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.