to encourage organisations to focus on what more they can be doing to promote female role models and celebrate the women they currently have in leadership positions. At the end of the day, this will not only benefit women but the company as a whole. Men and women see things differently and bring unique ideas to the table. With true diversity of thought, we can achieve better problem solving and boost performance at the business unit level.”

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

VIEW OUR 100 INSPIRING LEADERS

Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering women

What does #breakthebias mean to leaders in STEM?

Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering women

Each year International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8, with the first day being held in 1911.

Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day.

This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias – which looks actively call out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping each time you see it.

To mark International Women’s Day we spoke to Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, Chief Executive Officer and President of NMITE; Samantha Lewis, Director of HR, NMITE; and Gary Wood, Academic Director, NMITE about their thoughts on the day and #breakthebias.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Elena Rodriguez-FalconElena: International Women’s Day is an important day when we remind ourselves of how far we’ve come in terms of gender equality and gender inclusion. It’s a moment to celebrate each other, to celebrate women’s achievements, to raise each other up. But unfortunately, it’s also a day when we must reflect on all the obstacles we still have to overcome, and the gaps that we still need to bridge. And if I were to be really, honest, I would prefer if we didn’t have an International Women’s Day, because that would mean that we achieved what we needed to achieve.

Do you feel there are barriers and biases within the engineering industry that prevent women from achieving their full potential? If so, what?

Elena: Yes, of course. There are always barriers and indeed for women in engineering profession, a prevalent bias is that women won’t be able to be committed the same way as men because of their caring responsibilities, which women still largely have. It’s also important though, to mention that we’ve come a long way since days where that was completely a fact. There are many things we’ve done to prevent that. But there is also a reality. There aren’t enough women in engineering. And, one of the reasons is because we, as women, have clear biases about the profession. We worry about whether we will be the only woman in the workforce, and often it’s true. I worry about the gender pay gap, and that is often true still, unfortunately. So, I think that the better question is, what can we do to break the bias and get more women into the profession?

Samantha LewisSamantha: I do. I spent 16 years in manufacturing. I think it’s still perceived by many as a man’s game. The perception is its oil, and rags, and spanners. And engineering isn’t just that. engineering is so much more. And I think if we can expose engineering in its entirety to more women, more women will be attracted to the trade, and that shift could then slowly happen. I think there’s a lot of people that still believe women should stay at home and raise the children, men go and do the engineering roles. And that isn’t the same anymore. Women, they’re curious, they have passion, they have grit, they have determination. And all of those are things that make a good engineer. They’re not traits that are just seen in men. So, the more we can expose females to what engineering really is, the more we can change that perception.

What more should be done to #BreakTheBias and encourage women to pursue STEM subjects as a profession?

Elena: This is one of the most important questions, but also the most difficult one. If you look around, we have serious problems in terms of poverty, climate change, we’re experiencing a worldwide pandemic and we need engineers, scientists, mathematicians to help us solve these problems and others. But the reality is that we don’t have enough engineers.

The number of women who graduate from engineering is such a small proportion and the number who practice engineering is even smaller. And professional engineering bodies like the Royal Academy of Engineering, have created massive campaigns and resources to educate the educators, train the parents, the careers advisors, and so on. And those are working to some extent. There is so much more that can be done though, and that’s the challenge. We still haven’t cracked it and the next step includes everyone being involved.

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What is NMITE doing to #BreakTheBias and encourage more women to study engineering? 

Elena: Our female engineers and colleagues are working on outreach activities, marketing, and student recruitment to ensure we are present and sharing what we have achieved and can achieve. We have looked at the barriers to entry to higher education. One of them is A-level math, for example, which we’ve removed, reducing the funneling that often happens. We’ve looked at investing heavily on female campaigns to ensure that young people out there and their parents can better understand the profession. Also, we have female only bursaries, which is very uncommon, and I think is incredibly important to celebrate. The most important and I think more transformational contribution that NMITE is making to gender balance and gender representation is our pedagogical model, in which we ensure that it’s hands on learning, problem based learning with different industries and sectors represented so that there is a variety of experiences that people out there could experience. Hopefully it will attract more diverse engineers and certainly more women.

Samantha: We are making ourselves known as a brand, where we’re working within the community. We don’t require maths or physics A levels. We look at characteristics and traits more than just subjects and grades. Grades are important, but so are what makes that individual and what makes them become an engineer.

