For the entire month of March, we celebrated and promoted the importance of Women’s History Month at Anord Mardix, with the inclusion of International Women’s Day on 8th March.
Women’s History Month is designed to celebrate the contributions women have made to the modern-day world. These annual celebrations are important as they allow us to stop and recognise that, although modern culture has come a long way in boosting inclusivity, there is more that can be done – in our personal lives and in the workplace.
With an ever-increasing focus on diversity, equality and inclusion in companies across the globe, more conversations are taking place regarding the issue of increasing the inclusion (and presence of) women in the workplace in STEM-based companies.
Some women feel as though their gender does not affect their ability to perform their job at the best of their ability. However, the majority of women feel as though their gender is a sticking point for progression in their career. Not only that, but due to lack of representation, it even has the ability to limit their interests in following a certain career in the first place.
It’s common knowledge that STEM companies don’t truly reflect wider society. Most of these workplaces have a significantly higher percentage of men to women, with fewer women still in leadership or senior management positions.
Through awareness, STEM companies are transforming to become a much more inclusive space for all genders. However, as Rachel Thomas, co-founder & CEO of LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org explains, “you can have all the right policies and programs in place, but if individual employees don’t understand what true allyship looks like, they may inadvertently end up being part of the problem.”
In a nutshell, in order to truly change company culture, the employees must be on board in order to facilitate change.
As Rachel rightly observes, a company can have all the correct policies in place on the surface, however it really does come down to whether individuals within that company are ready to do the work.
Systemic change with regards to how women are perceived in the workplace, particularly in STEM organisations, can only happen when all employees within a company are on board.
So, to round off Women’s History Month, we’re asking you to consider the following points. By challenging yourself and your current behaviour in the workplace, and being open minded to change, you hold the power to be a catalyst for systemic change around the world, becoming a true ally for your fellow female peers.
1. Unlearning is learning
Learning, and in some cases, unlearning, is an essential first step in allyship.
Make sure to read books on the history of systemic inequality, immerse yourself in stories of people who have different backgrounds and experiences than yourself. Being active in increasing your own knowledge of other peoples' experiences allows you to be more open to perceiving instances of unfairness in the workplace and in other parts of your life.
Allyship shouldn’t end with increasing your knowledge, but it is an important place to start.
2. Privilege is power
The word 'privilege' can sometimes be polarizing, being used so often in a negative light, but it is essential to recognize the privileges you have in order to show up for others. The word privilege doesn't mean that you haven’t faced hardships in life or worked hard to get where you are – every single one of us has some form of privilege (such as being able-bodied, a university graduate or neurotypical).
Analysing your own privilege allows you to consider if your individual privileges add up to being greater than someone else's in your work environment. In turn, this enables us to be more considerate in utilising the privileges we have to advocate for those who don’t.
3. Authentic listening
Allyship is about being attentive and intentional, which means learning to truly listen to others. Though another’s experience may be different from your own, listening is a pathway to greater empathy and understanding.
Allyship is a continual process of listening to what others need and thinking how can we create a better, more inclusive space for our colleagues. So, when the opportunity next presents itself, why not try listening to what other's opinions are in the workplace.
4. Allyship is a journey
Some people may be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, feeling as though there are too many opportunities for error, so do nothing at all - but a lack of action is harmful too.
So, why not give yourself, and others, some grace for making mistakes. Learning is a journey, and you have to be willing to learn from accidental errors and keep trying anyway. It's up to each and every one of us to use the advantages we've been given to show up, speak up, and be part of the change.
It can be everyday things that impact employees’ daily experience. For instance, if you’re running meetings and notice that two or three people get 80 percent of the talk time, you could try creating boundaries in the meeting by giving the quieter participants the floor to speak (if they want to). This gives space for more people to be heard and offers a greater diversity of thought in collaborative meetings.
As you can see, being an ally is not just speaking out when there is a blatant outburst of antisocial behaviour, although this is important. An ally is someone who recognises their own privilege and uses it to support people that might experience inequality for a variety of reasons.
Ultimately, the work doesn’t stop at just these four steps, but it is something that everyone can action in a workplace (and personal) environment to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table. Doing the work now and ensuring a warm, welcoming culture at every organisation will encourage future generations to join an organisation, across all industries, and feel part of the team with the same opportunities as everyone else.
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