International Women’s Day 2022 – Break the bias
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Breaking the bias”. The theme is exactly on point with what something we’ve been mulling over as female co-founders for a few months and wondering how we could have behaved differently to a situation that arose for us.
One of our firm beliefs is that change doesn’t happen by pointing the finger externally. If we want something to change, we find ways we can change it, and presumably, that is why we specialise in change management and process re-engineering for law firms.
So, let me use an example from the past 12 months to explain my point.
We were subjected to unjust bullying from someone pretty powerful. To anyone who might ask ‘how do you know when behaviour is bullying?’, a good rule of thumb is that if the Bully asks you to keep all his conversations secret, after you have corrected him, asked him to retract his threat, and then found out he did the exact thing he was accusing us of, then I am confident to say that his behaviour would qualify as bullying/abusive. Ridiculously unfair, factually incorrect, masculine wins - feminine keeps quiet.
It has been haunting me since this episode that I agreed to keep our conversations between ourselves. Truth is, I just wanted it to be over, and to get away from him. I knew that if I made him feel too uncomfortable, he would have retaliated behind closed doors (the secret boys club) - and we have a business to run. So, I stepped away from the fight. I was even charming to him.
I went over that situation many times, working out what was continued to bother me until it struck me. It bothers me because I let it pass, I didn’t speak up. It still haunts me. And ‘breaking the bias’ is going to require each of us to change our behaviours in order to actually effect change, isn’t it? I decided that I had to start standing up for what I believed in - every time. Not in an aggressive way, just to point things out.
Then I came across a post by Nazir Afzal OBE - International Adviser on Rule of Law & Former Chief Prosecutor, a week before I wrote this blog.
His post reads “This is the Munich Security conference lunch of CEOs. Do you think the presence of even one woman might reduce the hostility and tension that currently exists and make us feel a little more secure? Oh & don’t get me started on the absence of people of colour. Diversity matters.”
I have reposted the picture below.
And not to exaggerate, reading his post was a lightbulb moment for me. I don’t know Nazir, but his public declaration supporting women and people of colour shocked me. It wasn’t just supportive but spoke clearly of his understanding that diversity and equality really will lead to change, and that was the element that shocked me.
In addition, it made me realise something that I have never consciously thought of. Breaking the bias has to come from the people who are unaffected by it, as well as the ones affected. For the purposes of this blog about women, that means from more men like Nazir – publicly speaking up, alongside us. Until I read Nazir’s post, it didn’t strike me that men would want to stand up for change, which speaks about my own conditioning on this.
Breaking the bias means we all have to look at our behaviours – of course, it does. We have amazing men in our lives – our relationships, work colleagues, business partners, brothers, fathers, uncles, clients. This blog on International Women’s Day 2022 is to them, as much as it is to our amazing female clients, colleagues, friends, and families.
Where would you start to give pause to your own behaviour?
Could you begin to see how much more proficient women/people of colour have to be to even get invited to the same meetings/boards/committees/conferences where the decisions are being made? To have the same schooling, training, and opportunities? Or to be paid the same as a man?
The Law Society published its Gender pay gap for 2021, which showed the median pay gap between men and women is 11.5%, and the median bonus gap is 23.2%. Is that being addressed in your workplace? To revert to my bullying point - are each of us (men and women) speaking out when something isn’t right, as Nazir clearly does?
Once we all start to notice what is happening around us, and to change our actions each time as we recognise it, we will have started to actually break the bias.
TO SUPPORT WOMEN IN UKRAINE THIS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY:
UN Women stands in solidarity with the women of Ukraine, including those who had to flee their homes and separate from their loved ones, those who stayed to provide humanitarian support in extremely difficult circumstances and at great risk, and the women human rights defenders and activists who are making their voices heard in calling for peace.
UN Women is working closely with women’s civil society organisations, the UN Resident Coordinator, and the UN Country Team in monitoring the situation to determine how to best continue to deliver on the ground.
If this feels like something you would like to support, the link is below (the link will recognise that you are from the UK and take you through to the UK site if you wish to add Gift Aid to your donation).