The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) is #BreakTheBias. Last month we brought to you a case study of how our programme, Empower, is breaking bias on the ground by empowering young women to achieve their potential. In this blog, we wanted to share our broader reflections on bias in the workplace, what it means to us to be part of a women-led, and majority women, organisation, and the benefits of breaking the bias through empowering women in leadership.
Bias in the workplace
Bias against women towards patriarchal structures and values still causes issues when it comes to achieving gender equality in society, including in the workplace. Knowing that bias exists is the first step, but it is action that is most needed if we are to proactively achieve equality.
Women in the UK haven’t always had access to the workplace, only gaining this opportunity around the Victorian era, with today now seeing 72% of women in employment in Britain. Yet, access doesn’t equate equal opportunity. For example, the World Economic Forum’s Gender Pay Gap report estimates that it will still take 135 years for women to reach Economic parity with men and women are less likely to reach senior leadership positions, with only 36% of FTSE 100 leaders being women and 8 being CEOs. This issue is complex and nuanced, pointing to both the physical structures of the workplace and stereotypes about gendered behaviour and unconscious bias being just a few of the barriers.
Working at Student Hubs
Student Hubs is in a unique position in that the majority of our staff team and entirety of our management team are women. We believe it is a benefit having a management team that is all women, and has been since 2018. We have worked to create a gender inclusive and accessible workplace which includes flexible working, unlimited holiday, and mandatory diversity and inclusion training for all staff. We were interested in the thoughts of our staff on working at a women-led organisation so to celebrate this Women’s History Month we decided to ask for their thoughts about how women leadership impacts our culture, quality of work, and overall experience.
Lydia, Winchester Programmes says that:
‘The environment that we work in is very open, both in terms of understanding what is taking place at the company but also in the way that you can turn to someone on the management team and have an honest, open conversation about anything, including worries or issues. It is such a caring team, something that I think is encouraged and instilled from those leading women in our management team.’
Sophie, Network Operations Manager says:
‘If I feel nervous about an area of work I can express that and get support, if I need time to formulate my ideas I still get space to speak up and share when I’m ready and if I identify areas for improvement I’m given the opportunity to grow rather than that area being seen as a weakness.’
Sorcha, Bristol Hub Manager says:
‘Having worked in many women-led environments, and spoken to friends who have not been in them, I have come to realise the space to reflect and build on opportunities has been a lot stronger here. I am given many opportunities to explore my whole approach to a challenge/work environment and I am acknowledged in my need for more and given time to get more.’
These thoughts from our staff team strongly support the researched benefits of women in leadership roles. According to research by Korn Ferry, in a study across 90 countries women score higher than men in nearly all emotional intelligence competencies, including empathy, emotional-self awareness and teamwork, and women in leadership roles cultivate this in their workplace culture. This can lead to having an inclusive work environment, where people are listened to, supported to tackle challenges and fail well, and encouraged to reflect on their practice.
As we reflect on International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we are proud to work for a women-led organisation and the work we have done to make the workplace more inclusive with our policy and practice.
If you are interested in joining us to #BreakTheBias and celebrate how women contribute to your workplace, you could consider reflecting on your own organisation leadership, practices and policies, and how you celebrate the contributions that women bring to your organisation. We recommend the following activities:
- Reflect on your recruitment processes, making them gender neutral. You can examine the language used in your job packs, and make interviews standardised
- Examine your flexible working policies – do your practices allow all genders to be flexible with their work life balance, accounting for caring responsibilities?
- Provide training on unconscious bias – get in contact with Fiona Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about our training packages