To celebrate International Women’s Day, we have a guest article from Positive About Inclusion CIC. The following article explores this year’s International Women’s Day theme ‘Choose to Challenge’ and provides some useful information on gender equality in the workplace.
Positive About Inclusion CIC is a newly formed social enterprise dedicated to delivering tailored diversity and inclusion consultancy and training services to improve workplace inclusivity. They are passionate about supporting businesses to create a culture that promotes belonging, helping organisations to realise their potential.
International Women’s Day – ‘Choose to Challenge’ a Prospective Employer
For some, the annual celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8th will act only as a prompt to ask cynically why such an event is needed and to say “Yeah well, we don’t get an International Men’s Day, do we?” (which we do actually, it’s November 19th).
This year’s theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’ – a call to action for all to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. For those at the start of their career or considering a career transition, International Women’s Day provides an excellent opportunity to carry out ‘due diligence’ on prospective employers in terms of their commitment to gender equality.
Let’s consider the following:
● The first question to ask (and a quick browse on your prospective employer’s website should give you the answer) is do they celebrate the day at all? Ideally, even the most basic requirement for an organisation committed to workplace inclusivity and gender equality would be to have something in their news archive to show how they’ve marked the day in years gone by. Remarkably, International Women’s Day is over 100 years old, having been celebrated for the first time in 1911, so there should be plenty of references to this in the news archive of your prospective employer’s website.
● Having found some evidence of organisational endorsement of IWD, the best-case scenario would be to see some support for an inclusive workplace, demonstrated through a Board Member or Executive Director-type attending an event in person (remember those days?) and/or explaining why they feel it is important to be the organisation’s ‘senior sponsor’ for gender equality.
● Does the organisation appear to consider intersectionality (i.e. the understanding that aspects of a person’s social and political identity combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege)? Being female means you are more likely to be the main person responsible for childcare or to have other caring responsibilities. Is there a recognition of this with options to work part-time or flexibly, what parental or compassionate leave options are available, etc?
● And finally, is there evidence of an organisational commitment to gender equality that goes beyond changing a banner or posting a tweet once a year? Are there active staff network groups, gender-neutral language in job descriptions, recognition of the value and importance of allies, and a well-presented and thoughtful gender pay gap report (for those employers with more than 250 employees) which includes the Equality and Human Rights Commission recommended ‘time-bound, target driven action plan’ to address any imbalance?
So you may not be able to find evidence of all of the above on your potential employer’s website but how their HR Department handles a request for additional information on this subject from a potential employee gives you invaluable insight nonetheless. As this year’s IWD theme attests, you should feel free to #choosetochallenge and that definitely includes prospective employer too.
Joanna Gregson, Head of Enforcement, Equality & Human Rights Commission article for CBI