So, the determination, grit, passion, that need to succeed, all those traits can be seen in both females and males. Hopefully, that will open the door to attract more females into engineering. We’re looking at ways we can attract females. We are hopefully going to have the women’s bursary or females bursaries to attract them.

We are working with schools and colleges. We’re hoping diversity breeds diversity. So the more females we can attract, that will attract more females. So our staff is 50/50 gender-balanced. Our student cohort aims to be 50/50 gender-balanced because we want people to feel comfortable. So it doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is, male or female; it doesn’t really matter. We want people to belong here across the whole board.

Are you personally doing anything to #BreakTheBias and champion equality, diversity and inclusion, both in general and within your role at NMITE?

Elena: Absolutely. This has been a lifelong ambition of mine to help and contribute to getting more women into engineering. I’m a member of the Advance HE Strategic Advisory Board on Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. I chair the board of trustees of the Engineering Development Trust, which is an organization that works with young people to raise aspirations. I also often lead on national debates. For example, last year, I challenged the professional engineering bodies to change the name of the profession to call engineers “ingeniators”. And the rationale was that in other languages, the word ‘engineering’ comes from ingenuity and innovation. And of course, in English, it sounds as if it comes from an engine. And that caused a huge debate, which, of course, also makes engineering a bit more visible.

But more personally, I participate in talks with young people. I talk to peers and parents, and I’m often at the forefront of those conversations. And of course, leading NMITE is one of the most important activities that I can do personally, so that I can raise awareness of engineering and of the value of engineering in the world.

What advice/words of wisdom would you give to your younger self and to aspiring female engineers, to help overcome biases?

Elena: When I was at university and deciding what to study, I was considering medicine, but I discovered that I didn’t like blood. So, I decided to do something else, which would allow me to help people. So, what I would tell my young self is that engineering is a caring profession. It’s not often how people understand engineering, but without engineering, we wouldn’t have the tools that are used in practicing medicine or the tools to do nursing or the tools to make vaccines. And that is something that I would’ve liked someone to tell me.

What I would say to young people now, particularly this generation who are really worried about their future, is that if you want to be part of the change that you want to see, consider engineering, because then you will have a very important role to play to help save the world.

Gary WoodGary: I’d remind everybody that biases exist in the minds of people. And so, in that sense, they’re relatively easy for us to overcome, we just need change our thinking. We must be able to challenge our thinking and be willing to follow our passions and interests. And I think that as more and more women do that, then it becomes easier for more women to follow in their footsteps. We need to have people who are prepared to challenge the bias by being the future that they want to see, then other people (both men and women) in the profession can help with that by supporting and recognizing that they need to play a part in making this a comfortable, and safe, and supportive environment for everybody around them to work in. And through that, we can then start to pave the way for more women being able to follow and come into the profession.


bias corporates, International Women's Day, #breakthebias

How the fintech industry can #BreakTheBias

bias corporates, International Women's Day, #breakthebias

Article provided by Annette Evans, VP of People & Culture – Global Processing Services

Fintech is inexorably linked with innovation, open-mindedness and collaboration.

These ingredients are the lifeblood of our industry, so you would be forgiven for thinking fintechs are pioneers of diversity. Sadly, whilst much progress has been made, this is far from the case.

GPS recently sponsored the Diversity for Growth Report in partnership with Findexable which uncovered a surprising picture of an industry suffering a woeful lack of diversity, particularly when it comes to female representation.

There were two statistics which leapt out at me when I read the findings. Firstly, there is a consensus that a lack of gender balance means men’s ideas dominate every stage of the fintech value chain. Secondly, rapidly scaling companies are struggling to balance diversity commitments with the challenges of building teams in new regions at scale and speed.

This is at odds with fintech firms who seem to agree that a commitment to being fully inclusive makes good business sense. And they are absolutely right. It is well-documented that well-managed, diverse groups outperform homogenous ones, and that diversity leads to a higher collective intelligence, better decision-making, and accelerated innovation.

Beyond that, it makes clear commercial sense. It is statistically proven that having more women in technical positions leads to more customers because they develop products specifically with women in mind.

