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Breaking the bias beyond International Women’s Day

By Simon Winfield, Managing Director, Hays UK & Ireland

This month marks International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality.

Whilst it’s really important we celebrate International Women’s Day this year, especially after celebrations were limited under lockdown in 2021, what’s key to acknowledge is that breaking the bias is about much more than one day of activity. In fact, all of us have a role to play in questioning the assumptions and barriers in place that often halt progression towards gender equality in the workplace.

Positively, many organisations do realise the wider importance of diversity and inclusion, yet there’s still more to be done to ensure there’s a level playing field for all genders in the workplace. So, how can we take this forward beyond International Women’s Day?

1. Encourage commitment to diversity and inclusion

Achieving gender targets and having a focus on gender equality within the workplace can’t happen unless it is part of a wider commitment to diversity and inclusion. This was highlighted in our 2021 ED&I report, where over half (51%) of people surveyed said they don’t believe people from all backgrounds will ever have the opportunity to succeed within their organisation.

It’s a difficult statistic to digest, and over a third (34%) reported that they believe women don’t have equal opportunity to succeed within their organisation.

Employers and employees alike need to challenge this pace of change and take action to accelerate progress. Discussion is important, but for real impact, employers need to get behind more ED&I initiatives, and employees need to feel confident that they can safely highlight to their leaders where actual improvements can be made.

2. Recognise the importance of diversity data

It’s impossible to move your ED&I strategy forward if you don’t set a foundation to build on where you want to get to. Across Hays UK and Ireland, taking action to increase the diversity data we hold on our people has helped us to better understand the shape of our business which has in turn enabled us to develop our ED&I strategy.

We’ve made real progress in helping staff to understand why sharing diversity data is so important in helping us build an inclusive culture for everyone in Hays and we’ve since set ourselves aspirational targets for gender, ethnicity and disability using our diversity data as one of the reference points.

If you’re an employer, being transparent about how the data you collect will be used is essential as a start point – and for professionals, recognise that sharing your diversity data can really help your organisation drive forward it’s ED&I strategy.

3. Create and participate in communities that support women’s careers

We recently shared the success of our Hays Pride Network, and based on feedback from our own staff – we’re growing the networks we have across our business to facilitate conversations, provide support and share experiences.

Last year we also launched our REACH network to support positive inclusion for those living with long term ill health, disability, or injury. One focus of this has been creating conversations on the menopause – given 8 out of 10 menopausal women are in work, and 3 in 4 women experience symptoms. So far, we’ve organised female health talks with external providers – allowing both men and women to learn more about the menopause and what further support might be needed.

Creating and participating in specific groups looking at career advancement is important for us too and we’re initiating Women in Leadership focus groups across our teams to better understand and identify any challenges with female advancement into senior leadership roles that exist in our business today.

Looking at ED&I as a whole, we’re still on a journey ourselves and tracking our progress – however I hope our examples of what we are doing can help inspire you to break the bias beyond International Women’s Day.

About this author

Simon joined Hays in 2006, having commenced his recruitment career in 1993. Initially responsible for our businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory, Simon relocated to the UK in 2014 where he was responsible for our operations in the West & Wales and Ireland, before being appointed Managing Director of the UK & Ireland business in 2018.

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