Vicky Williams | April 3, 2018
For a while, I think I was a reluctant feminist. I never really thought of myself as a feminist, but instead focussed on championing meritocracy and fairness in the workplace. That is still my ideal, and the thing that drives me – but I now look at this through multiple lenses.
I set up Emerald’s diversity programme, STRIDE, in 2016 when it became apparent that we had a gender imbalance at senior levels in the organisation. This didn’t tally with my own experience at Emerald, so I wanted to address any root causes, but also promote the power of a diverse leadership team. What happened as a result of the programme has had a profound impact on my own views and beliefs, as well as my own sense of responsibility. I’ve also found a true passion.
From the start, we wanted to promote equality of opportunity and the positive effects of diversity. We wanted our employees to hear real stories from real people, and set up a speaker series to support this. Some women did have stories about discrimination, but the one prevailing thread that has emerged is the ‘inner demon’ – the internal monologue that convinces you that you can’t do something. As a generalisation, women listen to this demon more than men do. It says:
- You can’t do this job because you have too many other commitments outside of work
- You can’t do this job because you only fulfil 80% of the job criteria
- You can’t do this job because you can only work part-time hours, or you want to work from home some of the time
- You can’t do this job because it’s such a big leap
It’s a tricky devil to tackle because it’s part of the fabric. We’ve focussed on creating the right environment and the right conditions – as I’ve mentioned, part of this is honest stories from real role models, but we’ve also developed STRIDE as a forum for employee opinions, we’ve created a trusting approach to flexible working, and we run training on things such as unconscious bias. This training is needed to reassure us that we’re all operating in a system of bias, but it’s what we do about it that counts. We had a talk from a neuroscientist recently who said that the brain is subject to 11 million pieces of information at any given moment, but it can only process 40 pieces of that information. The brain is trained to use the path of least resistance, so it needs to be constantly reconditioned to become familiar with difference.
STRIDE has now branched out to look at diversity opportunities beyond gender – this year tackling issues such as mental health, sexuality and race. I’d like us to start looking at returneeship (a term used in the UK to describe the reemployment of mature unemployed individuals) in the near future too. What started as a “women’s group” has gone way beyond anything I imagined. I’m now loud and proud to be a feminist, and see it as a responsibility to champion equality, diversity and inclusion. Sometimes significant, oftentimes small, the results are always powerful.
Originally published by the Workplace Equity Project.