We’ve come a long way since women achieved equal voting rights to men nearly a century ago, but the fight for equality continues. Today we face different challenges, as we battle unconscious bias, inequality in the workplace and the disproportionate effects the pandemic has had on women.
I am in a unique position where I see men and women thrive in the workplace every day, but what is clear to me is the difference in behaviour around how women and men view their worth.
This is also why the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day – Choose to Challenge – is particularly relevant. It invites us to challenge and question gender bias in our everyday lives. One of the challenges is that we don’t hear as much from women. A survey conducted by HP into the work behaviours of men and women found that women applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100% of the qualifications listed for the job. On the flip side, men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60% of the job requirements.
From recruitment to speaking up about an idea in a meeting, from where I sit, this behavioural difference is often significant. I want to encourage women to back themselves at 60% to level the playing field.
As a mentor, one of the things I really notice as a particular issue for women is a lack of confidence. In those moments of self-doubt, I think one of the most powerful things you can do is be mindful of the trap you are falling into and counteract it – remind yourself how you got to where you are and go over your achievements.
The constant pursuit of gender equality is not just a women’s issue, it is squarely an issue for men too. It’s important that both male and female leaders listen harder and tune into their unconscious biases. Talent comes in different shapes and sizes and, in my experience, people tend to recruit in their own likeness. Women tend to be quieter. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do as an advocate for women in the workplace is to listen – tune in, observe and consider if you could be missing out on great talent in your existing team because they are not given the right opportunities to stretch themselves and shine.
In the workplace and across the world, so many women’s voices still go unheard. We all need to play our part in changing that. At Mars, we’re working to advance gender equality in our supply chains, our communities and our marketplace, and we’ve recently launched our #HereToBeHeard crowdsourcing campaign. We want women to share their voices and answer the question: “What needs to change so more women can reach their full potential?”
My answer? Women need to get out of their own way! Speak up, put your hat in the ring and back yourself at 60%.