This International Women's Day, we interviewed some of our team asking them to share their thoughts on how we can #BreakTheBias.
We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
1. Which bias would you like to break about women at work in 2022?
I'm keen to help break the bias that a woman can't progress with their career whilst on maternity leave. I've seen this first hand amongst friends, family and my wife; the perception that maternity leave is a glorified sabbatical and a woman's career is on hold. Women get held back, overlooked, forgotten or passed over for promotion because the belief - consciously or unconsciously - is that they're not actively contributing and not physically at their desk, on emails/VCs/calls or in meetings.
This is not how things should be in my opinion. A close friend of mine was promoted to Partner at a big 4 firm during her maternity leave as she'd passed all the requisite criteria, both before and during her maternity leave. She's wasn't 'sort of' working or dipping in and out. She was on maternity leave but was fully supported by an enlightened and forward thinking employer. This is progress.
Men cannot reproduce and give birth. This is a fact. So as men, we need to do more to support women's careers and progression during their maternity leave.
2. Within your market / industry sector, what progress have you seen businesses take to progress gender equality?
The markets I focus on recruiting for – Private Equity and Alternative Investments – can be seen to be behind the times in terms of gender equality, with very few female Investment Partners, FDs, CFOs or COOs relative to other markets within financial services, commerce and industry or professional services. Women tend to occupy leadership roles in areas like Investor Relations, HR and Marketing, which play to very old-fashioned stereotypes. Progress has been made in the last few years with firms proactively headhunting and attracting senior female leaders into Board level roles – three quite large private equity houses that I know of have appointed women into the main CFO role with two out of the three coming into private equity from another industry. This is progress but baby steps in comparison to other industries and sectors.
3. What is one action companies can take to further balance their talent attraction strategies?
Blind CVs is the most obvious and common approach to removing conscious or unconscious bias but a lot more can be done from graduate level upwards in terms of continuous training and coaching around institutionalised bias in the workplace.
4. What is your top advice for making job descriptions more inclusive?
Keep them factual and as simple as possible. They should read like a shopping list for all intents and purposes in terms of responsibilities. Where organisations get stuck is that they often provide a summary of the ideal candidate under qualifications or background; a tick box exercise for the most part. I’d argue that this needs to include as little detail as possible so candidates don’t de-select or get put off applying.
5. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Ensuring women progress and don’t get left behind when they’re at the point in their life where they want to have children and start a family. As a society, we need to do more to support women through maternity leave and the early years of establishing a family, when a huge percentage of women feel like their career has been put on pause or that it has to take a back seat to the needs of the family. There have been some big steps forward in the last 10 or so years – shared parental leave and ‘return to work’ schemes being the main two that stick out in my mind, but organisations need to think more creatively around how they retain and support their female leadership contingent through those important family years. Additional financial support towards childcare costs for example.