International Women’s Day: Challenge inequality and gender bias
To mark today's celebration of a focal point in the movement for women's rights, Kayleigh Graham explains this year's theme: choose to challenge, and how we can each influence change in your lives and place of work.
In 1919, the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act saw all professional accountancy bodies forced to admit women.
Now, over 100 years on, there are thousands of women in the industry. Figures published annually by the Financial Reporting Council showed that, on average, over the top seven UK accountancy bodies, 36% of members were female and over 49% of their student bodies were female.
International Women's Day (IWD) has been celebrated across the globe since the early 1900s and since then the world has witnessed a significant change in society's view of women's equality.
With more women in accountancy, the boardroom, greater equality in rights and women's visibility in every aspect of life, you could think that women have gained a sense of true equality.
However, the fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in other areas of business or politics, and globally women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.
The theme of this year's IWD is #choosetochallenge and it’s calling on each of us to think about what we can do to influence just one change in our lives and organisations.
Did you know that men are 3x more likely to interrupt or talk over a woman than they are another man?
If you are in a meeting and bear witness to that, choosing to challenge could look like saying “I’d like to hear the rest of X’s thoughts before we move on” or “X raised a great point, can we just come back to that for a moment?”
If you’re leading a meeting it might look like going around the room giving everyone an opportunity to contribute equally or making the effort to invite a female colleague to speak up if they haven’t already.
This isn’t about being abrasive, rude or condescending. It’s about pushing yourself slightly to become more aware of some of the issues women face and then challenging those and you can do that in whatever way feels comfortable for you.
That was just one example of how to challenge but the IWD website suggests there are a number of strategies you can use to respond to bias such as:
- Explaining the bias you can see
- Sticking to the facts
- Advocating for policy/process change
- Speak up for someone in the moment
- Ask a probing question
A challenged world is an alert world and individually we must all take accountability for our actions.
We can all choose to call out gender bias and inequality, to seek out and celebrate women's achievements.
From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.
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Kayleigh began her career in corporate and commercial banking, before working at an alternative lender and most recently joined the partnerships team at Capitalise, a fintech adviser-led funding platform, designed to empower accountants to help their clients discover and access the funding they need to succeed.