Embracing women in work on International Women's Day |

Embracing women in work on International Women's Day

5 minutes

Is there any wonder why organisations still struggle to build an encouraging participation strategy from International Women's Day? Particularly when much of the imagery surrounding it can look more derogatory than inspiring.

Understanding Resistance

To make real change it’s important we look deeply into the unconscious bias. Whenever there is a problem pointed out, a change or a feeling of being classified, there is always bound to be resistance.

Resistance can be a way of defence; therefore, we must try and understand why many men would need to use resistance as a form of defence.

We should also remember women cannot be boxed into one category, they too have biases, sometimes against other women.

More recently resistance to feminism is increasing, especially amongst younger generations. That’s something you probably didn’t consider.  

So why do we have resistance to feminism at all?

Competition

One aspect is economic competition. In a globalised post-industrial knowledge economy, competition is all around us. This is especially vehement for the young, which may be why the young are more resistant to feminism than previous generations.

Men can become resistant to new competition being added to the workforce, which may outcompete them and drive down their economic power. Especially when on a collective level women tend to outperform their male colleagues academically.

There’s also competition of voices. Too often a myth which protrudes itself is that promoting women’s issues is neglecting or downplaying issues involving men, or at worse attacking men. Therefore, many men start becoming resistant to approaching or giving space to women’s issues, while male issues are side-lined.

Where are all the women?

Diversity is crucial within business. To get accurately forecasted information, leading to precise decision making, it is important many voices are heard and synthesized together to uncover the truth.

This has never been truer than in the field of Data Science, where women make up only around 20% of the workforce.

Yet despite recruitment efforts, computer science and the world of data has never needed women more.

The lack of women within the data collection process and implementation stages can have real consequences, by forming problematic or incomplete data. Design and foreseeability issues lead to implicit bias; with one gender being more represented in the data than another.

This leads to corporations potentially losing a lot of money, perhaps even being overtaken by competitors who can solve these problems more effectively, giving them access to more realistic data.

So how can we solve these problems?

Yet again, we come back to the argument regarding free will; if women are not applying to coding jobs, then obviously they will be underrepresented, right? You can’t force them to apply. Then what about quotas? You then run the risk of losing good talent, who may become resentful that their hard work is being skipped over to fulfil an arbitrary criterion.

Language is key

What does your job application look like, does it display implicit bias? What language are you using? For example, are you using language associated with traditionally masculine traits such as, ‘aggressive’, ‘strong’, ‘competitive’ or even, ‘businessman’ – these are labels which a male may view as positive traits, while studies have shown these labels to be less favourable characteristics for speculative female applicants.

Try replacing these labels with ‘responsible’, ‘supportive’, ‘committed’. These words have been shown to be more inviting to female applicants, who statistically favour a more collaborative working environment, in comparison to a competitive working environment.

What else can corporations do?

Avoid toxic language

Many women have stated modern feminism has become stale and “cringeworthy,” becoming overly corporate and even toxic, with trends such as ‘Boss Bitch’ focusing more on individual power than addressing genuine issues.

Feminism should not be about repeating unpleasant habits of toxic masculine traits and projecting them onto women as the only way for women to gain respect in our society.

It’s these perceptions of female empowerment which are pushing many young women and even men away from constructing genuine dialogue on women’s gender issues.

Ensure all voices are heard

By creating platforms for women to speak, you can allow men to speak too, but make sure they are not dominating the environment.

Get male managers onboard early

Allow men to promote the achievements of women in their organisation, or share things they have learnt so other male employees to take note.

Create role models

Build encouraging role models, don’t just spotlight talent by being patronising, that one’s recognition is purely to tick a box on a certain day - make it into an monthly or annual reward that is admired inside the organisation.

Be an active listener

If you’re a manager, have you actively listened to suggestions for change? Embolden them to make changes themselves with corporate support.

If you do have closed door meetings for women, also have closed door meetings for men too, to discuss gender and women’s rights, to build confidence and share perceptions. Then have everyone meet together to exchange thoughts and build a coalition for action based on consensus. And make sure decision makers within your company are on board.

Just ask

Don’t make this a corporate directive, make it into a platform that is led by employees for employees, not for sales but for genuine development from the ground up. If you don’t know if they are suffering from an issue, ask them, but in a way that doesn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable and educate the men in the room as to why it’s important – discretely.

And finally

Don’t just change your social media backgrounds to pink for a day, because in the long term it’s not all about the likes.