Equity can be defined as giving everyone what they need to be successful. The IWD 2023 campaign theme seeks to forge worldwide understanding about why equal opportunities aren’t enough, and a focus on gender equity needs to be part of every society’s DNA.
International Women’s Day belongs to everyone, everywhere. Collectively, we can all help create a diverse, equitable and inclusive world.
1. Within your market/industry sector, what progress have you seen businesses take to progress gender equity?
It takes multiple efforts to change the infrastructure, environment and mindset of the workplace to progress gender equity. Initiatives rightly target different levels of seniority and personal needs of women, be this, networking opportunities for leaders or improvements to maternity, fertility and return-to-work support within the business. I’m really impressed by the work GAIN (Girls Are Investors) are doing with sixth-formers and students to improve gender diversity in investment management, helping us strengthen our talent pipelines.
For the growth equity space to thrive, we need high-quality entrepreneurs building the next generation of innovative businesses, yet currently, the percentage of venture capital invested into companies established by women is in the very low single digits. I work with an organisation called Allia, which created a female founders impact accelerator programme to provide female entrepreneurs with the tools to tackle the challenges they face as women in the start-up space.
2. What is one action companies can take to further balance their talent attraction strategies?
Talent attraction strategies will only deliver the desired results if there are even stronger talent development and talent retention strategies. A focus on diversity, without the associated investment in inclusion and equality, will have a limited shelf-life.
3. What is your top advice for making job descriptions more inclusive?
Watch your language! If you advertise for a “confident, ambitious, best-in-class …” then you might attract candidates who think of themselves as fitting the description, to the exclusion of those with a more nuanced identification of their core strengths. A robust and varied interview process should assess which candidates really do meet your criteria.
I like to split job descriptions into “you are…” for the essential background and traits, then “you might be …” for the wider exposure and experience that will make the job easier. It makes it really clear that as a recruiter, you are not expecting everything.
4. 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?
I’d like to think so. Lockdown democratised everyday flexibility. Before Covid, “out of sight, out of mind” could hamper the profile of those working from home, despite the productivity benefits. During the pandemic, we saw how quickly technology allowed us to adapt our working styles whilst continuing to deliver to a high standard at pace. Teams that found the right balance between quiet concentration and accessibility to others will already have proven the business case and normalised working from home. The challenge is now to maintain those benefits, blended with regular face-to-face interactions to socialise, share and learn.
5. What does being an effective ally for women look like to you?
I’m a huge fan of the writing of David Smith and Brad Johnson on allyship and how leaders can make tangible progress towards gender equity. Their book, “Good Guys”, gives a really clear and raw description of the issues women face in the workplace, with practical strategies to improve the imbalance. An understanding of intersectionality is particularly important. Being a minority in another aspect - race, class, sexuality, physical ability, neurodiversity – brings different forms of marginalisation which can’t be appreciated by just aggregating perspectives on each of those dimensions.
Listening to learn is the best basis for allyship, rather than running head-first into initiatives which may not help those feeling the pain. To move towards this successfully, the concept of psychological safety needs recognising and built into organisational culture; eliminating the negative power dynamics that can inhibit candour. Over the course of my career, there have been several men who listened to me, advised me, argued for me and risked their own credibility on mine to give me opportunities to develop. We all have it in ourselves to be that ally.