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International Women's Day 2021: Ruth Foster

  • Publish Date: Posted about 3 years ago
  • Author:by Alan Jarque

This International Women's Day, we interviewed some of our team asking them to share their thoughts on how we can #ChooseToChallenge.  

We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.

Meet Ruth Foster, chief people officer.

1. Within your market / industry sector, what progress have you seen businesses take to progress gender equality?

Flexibility is the biggest, which has been accelerated by Covid for sure. The perception of recruitment, historically, was that you needed to work long hours, be visible in the office, and that flexibility had to be earned. That’s been turned on its head in the past year and we’ve been forced as an industry to embrace a culture that focusses on productivity rather than face time; that for me is everything. Let’s drive performance and outputs, and focus on how we get the best from people,  but recognise that we can achieve those things to an even higher standard when we embrace flexibility.

2. What is one action companies can take to further balance their talent attraction strategies? 

It’s a case of taking more positive action, to encourage applicants from a broader talent pool. Again, this shouldn’t be limited to gender, but all protected characteristics. A diverse culture is a richer culture and we should be looking to take positive strides to directly target a broader pool of talent. Again, flexibility is key: if expectations are clear and agreed, and individuals are supported, flexibility can really work in our industry.

3. What is your top advice for making job descriptions more inclusive?  

Be really conscious of language that can be discouraging to applicants, even without you realising it. What words/language may be discouraging to people? Yes, we can write statements about flexibility to encourage applicants, but we also have to be very mindful of what we may write that may be, subconsciously to us, unappealing to some demographics.

4. What can organisations do to shift pre-conceived conceptions about flexible working?

It’s the same with any change: it doesn’t happen because we say it is going to happen. It’s happening because we live and breathe it every day in the way we act and the way we behave, consistently and over time. Companies need to be clear on what flexible working means; how much flexibility? Clarity is absolutely crucial to remove any ambiguity and give people freedom within the framework that is set. Then, as mentioned before, it’s really about sticking to it, living it and breathing it.

5. How can organisations support their employees in raising awareness against bias? 

Training is everything: unconscious bias is just that, unconscious. Until someone brings it into your conscious. So, 1 it’s really making people aware, through training, of what unconscious bias is and 2 creating an environment of feedback and accountability where we call out any bias amongst us. That’s the way to really tackle it.