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International Women's Day 2022: What’s being done to break the bias?

by Georgie Walker

March 7, 2022

The theme of International Women’s Day this year is ‘break the bias’, emphasizing our collective power to do so by taking responsibility for our actions and working together to forge a gender equal world.

Bias can see women overlooked for opportunities, stunting careers and ultimately leaving women's voices unheard and perspectives neglected. But as awareness increases of bias at play, what action is being taken in our industry? With our work patterns continuing to shift as a result of the pandemic, will this inhibit gender equity, or provide an opportunity to propel it forward?

This International Women’s Day, we’ve asked members of the IAB Inclusion, Diversity and Equity group to share what they’re doing to break the bias and what advice they have for allies.

What’s the best thing your company does to tackle gender bias in the workplace?

Simone Payne, director, people, Index Exchange: "While International Women’s Day is a powerful platform to celebrate milestones and consider challenges still to overcome, the real work happens every day of the year. At Index Exchange, we have developed initiatives our employees can access throughout the year, including learning and development paths around building a safer and more diverse work environment, as well as sessions on allyship and diversity in action.

"Meanwhile, our internal affinity groups, Women in Engineering and the Women’s Network, and our partnership with She Runs It, provide crucial forums for activating change in our community. Thanks to mentorship programmes, networking events, and resources, these groups provide opportunities for upskilling and career advancement, ultimately empowering our women to become leaders. This commitment at multiple levels of the company contributes to lasting change in tackling gender bias."

Polly Fox, agency partner, Meta: "Firstly and most importantly, it’s prioritized by leadership. As a technology and data-driven company, we set KPIs we want to hit, and diversity is no different. We measure it and share how we’re doing through our annual diversity report which we’ve published since 2014. Whilst we’ve consistently made progress every year, we still have work to do and by 2024, our goal is to have at least 50% of our workforce comprised of women globally.

"We have frameworks in place to ensure that diversity is a cornerstone of how the business operates, from how we hire to the products we build. Whether that’s developing for our ads platform, to collaboration software tools like Workplace, or even how we approach building for the metaverse - we’re guided by responsible innovation principles to ensure we’re not only building products that are inclusive of our diverse communities, but employing the diverse teams needed to build them. At Meta, we’re given access to tools to educate ourselves, with a number of mandatory training courses, including ‘Managing Bias’ and ‘Be the Ally’. We also have active employee resource groups, such as ‘Women@’ and ‘Practicing Allyship’, that provide safe spaces of support and community, and we have a strong culture of open feedback, which I think is crucial to making progress."

With the pandemic having made hybrid working commonplace, what are the opportunities and challenges in terms of achieving gender equity?

Rebecca Holman, digital director, Grazia: "We certainly saw a huge shift in how we worked when the pandemic hit and, at Bauer, our working from home pledge - made at the start of lockdown - included commitments to putting family first. These promises were everyone balancing caring responsibilities, home-schooling and work (studies show these were disproportionately women). We pledged to set boundaries, which brings us to an obvious challenge for gender equity. Just because we could squeeze in a full day of home-schooling on top of eight hours of work a day or answer emails on our phones as we picked up our children from nursery, was it doing us any good? We need to be aware of the potential dangers of being ‘always on,’ especially in a world that encourages perfectionism in women who are often already overloaded, and ensure flexibility and technology don’t become a way of cramming even more onto our to-do lists."

Lizzie Knights and Susanna Edwards, The Telegraph, Women's Network co-chairs: "As is the same across many industries, the ongoing challenges of the pandemic throughout 2020/21 resulted in fewer internal opportunities to progress diversity and, as a 24-hour news organization, the impact of Covid meant we had to focus on our core operations to ensure business continuity. However, this presented an opportunity to pause, reflect and reevaluate our D&I approach and ensure that we are supporting individuals with achieving work/life balance.

"At TMG, we offer flexible working which we know increases productivity, boosts staff morale, allows for greater work/life balance and greater collaboration. We know that having progressive policies and support in place is essential in achieving gender equity - our Equal Parental Pay policy offers both new mothers and fathers 26 weeks full pay for parental leave and our Emergency Back-Up Care policy provides four free days emergency back-up care for working parents and carers."

From your perspective, what’s one action an ally can take to help prevent gender bias?

Kelly Jacobson Collins, global chair of Rise and privacy compliance director, Blis: "An ally needs to be aware that even the smallest move can make a difference to help us all break the gender bias. When men think about how they can be better allies, they normally think about how they can do more. But sometimes, they could make a bigger impact by simply doing less. When they share opportunities with women, they will automatically be given the space to be heard. Just as actionable examples, allies could recommend a woman to take part in a panel they were first invited to or pass a big, visible project on to a female colleague who can take it on. This pass-up and pass-on approach is simple, but helps increase the number of opportunities for women in our industry."

Lucy Spain, senior manager, customer support, Xandr: "The best allyship is action oriented, where individuals use the power and privilege they possess to implement tangible changes. A great place to start is within the workplace, especially as more companies require employees to implement individual ID&E goals. If you can identify a specific area within your current scope to affect change, it is more likely you will be able to execute on it and deliver an impactful outcome.

"For example, if you have influence within an office operations team, take into consideration that women are comfortable at a temperature that is 2.5 celsius warmer than men. If you work in recruiting or are a hiring manager, scan the language of your job postings and qualifications to ensure there isn’t gendered wording that may hinder your efforts to recruit women (postings that include words like ‘aggressive’ or ‘competitive’ have been proven to deter women). As allies identify these biases inside the workplace, they can start implementing changes within their remit that will add up to make a big difference."


International Women's Day
Diversity and inclusion