8th March 2023 saw us mark International Women’s Day (IWD), with this year’s theme of #EmbraceEquity. IWD is an annual celebration of the achievements and contributions of women around the world, and yet also, a chance to look at the progress of the gender balance in the world of work, and how we measure on diversity, inclusion and equity.
We were delighted to host a panel session and workshop with our EDII Think Factory sponsors, the London Market Joint Ventures.
EDII CEO Caroline Bedford was joined by expert Panellists…
- Allison Ellis, HR Business Partner, London Market Joint Ventures
- Dee Lehane, Portfolio NED, Chair of REMCO and Non-Executive Director for XIS, London Market Joint Ventures
- Neil Basterfield, HR Lead UK & I, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Wellbeing Lead, DXC Technology
…to explore what this years IWD theme – #EmbraceEquity – meant to them. With many years working in the technology and insurance industry, their knowledge of HR, inclusion and corporate culture was clear. Combined with their passion to provide better outcomes for people across the board, they talked passionately about the problems surrounding equity and inclusion, and suggestions on how they could begin to be overcome.
What is Equity and how does it differ from Equality?
This year’s IWD theme is #EmbraceEquity. The conversation started with discussing the difference between Equity, and Equality – given that equality is the term that most people are familiar with, in a business sense.
Equity is where everyone is enabled to be their best, without barriers or additional hurdles.
We need to talk about gender equity, but we mustn’t stop there. Inequity affects many people from many under-represented areas too.
Equality assumes everyone has the same starting place, and is given the same access, resource and support. But given that people do not always come from the same starting place, or have the same needs, equality does not always equal fairness.
The panel summed up by stating “Equity is about creating an environment, through actions, initiatives, and culture, where everyone is enabled to be their best, without barriers or additional hurdles”, with the important addition of “We need equity to be able to get to equality”.
This image, created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (@RWJF) is a great visual illustration. The equality aspect shows 4 people each attempting to ride a bicycle that is of equal size and structure. They each have been given access to a bike, but the bike only really provides a suitable mode of transport for one rider.
The equity aspect shows how giving individuals a bike that suits their needs means every rider now has a suitable mode of transport.
What obstacles are organisations facing?
The general agreement was that most organisations did want to do the right thing, and the discussion moved to the obstacles organisations are facing, and what was hindering progress.
One of the biggest hurdles is data – and importantly, the ability to collect data
Lack of data was seen as a key element. Businesses collect gender and ethnicity data as standard, but background, socio-economic data, religion, caring responsibilities, and numerous other criteria that could put a person at a disadvantage are much harder to capture and, therefore, quantify.
In addition, the financial benefits of having an equitable culture are difficult to quantify.
Organisations need to understand the importance and value of having a more equitable workforce, and not just rely on the figures to provide evidence.
Frank conversations around traditional culture, where people are promoted without formal process, and, where people hire people with similar circumstances and attributes brought up the need to address unconscious bias.
What’s the impact of not changing?
As Alison and Neil both described how DXC put huge emphasis on the establishment of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and initiatives run by and for differing communities. They know it’s clear that candidates want to work for a company that share their values. DXC is finding a significant number of applicants are expecting to see clear Diversity, Equity and Inclusion measures with their potential employers, and simply won’t opt to work for those that don’t.
Put simply: If you want to engage and retain the best talent, you need to build and maintain a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture.
A culture of diversity, equity and inclusion is no longer a differentiator – it’s a must-have.
What changes can be made to move the dial toward a more equitable workplace?
The panellists shared ideas and actions to drive change, including:
- Rotate the chair of meetings. Giving different people responsibility means you’ll see different perspectives and gain different experiences
- Change the way roles are advertised. Re-word, remove reference to gender etc.
- Seek to hire through inclusive engagement and promotion processes
- Promote diversity & inclusion through storytelling and inclusive communication
And of course – educate.
Education, Education, Education
A theme that ran throughout the whole session was, the biggest thing an individual could personally do to make a different toward the #EmbraceEquity goal is to educate themselves.
- Increase your understanding of what equity in the workplace means
- Understand how you can be a better ally to underrepresented people and communities
- Seek out people’s stories via articles, podcasts, and TedTalks, to understand more and become an ambassador for change.
And if you can, also capture the data. The age-old saying of ‘what gets measured, gets done’, certainly applies here.
With huge thanks:
With thanks to London Market Joint Venture’s Nicole Mott, Hayley Jordan and Heather Calveley-Tutt for creating such an impactful event.
We are proud to join forces with them, to #EmbraceEquity
About The EDII Think Factory
The EDII Think Factory is a free-of-charge programme exclusively for Digital Minds alumni. The Think Factory community spans more than 250 alumni members and grows with each cohort. With more than 60 organisations represented, and countless roles across the market, the continuing development, knowledge and networking opportunities are endless.
Learn more about the Digital Minds Innovation Programme here.