This International Women's Day, I interviewed Bijal Patel, co-founder and chief technical officer at Aurora and she shared her thoughts on how we can #BreakTheBias.
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.
1. Which bias would you like to break about women at work in 2022?
That there is only one way to act in order for a woman to be respected at work in senior positions (cold, distant or other historical stereotypes about women at work). If more people get accustomed to viewing women as leaders or valuable team members, as their true selves no matter what that is, within their sub-consciousness, then women would have an easier time being heard, respected and listened to without having to change who they are when they are at work. This can be achieved by conscious thought, recognition and challenge around how teams behave with each other, and how we as individuals react to and perceive other women we work with, who all have individual qualities, thoughts and skills that provide value.
2. Within your market / industry sector, what progress have you seen businesses take to progress gender equality?
I see more women in leadership positions, and this diversity of experience, thinking and often approach provides additional perspectives to help businesses achieve better outcomes.
3. What is one action companies can take to further balance their talent attraction strategies?
Highlight the culture of the business, in an honest way, for what the business is trying to achieve and how, within job descriptions and the hiring process.
4. What is your top advice for making job descriptions more inclusive?
Highlight desirable verses must-have skills or experience in the job description and the hiring process, to attract more women. I have seen and experienced within job applications, project work and other work situations, that women tend to undervalue themselves more or can be less confident than their male peers, and so may hold back from applying, putting themselves forward for a role or taking on more responsibility, even when they have the same skills, experience and capabilities as their peers. Identifying that and tackling it within the hiring process will help attract a wider pool of talent.
5. Do you think that more companies adopting a hybrid working pattern has helped to shift pre-conceived conceptions about flexible working for women and why?
Yes, post the pandemic I think companies have become much more open to non-traditional ways of working, be it part-time arrangements, flexibility of work hours or remote working, as companies have seen that the same goals and timelines can be achieved when their employees are working from home or have different working hours. I think going forward companies without this flexibility will lose competitive advantage in attracting or retaining talent.
6. How can organisations support their employees in raising awareness against bias?
At a macro level defining a culture that consciously tackles unconscious bias and takes action to ensure that infiltrates throughout the business – including ensuring there are diverse perspectives in team working, creating and delivering a supportive culture, and including women in positions of influence.
At a micro-level highlighting day to day things that may happen like calling out when someone gets spoken over in a meeting, ensuring everyone gets heard, and encouraging women for specific roles where they have the capability and skillset to go for them.
7. What advice would you give aspiring women in the industry you work in?
To be confident in their skills, ability and potential, and to never be afraid of trying new things as there are always new things to be learnt and skills to be gained.
8. International Women’s Day is also about celebrating women and their achievements. Who inspires you?
Every woman I have worked with has inspired me in one way or another: I admire female leaders I have worked with who have been supportive and kind to team members, and driven cultural change of teams I have worked with or in; and I admire my female peers who have all taught me things through their individuality and specialist skills, be it the way they communicate or understand things deeply, manage projects or stakeholders, or apply their specialist skills and knowledge to provide quality outcomes.
9. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Transformation of insurance needs to include culture and ways of working, not just our technology and processes. The most significant barrier is unconscious gender bias, which can manifest itself as incorrect assumptions and perceptions about individuals’ capabilities and capacity for leadership.
10. Are there any companies you admire for the ways in which they celebrate women's achievements?
At Aurora, our culture is extremely important to us, and we are consciously trying to tackle the issues we see for gender inequality in the market, as we have the ability to define our culture, how we hire and retain talent, and how we support women to grow and lead. Our intention is to create a company where we can be proud of the way we supported, celebrated and developed our team, and culture was one of the first conversations we had when forming the business. Our mission is for the answer to this question to always be Aurora for the individuals who work in our team, and for our team to always feel supported, valued and happy.