Breaking the Bias

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias and in my opinion, to truly break the bias we need fintech leaders to be more open-minded about where the talent they hire comes from. If we continue to recruit from the same talent pool, we cannot be surprised to see the same talent at mid and senior levels and wonder where all the women are.

Change is happening, but real change takes time. We are starting to see a new generation of diverse talent enter the talent pool and work their way up the ladder. This will, of course, eventually diversify talent at a more senior level, but it may take a decade or more to see a real difference in the demographics of fintech boardrooms.

In the meantime, I encourage businesses to see this International Women’s Day as an opportunity to review their business culture. If you have a low number of women at your company in senior and technical roles, it may be time to ask questions around why so few women choose to work there. In doing so, you may potentially identify an environment where women are not given enough opportunities to shine, or a culture which unconsciously favours those who already fit the mould.

Those who fail to ask these difficult questions risk losing out. After all, women understand how women think and what they need, so you need women in your team if you want to try and build and sell a product to women.

Knowing bias exists is not enough to make a change, and significant change will not happen overnight. But by being accountable for our own bias, examining business practices through the #BreakTheBias lens, and taking incremental steps towards real representation, the fintech industry can be a leader of diversity as successfully as it leads in innovation.

This International Women’s Day, I urge all fintechs to take an objective look at their teams and ask themselves this question…Are we part of the problem?

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

VIEW OUR 100 INSPIRING LEADERS

Four young strong women or girls standing together. Group of friends or feminist activists support each other, women supporting women

What does International Women's Day mean to leaders in the tech industry?

Four young strong women or girls standing together. Group of friends or feminist activists support each other, women supporting women

International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity – a particularly relevant issue in the tech industry which continues to have a noticeable lack of women at every organisational level from Board members to new recruits.

Vice President of Sales at CDW UK, Penny Williams has worked all her professional career in the technology industry and has experienced both progress and setbacks towards the ongoing goal to build a more equal and inclusive industry.

Here, with input from other team members at CDW UK, she shares insights on what #breakthebias means to individuals and what businesses need to do to encourage diversity and inclusion.

Penny Williams CDWInternational Women’s Day (IWD) isn important way to celebrate women’s achievements, giving everyone a voice and a seat at the table is an essential part of sustainable social and economic development, but it also creates room for diversity of thought which leads to greater innovation. In other words, gender equality means progress for all.

However, simply recruiting more women to fill tech roles is not enough. Change must come from company practices and policies, that can, often unintentionally, be biased toward one group of employees. Companies need to create and foster an inclusive and diverse workforce that respects each individual regardless of factors like their gender, religion, age, background and personal beliefs.

I’m proud to work for CDW UK, which has women in key roles across the business. From the top-down, women are championed, and our wider DE&I strategy aims to foster a diverse, fair and inclusive culture across the business to build pipelines of talent that focus on capability. But I know we, like many in the tech industry, still have a long way to go to achieve full gender parity. That’s why we invest in programmes to improve diversity and inclusion in the business, such as our Women’s International Network (WIN). WIN is an evolving and inclusive group for all employees that promotes equality, agility and personal development while also establishing a community and culture that supports women in their progression – both personally and professionally.

I have been incredibly fortunate in my career to have strong role models that have helped me to find my voice and believe in myself. Over to my coworkers to let them highlight what IWD and #BreakTheBias means to them.

Talent is everywhere but companies need to make more of a proactive effort to look outside the usual places. To change this and create opportunities for the many, companies should take a chance on those who may not necessarily fit the job description. This includes young, aspirational women with limited experience, those from different industries but have transferrable skills, or those who may not have had the “conventional” career path so far.

— Jessica Poulter, Apple Partner Development Manager

It takes courage to address biased and offensive language and conduct in the workplace. Key to this is creating a safe space for workers to have candid discussions around social injustices. Not only does this promote self-awareness, so that people can recognise and combat the biases they hold, but it also allows us to make the necessary changes for future generations of women in IT. We can all #BreakTheBias, but it will require involvement from every individual of the organisation.

— Hannah Hodkin, ITIL Principal

Organisations must provide equal opportunities for development and progression, not just in empty words but in policies and systems. In instances where individuals disregard these policies and continue to be influenced by bias, finding an ally, or a community of these, can help to support with the escalation and correction of this behaviour.

