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#EachforEqual – All genders can benefit from the aims of International Women’s Day

Denise Bower, Group external engagement director

Each of us has a role to play in supporting gender equality. This is clearly summarised in the International Women’s Day hashtag of #EachforEqual. We can all help achieve equality. I see this as the case in wider society and in organisational equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) efforts. Mott MacDonald’s EDI Vision is to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, and this is linked to our People Vision to be the best place to work. A key focus for me in achieving these aims is how we embrace difference and value the diversity of perspectives our friends, family, colleagues, clients and communities can bring.

I recently met with some of our Early Career Professionals (ECPs) to talk about what’s on their minds and what they are doing differently because of this network. During the conversation it became clear that I needed to shift my thinking about how we tap into this network of fabulously talented individuals to make sure we are benefitting from their different viewpoints and talents. Not least of which is recognising that asking an ECP to ‘help sort out some data’ should always go way beyond making sure it’s well organised in a spreadsheet – we should be open to their innovative ideas of how to analyse and present the data instead of just expecting them to ‘give me what I always get.’

The focus of International Women’s Day is on gender equality for all women – of all ages and backgrounds. It is also about supporting men. Men can also be impacted by unequal gender roles and narrow perspectives on the gender binary, including the pressures on men at work. This is something our ECPs have discussed.

I believe gender inequality also informs bias which affects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people. Restrictive gender roles which follow a binary – and can sometimes be positioned as polarised – or even oppositional – can isolate those who transgress these boundaries or blur these socialised lines. As a cisgender, gay man I am conscious that I sometimes behave ‘like a man’ at work – perhaps being assertive or expressing confidence in my opinions. At the same time, I also see benefits in exhibiting what are often seen as ‘female’ traits such as being collaborative and even humble (as ambitious women are judged more harshly than ambitious men). With greater equality, and less restrictive gender constructs at work, I can perform in a way which is authentic to me and I don’t need to act in any way which panders to the gendered assumptions or comforts of others.

Richard Chapman-Harris, Head of Inclusion and Responsibility

Men are expected to perform in a certain way at work and this has a compounding affect when bias means that those in senior positions – mostly white men – choose to work with or promote those in their own image, or those performing to a similar script. Research shows that everyone does it – we view others through our own lens, and this may not always be comfortable, even when looking inward. By this I mean that we can be simultaneously victims and perpetrators of gender ‘rules’ which don’t work for anyone. This has also made me reflect. While I’ve never consciously felt that I had to subdue any of my ‘feminine’ traits, in a world that is dominated by men at a senior level, I have perhaps emphasised traits that might traditionally be recognised as masculine or more closely aligned with the masculine norm.

So, what are we at Mott MacDonald doing to support gender equality globally? What are some of the actions other organisations can implement? Here are a few key initiatives which we see have had a positive impact (more information on our wider efforts here):

  1. Create spaces where colleagues can discuss gender and challenge themselves and each other. We have Yammer groups on a range of topics including our Advancing Gender employee network which facilitates conversations on gender equality. The network has staff champions, a committee, and a dedicated action plan supported by our EDI team.
  2. Review job ads through a gender-neutral lens. We use a gender decoder program which scores the language in our job advertisements to tell us if language is gender biased. We remove words which may deter candidates, especially female candidates, if the language registers as male-oriented. Our EDI team also carries out equality impact assessments of live job advertisements to ensure content is inclusive and our standards are being delivered. We have seen the quality of our advertisements improve with recommendations which were initially driven by EDI good practice. We are looking at mapping this practice for event invites also.
  3. Scrutinise promotion processes to ensure all talent is being considered. We have promotional panels at divisional and regional levels to make our promotions consistent and ensure we recognise top talent. Our Head of Inclusion and Responsibility has reviewed these panels and promotion papers to provide advice on how to ensure equality of opportunity. Improvements include changes to the language used, which is more age and gender inclusive. We also have diversity dashboards to track demographic trends, including the rates of applications and hires by gender, and hiring panels are trained on how to avoid unconscious bias in selections and interviews to ensure no one is overlooked.

I hope you have an enjoyable International Women’s Day. And let’s continue the campaign for the rest of the year too. To truly achieve #EachforEqual we need to focus on gender equality every day.

Denise Bower

Group external engagement director

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