Many roles to fill, more opportunities to grasp
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Many roles to fill, more opportunities to grasp

Many roles to fill, more opportunities to grasp

The UK-based television personality and founder of Insight with Passion says it’s essential that women celebrate and support each other, as we work together to build a more equal society

Gulf Business

What would the world look like today if there was a greater ratio of female leaders to male leaders? Do you think it would be different? Would the world of commerce operate in a different way?

Throughout the pandemic and enforced lockdowns, many industries witnessed the introduction of flexible hours and work-from-home initiatives for the first time to keep the wheels of commerce turning. Some questioned if working from home was achievable in such a short space of time, and why hadn’t we seen it in organisations sooner, particularly as it promoted benefits such as better mental health, environmental benefits and more quality time with loved ones. There was also the suggestion that this was the step change that should enable more women, who often become the primary carer of children and elderly relatives, to carry on in careers that they previously may have had to relinquish.

Yet late last year as the UK government made a call to get people back into the workplace, the Bank of England economist Catherine Mann gave an interview warning of the risk to women’s careers stalling if they were not in the office to enhance them. Far from being the catalyst of change, could Covid have set back the progress made towards greater gender equality in the workplace?

Economic slowdowns impact progress, and in 2020 whilst women made up 39 per cent of the global workforce, they also accounted for 54 per cent of the job losses that year. So, there’s certainly progress still to be made.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day – Break the Bias –  highlighted that the world should be free of bias, stereotype and discrimination to accelerate gender parity. But do we still have bias when it comes to women at work? Well, I ask you to quickly conjure up an image in your mind of a firefighter, a doctor or a CEO. What do you see: is it a professional who is a male or female?

It is clear that diversity and inclusion in any organisation is an advantage – the more rounded and grounded a business, the more effective and engaging it can be.

In the seabed of unresolved issues that have risen to the surface in recent years, it is more important than ever that business leaders focus on building better and more authentic strategies to deal with sustainability and environment, diversity and inclusion and with community investment.

Those initiatives must not over promise and under deliver or just be fodder for a press release. To steal with pride from suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, this is truly a time for “deeds not words”.

So, how can women carve a niche for themselves in business today? It is not just a matter for women. It is for business leaders to actively recognise that great talent will come from every walk of life and sometimes the search to fill roles may have to reach beyond the usual recruitment funnel. The way in which male counterparts play a role in breaking the bias is just as significant if not more than what we as women must do.

We live in a society that is incredibly influenced by social media and ‘image’. With a picture you get immediate engagement, the brain can process images so much more faster than words and there is no language barrier. They are instantaneous. This is why visibility is an important tool for anyone building the next stages of their career today. Yet, a Google search for images of a CEO show fewer women than men, and a unification of the suited look for many of those images.

If we want to start breaking the bias, we need to start painting better pictures.

There is a caveat to this however, as many entrepreneurs have grabbed the opportunity of building personal brands on social media; we have seen the rise of boasting over posting. As the world gets a skewed version of reality, perhaps we need to add in additional ways to ensure that your visibility belongs to an authentic version of your career.

The idea of representing yourself and your career online can often seem quite daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. I believe we are starting to move to new place with social media – and more of us are keen to read authentic stories and hear from experts we respect.

There is so much opportunity to celebrate others and this can be a more comfortable way to be introduced on social media. Which women inspire you? Whose work do you admire? Celebrate and share them.

It is essential that we women celebrate and support each other. I’m not sure if it has been driven by fear or caused by self conflict, but I have witnessed too many instances of a woman in business feeling the need to be in competition with other women. There are many roles to fill, many opportunities to grasp and there is much collaborative work to do, to drive forward positive change in every aspect of diversity and inclusion, in every workplace.

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