International Women’s Day 2022: thirteen ways to #BreakTheBias7th March 2022
Tuesday 8 March is International Women’s Day – the focus of a global movement that celebrates women’s achievements, increases visibility and calls out inequality.
The theme for 2022 is #BreakTheBias.
Bias, stereotypes, clichés, micro aggressions and discrimination can make it difficult for women to move ahead. Research shows that 73 per cent of women experience bias at work, yet less than a third of employees are able to recognise bias when they see it .
Sandwell Business Ambassadors are calling on ALL businesspeople in our borough to support, retain and advance ALL women by carrying out these thirteen actions, big and small, to help #BreakTheBias.
And not just on International Women’s Day, but all year round.
In publishing this article we acknowledge that everyone can face bias and prejudice; that IWD is a time to focus on how it affects women specifically. We also think the ideas below can be applied to help everyone, regardless of gender, race, age, circumstances and so on.
1. Get to know the structures that hold women back.
At the very highest level, we need to ensure our organisations are non-discriminatory in recruitment, diverse in nature and flexible in practice. Pay structures must be fair and everyone should have equal opportunity to rise through the ranks on merit. This is a big area. Becoming aware of the systemic ways people can be held back is a great start.
Book recommendation: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez.
“At SIPS Education, I’m delighted to represent an organisation that genuinely champions equality; our pay and recognition structure doesn’t discriminate and the fact that eleven colleagues out of a thirteen-strong leadership team are female demonstrates that we offer substantial progression opportunities to everyone, whilst supporting all colleagues with family-friendly working policies” – Brian Cape, CEO of SIPS Education and Sandwell Business Ambassador.
2. Set up training.
There are many training programmes, both online and in person, that can help everyone understand the biases women face at work. Resources on the International Women’s Day website include guidance for holding in-house workshops.
3. Use our voices.
It’s still a fact of life that some people – maybe because of our gender or background or position in an organisation – find it easier or speak out than others, or have more opportunities to be heard. Recognising the privilege we hold and using it to raise others up alongside us is a powerful tool we can use to #BreakTheBias.
“I 100% agree with the key themes of this year’s event and as a man in a senior role, I believe it is my absolute responsibility to do everything in my power to help create a gender equal workplace and to support our members and the local business community to do the same. I am incredibly lucky to have never faced the type of discrimination that women across the world face every day, and I will fight to the end to help create a world where everyone else is as fortunate” – Corin Crane, CEO of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and Sandwell Business Ambassador.
4. Become aware of unconscious bias.
These are the associations we can ALL hold about people, which are outside of our conscious awareness and control. They come about through years of societal conditioning – and we can’t always help our thought processes. But we can become aware of them, and learn to override them, through training and honest conversations.
“At a senior level at H&R we have commenced having open and honest conversations about any potential bias. These conversations started with defensiveness such as ‘I don’t have an unconscious bias’ but quickly progressed. The conversations take place openly and honestly and within a trusting team. As these conversations have developed we have recognised that giving and receiving feedback has allowed us to identify the areas we may be making quick judgements and challenged our thought processes, we have also been able to appreciate our differences and benefit from the diversity in our teams” – Elaine Bruce, director at H&R ChemPharm UK and Sandwell Business Ambassador.
5. Challenge bias when we encounter it.
It can be difficult to speak out when colleagues use sexist language or harmful stereotypes. Sharing concerns in a calm, private conversation can help raise other people’s awareness, serving to create a more positive workplace culture.
“I am determined to celebrate a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive and I want a workplace where difference is celebrated” – Corin.
6. Let women speak.
Research has shown that women are three times more likely to be interrupted than men . We can all make a conscious effort to let people finish speaking. Call out those interruptions!
7. Create a rota.
There are often small housekeeping tasks that aren’t officially in anyone’s job description: watering office plants, making tea, buying biscuits, taking notes in meetings. Drawing up a rota ensures these are fairly distributed amongst staff, regardless of gender or position in the team.
8. Examine how our organisations are presented.
Every so often, it’s healthy to take a critical look at our websites, job adverts, brochures, social media posts. Do they present an image of a business that welcomes women and treats people equally? How can we make even better use of language and images to demonstrate strong commitment to tackling bias and stereotypes in the workplace?
“Here, at CMT, we are very proud of our female apprentices, who work on machines or in the office. Most people don’t associate women with engineering” – Anjali Agrawal, CEO of CMT Engineering and Sandwell Business Ambassador.
9. Ask and listen.
It’s powerful when people proactively reach out to ask co-workers what problems they face and what they need to feel better supported. This can be by email, in annual performance reviews, in formal meetings, informal conversations or through anonymous surveys. We can all show we take workplace bias seriously by giving people every opportunity to speak out without fear of being judged.
“Many mothers work at CMT who are allowed to work part time. We are proud of our efforts towards supporting women. They are all small efforts but they add up” – Anjali.
10. Take an action-based approach to issues.
It’s not enough just to know about the bias that women face in the workplace: it’s important we take concrete action to combat problems. It can be transformative to share with staff the steps taken to minimise bias and show they’re being taken seriously.
“We continue to run our excellent Women in Leadership forum, we have campaigned for awareness of menopause in the workplace, we are running inclusive governance training and inclusive recruitment processes. This year we are running an event at Weston Park with the inimitable Jackie Weaver and promoting dozens of online events across the UK Chamber Network. As a business, we now offer flexible working to all staff, we have signed the Menopause Workplace Pledge, my management team is 50 per cent male and 50 per cent female and our board is 50/ 50 men and women for the first time in our history” – Corin, on the actions of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce.
11. Form a ‘lean in circle’.
This is a small group of women who come together regularly to mentor and support one other. It can be a way of connecting women in different departments across your organisation, or with women in other companies in your sector or location. This can greatly enhance women’s confidence, encouraging them to take on new challenges and make positive life changes. You can download a toolkit with resources and advice on the International Women’s Day website.
12. Nurture collaboration.
It’s a human tendency to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, whether that is in age, ethnicity, education or gender. If your staff tend to work or socialise in all male or female groups, it may be helpful to encourage more mixing. This could be a cross-departmental project, an away day or a team social event – any opportunity for people to get to know one another is valuable.
13. Showcase female role models.
International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to publicly recognise the contributions made by women in your organisation, but we need to champion them on the other 364 days of the year! Regularly celebrating the achievements of female colleagues, as well as other successful women in your sector, supply chain or community, is a great way to inspire and encourage, as well as to combat prejudice and bias.
As Sandwell Business Ambassadors, we will be doing everything we can to #BreakTheBias for International Women’s Day and beyond. We’d love to hear what you are doing to create a fair, equitable culture in your business.
 50 ways to fight bias toolkit – page 3
 50 ways to fight bias toolkit – page 28.