 

The saying ‘strength in numbers’ resonates strongly here as a unified challenge of discrimination, conscious or unconscious, becomes incredibly difficult to ignore and will lead to senior intervention designed to #BreakTheBias. Taking the first step may seem daunting but the faster that education to harmonise company culture is conducted, the faster behaviour leading to prejudice, and discomfort will be eliminated.

— Rajiv Narayan, Product Manager

#BreakTheBias is about creating a level playing field that does not marginalise any groups or individuals. This means allowing room for everyone to show up as their authentic selves, without any fear or second guesses, and recognising that our differences are what moves us forward.

 

However, we cannot build for the future without having everyone in the room, this goes for all genders, races, religions, cultures and backgrounds. Senior leadership teams must be aware of the position they’re in and the power they have when it comes to implementing change. Business leaders should take the time to get to know individuals across the business, listen to their needs and take the required action. Through this process, organisations can review their existing policies to ensure that they are meeting the needs of their employees. At CDW UK, policies around menopause and maternity leave, supporting women into leadership roles, flexible working, hiring processes and attracting diverse talent are constantly being evaluated within our WIN group.

— Jessica Whellams, Head of Community and DE&I

#BreakTheBias is about moving forward from antiquated notions that career paths and industries should be determined by gender. For me, this evokes an image of tearing something down and reconstructing it in a new and better way – I think the tech industry has a huge opportunity to do this, as do many other industries.

 

People are often inspired to do something when they see others like them do it which is why visibility and representation are key. For example, when women see other women in roles, they find it easier to imagine themselves in those roles and are more likely to put themselves forward. I was fortunate that my mom worked in IT and inspired me to explore the tech industry, and I’m so glad I did as it has led me to an exciting career path.

— Flannery Devine Gibbons, Category Lead – Cloud

#BreakTheBias goes beyond gender and women are leading the charge towards a more inclusive workplace across the board. To me, seeing a diverse world, where difference is valued and accepted and decisions are free of stereotypes and discrimination, is what it truly requires for the bias to be broken.

 

Considering my personal actions, I strive to listen, learn, and engage in conversations to challenge the status quo. In other words, I embody the change that I want to see at work, home and in the communities that I am a part of. But it takes more than a few voices, we all must come together in a collective effort to drive change.

— Mobeena Iqbal-Ahmad, Marketing Manager

#BreakTheBias involves slowing down the decision-making process to make sure that I can challenge my own thinking, dig into my initial responses, determine if there is bias influencing me and correct my actions accordingly. Even those individuals that embrace diversity and enjoy leaning about different cultures may still be engrained with unconscious bias stemming from their social upbringings. In many cases, this type of bias can be more challenging to break based on its hidden and seemingly harmless nature. Therefore, I believe that the first step is to accept that we all have some degree of bias as this will allow us to correctly challenge our thinking to ensure that it does not impact our actions.

— Mark Murphy, Head of Technical Operations and Physical Security

Achieving dreams is hard work but that ‘door or ceiling’ should be non-existent. I’m delighted to see this increasingly become a reality with women beginning to step into roles where they can help build environments free of resistance, discrimination, harm, and fear. As these barriers continue to be broken, I would advise all women to truly believe in themselves and their dreams. Having faith in your abilities, your drive, and your determination to succeed will go a long way to empower the next generation of resilient female professionals who recognise that the views of others shouldn’t, and won’t, impact what they want to do in life.

— Julie Marsh, Head of UK Coworker Services

Too often, women are hindered by self-doubt therefore reiterating the crucial role that mentors can play in encouraging career progression. Building on from this, it is important to have visibility of senior women role models who take a proactive approach to knowledge and experience sharing – after all, ‘You Can’t Be What You Can’t See’.

 

It is vitally important that assumptions about women’s personal lives stop characterising decision-making. These private factors, such as backgrounds or relationships, should never play a role in professional career decisions or restrict a woman’s opportunities. People need to break down barriers and stop forming assumptions as these generalisations are currently leading to the denial of opportunities for women.

 

I’d encourage all women to embrace big steps in their career. If you don’t believe in yourself and don’t seize chances when they arise, you’ll simply be holding yourself back. You’ll never know your real potential unless you take the next step. Be bolder.

— Susan Cotton, Head of Brand Marketing

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

VIEW OUR 100 INSPIRING LEADERS