IWD22: how and why we need to #breakthebias

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IWD22: how and why we need to #breakthebias

Today is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate and commemorate the achievements of women around the world and to raise awareness of the gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping that still exists within our society today. Conscious and unconscious biases continue to have detrimental effects on women all over the world, so this IWD we are being called upon to actively #breakthebias!

Before we look at how we can break down bias, we need to look at why we need to do this. While biases exist in many forms and can affect various areas of our lives, gender bias is particularly visible in our workplaces. According to research done by EY, Women make up 51% of the population, 47% of the workforce, and yet hold only 13.7% of executive roles in FTSE 100 companies.

Bias contributes to many women not only being passed over for jobs or promotions but can negatively impact women’s work-life experience, with 60% of women regularly experiencing microaggressions at work such as regularly being interrupted while speaking. While this may seem relatively minor, if one adds it to a list of other gender-based workplace biases (for example, unequal pay and maternal bias) one can see how this would have a detrimental impact on the work lives of women.

While many women in the workplace have reported experiencing at least one instance of bias, research shows that women of colour, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities face even more acute biases.

Fewer than half of employees, across all genders, say they’ve spoken out against biased behaviour at any point in their career which is why this year, on International Women’s Day and beyond, we must push even harder to break down these biases.

When looking specifically at the construction industry, many of us are aware of the notoriously low numbers of women in the workforce, comprising only 11%. Something that we have been talking about for many years now but that we seem to be making slow progress in changing. If we want to see change we need to ensure women from a young age feel like there is a place for them in the industry. We need to see more female role models who can attract and encourage younger generations.

At ODGroup, we monitor our gender statistics which currently stand at 26% female. While this number is significantly higher than the industry standard we know there is still work to be done and we aim to keep improving it through supporting the existing women in our team and by continuing to hire talented and diverse people.

Change and evolve we must, not only is #breakingthebias a moral obligation but research shows that a gender-diverse workforce benefits organisations allowing for different perspectives, enhanced collaboration, improved staff retention, a better reflection of clients and greater profitability. Not forgetting that companies that are not actively encouraging women to join them, are missing out on the skills and abilities of half the population.

So how can we, as individuals and organisations #breakthebias in our workplaces?

We can:

  • Challenge gender bias and stereotypes – call them out whenever we see or hear them
  • Use inclusive language, how often have we heard colleagues address people as ‘Guys’ or ‘Gents’ try ‘All’ or ‘Everyone’ instead
  • Be an ally – listen, learn, encourage, support, mentor
  • Celebrate the women within our businesses – highlight and share their achievements and successes, both internally and externally
  • Look at organisational policies – can more be done to support women with regards to maternity leave, flexible working, menopause, time off for fertility treatment or transitioning?
  • Look at organisational statistics and structure, are women represented in all parts of the business, including senior roles and if not, why not?
  • Look at ways to attract more women into the construction industry, for example raising awareness in local schools and colleges and offering work experience placements
  • Implement a DE&I strategy, set objectives and monitor them to ensure they are achieved. Look to an external specialist consultancy if needed, be prepared to make that investment
  • Set up a mentoring programme to help women to progress within the business or offer to mentor a female colleague
  • Set up or join a woman’s network or DE&I group to focus on championing women in the business
  • Don’t be afraid to have uncomfortable conversations, challenge our colleagues and friends and always speak up for women

Ultimately, we are all responsible for our thoughts and actions and we can all do more as to support and encourage diversity, equity and inclusivity in our workplaces.

Anyone can make a difference whether as an individual, a group, large or small organisation. We can all work collectively to #breakthebias.



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