To mark this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), we’ve been collating case studies for our clients and getting great examples of women in business, engineering, manufacturing and construction out into the media. We love bringing these stories to life and capturing the skill, hard work and commitment that all our clients demonstrate in their fields. So now it’s our turn to look inwards and consider what this important day means to us. Here’s what our Deputy Managing Director, Hannah Elwell had to say about this year’s theme, breaking the bias.
In considering what perspective to take on this year’s International Women’s Day, I came across a statement from the World Economic Forum which says that gender parity will not be attained for nearly a century. This took me by surprise. Of course, I appreciate there are many cultures around the world for which women’s rights sadly still have a long way to go, but I thought I was pretty well sorted on this front. After all I’ve never felt unequal, stereotypes haven’t ever been a barrier to me; I’ve always been able to do exactly what I wanted to do personally and professionally.
But then it hit me, the bias is ingrained in me. It’s not some outside force or the ‘failing of men’ that’s responsible. I’ve been totally immune to the impact of my own privilege and bias. So, I’ve set about listing some things, little things, that I can do right now to readdress how I operate when it comes to my own unconscious gender stereotyping.
1. Pocket the difference – I’ve always been irritated when I’m on a job and I realise I have nowhere to put a pen, scissors, my phone, whatever I need to hand. I usually just end up stuffing it in my bra, yes really, that’s what I do. Of course, life would be so much easier if manufacturers made professional clothes for women with pockets – not fake ones, or shallow ones, real pockets. Clothes with plenty of pockets are a given of course in men’s fashion. So I need to vote with my feet – call out the mainstream retailers that fail to make clothes both feminine and functional and seek out those that do.
2. The stereotype within – Simply put I need to stop calling myself a PR girl. I’m embarrassed to say that I do this. I do it in jest of course. Or so that’s what I tell myself. I actually think I use it to help make a connection, so the person I’m speaking with has an easy way of understanding what I do for a living. Joke or not, ‘PR girl’ is not helpful, in fact it’s pretty damaging. I’m a 40 year old woman yet I still don’t instinctively describe myself as a professional consultant. I have nearly 20 years’ experience in my field. I’m an expert at what I do. Who’s ever heard of a ‘PR boy’?
3. Parity in pink – I’ve taken great pleasure in buying clothes for my niece since she was born. I’ve been aware that wherever I shop, I naturally go to the girl’s section. With another niece on the way I’m promising myself now not to follow the crowd and seek out brands that don’t distinguish.
4. If looks could kill – I’m going to stop commenting first on how people look, even if I think it’s a compliment. I was really troubled with myself recently when seeing a friend’s nearly teen daughter on the way to school, the first and only thing I said to her as we were passing was how smart she looked. Was that really all I could come up with? How about, ‘have a brilliant day’, why on earth did I have to link her appearance with her studies?
So, I now turn to you, to take a moment to think about what you say and do that might be perpetuating bias and share it below. Most of us, like me, just don’t realise how instilled it is in our own behaviours and vocabulary. We can change the habits of a lifetime, so let’s start now.
As well as work for our clients we’ve all be so painfully aware of the horror that’s going on in Ukraine at the moment. So we also want to take a moment today to think about all people, especially the women and children, who right now are fleeing their homes as a result of the Russian invasion, who have given up everything, who are giving birth in bomb shelters and who are now refugees. We will be undertaking a series of fundraising activities over the next few weeks for UN Women which USG will match fund.