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International Women’s Day 2022: Tackling Gender Bias

As part of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022, we spoke to some of our female employees about what this year’s theme of breaking the bias means to them and how we can all work together to tackle gender stereotypes.

Masooma Ahmed, Project Manager, Hammersmith & Fulham

Why is breaking gender biases important to you?
Breaking gender biases is important to allow people to reach their full potential without the added burden of societal expectations.

Nowadays there is a lot pressure to appear ‘successful’ and ‘winning’ and it’s important for people to understand that there is not a one size fits all approach to it. It’s important to me personally as I still get puzzled looks when I mention I’m in construction to my relatives, and to be honest, I never thought of construction as an industry I would work in.

I am so proud of all that I have achieved so far in the industry, and that is all down to the men that I have worked with investing time and teaching me what they know about trades, operations and the strategic side of the business. I say ‘men’ because there weren’t many women in the industry to teach me. But it’s time to change that.

How can businesses help in tackling gender stereotypes?
​​​​​​​I went to an all-girls secondary school and there was no representation from construction throughout my school life (there was ‘woodshop’, but that was just a month of making keyrings!). It’s so important that we provide exposure to different roles to people at a younger age, whether it’s through our corporate social value, or taking time to mentor people in the business so that they can progress their careers internally.

We also need to look at gender diversity in various management and senior management positions and ensure opportunities are fairly presented to all. Businesses should consider strengths and transferrable skills over experience alone, this will bring in fresh candidates with innovative ideas while giving everyone a fair chance.

Donna Shaw, Senior Social Value Officer, Leeds

Why is breaking gender biases important to you?
Ever since I was small I have believed that girls can do the same as boys and have always challenged perceptions. I joined the Territorial Army when I was 17 and was told I couldn’t do the job role that interested me because I was female and wouldn’t be strong enough. I challenged this and proved that I was strong enough. I was then allowed to do that role and in challenging the gender stereotype encouraged other women to do it too.

Having a diverse workforce allows for greater productivity, bringing together different values and experiences to work towards company goals.

How can businesses help in tackling gender stereotypes?
To ensure we have a diverse workforce and reduce or illuminate gender stereotypes, it is important for businesses to listen to and recognise the barriers that women face when entering employment and progressing through their careers. We need positive role models to encourage more women into male dominated roles.

 

 

 

 

Fiona Lowe, Head of Business Development, Aldgate

Why is breaking gender biases important to you?
Whilst I’ve had many positive experiences, in and out of work, unfortunately I have experienced gender biases and discriminatory attitudes over the course of my career. This has sometimes been from men, often at senior management/executive level, but also on occasion from women, which I think goes to show just how deep-rooted these negative attitudes and views can be.

I don’t fit into most of the stereotypical boxes that women are often put into – a feeling shared by most women I suspect – and I think it’s important that we challenge unfair bias and create opportunities for all individuals to thrive.

Whilst some progress has been made, campaigns like the Gender Pay Gap highlight the inequality that still exists, and women remain underrepresented across many sectors, particularly at senior management, executive and board level. I hope that conversations opened up through events like International Women’s Day help to continue driving positive change towards greater equality.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​How can businesses help in tackling gender stereotypes?
I think leadership is key; if negative gender bias is prevalent at the top tier of an organisation, it will filter through the policies, practises, and culture of the whole business. The people running a business have the power to influence change through recruitment and employment policies and practices, training and simply ‘leading by example’ to create a positive culture where diversity will flourish and become self-sustaining.

It’s also important to be honest and unafraid to have conversations that might be difficult, for example to challenge poor behaviours or acknowledge that there is more work to be done to create more equal workplaces and welcome ideas and behaviours that will support that.

Rajinder Narr, Head of Operations, Westminster

Why is breaking gender biases important to you?
Having worked in a predominantly male dominated industry for most my working life and experiencing stereotypical comments first hand, gender bias is a topic very close to my heart.

Gender bias continues to impact women in the workplace and more must be done to enable highly skilled women to advance into construction and leadership positions. In recent years women have gained significant ground in the world of work, however despite the progress that has been made towards gender equality, women are sometimes held back by company practices and structures that are biased towards men.

How can businesses help in tackling gender stereotypes?
Stereotypes are often not just the product of lazy thinking but also cultural conditioning. We must have diverse teams where stereotypes are more likely to be challenged. Women are underrepresented in trades because there are perceptions built up over time about jobs and roles ‘suitable’ for women.

Ultimately taking action on gender requires company wide change as opposed to small tweaks to processes. Getting this right means establishing a culture that is gender aware. Externally, we need to work with primary and secondary schools to break gender stereotypes and encourage more women into our industry.

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