Embracing Equity: Celebrating International Women’s Day 2023

By Hannah McIntosh

International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, and calls for action on driving forward gender equality. To celebrate, the Women in Tech team collaborated with other teams at PA to host a virtual panel to discuss the importance of gender equity, and what we can all be doing to actively embrace it.

What is equity?

Whilst the words equity and equality are often used interchangeably, they are entirely different concepts. Equality strives to create a level playing field, which unfortunately, only works when we start from the same place. Equity recognises the different barriers individuals may face in achieving the same goals. In simple terms, “Equality is giving everyone a shoe. Equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits”.

Why is equity important?

Embracing equity goes beyond creating equal opportunities for men and women. It means businesses are ready to understand and work against the barriers women may face through their policies. Whilst it’s important to ensure equality in the benefits offered to employees, we’ll never create a level playing field until we start offering women centric benefits to address women’s specific issues. These might include better maternity policies, to counteract the fact most women still feel their career is at risk of stalling after having children. Unfortunately, the risk of career stalling, according to the World Economic Forum, has increased in recent years following the pandemic. The closure of schools during lockdowns contributed to a return to archaic behaviours towards care responsibilities in many economies. To combat this, companies should investment in a return-to-work scheme and provide mentoring to women coming back to work after a break.

Whilst companies may provide equal opportunities to men and women when they recruit for jobs, men are more likely to apply even if they meet only 60 percent of the requirements. In comparison, women will usually only apply if they meet 100 percent. For companies to create equitable recruitment processes, job adverts should be gender decoded and use language to attract diverse candidates. Avoiding bullet pointed lists of job requirements also helps prevent women from scoring themselves against each one and not applying.

During our panel event, we addressed how to promote equality in the workplace. This was brought to life through sharing experiences, providing insight to careers, and initiating an open discussion on how leaders can drive change.

Our takeaways from the event

Sponsorship means being an active advocate and committing to advancing the career of a specific individual. Through sponsorship, men can direct opportunities to women who may not otherwise be offered. In our panel, Clare Allum reflected on her experience of sponsorship as fundamental to her progression. Clare said: “My fantastic group of sponsors around me took active steps to create opportunities for me, so I could get the skills and experiences needed to progress.”

Allyship means using personal privilege to support colleagues from historically marginalised communities to amplify their voices. Allyship is the secret ingredient and the main driving force to ensure the inclusivity conversation is not segregated to minority groups. Donald Cameron shared: “It’s important for more people to be aware of how impactful their role could be in proactively influencing behaviours in the workplace to drive forward equity.”

Increase awareness to drive tangible change means sharing experiences on gender discrimination and ensuring discussions are being held at all levels. But conversations are not enough. Awareness is effective when it leads to policy change. Rina Ladva shared her experience on the difference the right environment makes. Rina said: “When I became a parent, I put a lot of pressure on myself. Opportunities came to me that I discounted myself for, because I didn’t know if I could balance home life and career progression. While this comes down to you individually, it can also be the environment and the people around you. Later in life, I had an environment in which I could perform my role and progress through flexible working hours and being able to do things differently. This is what accelerated my career.”

Our discussions and actions to increase gender diversity are not limited to one day a year. We must continue to further our efforts all year round.

To find out more about what your organisation can do to drive equity, our recent report investigates the most effective actions companies can take to close the gender gap in STEM.

About the authors

Hannah McIntosh PA digital expert

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