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?
I am very fortunate to be surrounded by forward-thinking, supportive colleagues. I am afforded the flexibility I need to balance my work commitments and my life as a working mum, but there is a continued expectation and reality in the workplace that a woman/mother is the primary caregiver. This has been highly reported in the media since the beginning of the pandemic with studies showing that women took up the lion’s share of childcare commitments during the lockdowns.
A further step to support women and reduce gender bias is for the flexible attitudes we now see towards working mothers, which have undoubtedly improved over the last decade, to be afforded to all men; enabling them to readily support the mother of their children without the perception that they are lacking commitment or not putting in the hours.
2. Within your market / industry, what progress have you seen businesses take to progress gender equality?
The mandated working from home directives during 2020/2021 has humanised the whole workforce and helped to address a number of biases, not just gender. People’s children, spouses, partners, flatmates, dogs, cats and hamsters have become a more visible part of their work identity. We have moved away from the “leave your personal life at the door” attitude and have moved towards one which encourages “bringing your whole self to work.” The humanisation of our workforce, in my view, will massively reduce the effects of bias as a result of gender, race, sexual orientation, the list goes on. Businesses have a responsibility to provide supportive, nurturing and safe environments free from any bias for their teams to flourish in.
3. What is one action companies can take to further balance their talent attraction strategies?
Where the business activity allows it, then the action businesses can take to attract talent is to adopt truly flexible working environments, with clear expectations and accountability based on results driven performance, therefore eliminating presenteeism cultures.
4. What is your top advice for making job descriptions more inclusive?
Leave job descriptions open to have an element of flexibility; be clear as to what is essential for the position as well as what areas of the role could be adjusted, enhanced or scaled back to suit the right candidate for the position.
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?
Generally, yes, but flexible working should be standard for all employees without question for the root cause of utilising this or needing it. So much focus is paid to working mothers needing flexibility, but what about the working fathers, people caring for sick or elderly relatives, or employees suffering from ongoing illnesses. Let’s be fair to one another; we all need some flexibility from time to time and offering this without recrimination or repercussion just makes good business sense.
6. How can organisations support their employees in raising awareness against bias?
Create a solutions-based culture where preconceived ideas are challenged, and the workforce is encouraged to support the idea of a ‘first principles approach’ to problems that arise.
7. What advice would you give aspiring women in the industry you work in?
Be yourself. It’s exhausting trying to be anything or anyone else.
8. International Women’s Day is also about celebrating women and their achievements. Who inspires you?
So many women inspire me for the sheer magnitude of their achievements, or the level of their commitment and fortitude of their passion. The women I find most inspiring however, are those who succeed with grace and integrity in the face of adversity. Rosa Parks was the epitome of these qualities.
9. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Sadly, the answer to this in 2022 is still men, or the “Queen-Bee” female leaders who have an army of male team members and don’t pave the way for the rising female stars.
10. Are there any companies you admire for the ways in which they celebrate women's achievements?
Sanne is a fantastic example of a company that celebrates women’s achievements and has embraced inclusivity within its culture. As of this year, 47% of Sanne’s Country Heads are female and 3 out of our 5 regional Managing Directors are women.
Within our wider strategic leadership team, 3 global heads of strategic functions or products are women. Our Executive Committee has 2 female members, and our plc board is represented by 3 female directors all of which is exceptional in the financial services industry.
The accomplishment of these women within Sanne is not only in many cases the celebrated successes of dedicated and hard-working employees who have been promoted through the business but also, many have been successful candidates in competitive recruitment processes where the candidate pool has not been weighted towards female applicants.