Progress toward gender equality is “vanishing before our eyes,” United Nations Secretary General António Guterres told the Commission on the Status of Women ahead of International Women’s Day last year.
We all know the financial business case for more diverse inclusive teams and the benefits not only monetary but culturally they can provide any organisation.
It will take another 131 years to close the global gender gap at the current rate of progress. This means we won’t realise a gender equal society until the middle of the next century unless more action on equality is taken. We also know it is against the law to discriminate against someone because of their:
So why despite it being against the law, we are still seeing continual discrimination and inequalities being experienced against these characteristics?
It is important not to create a hierarchy of protected characteristics. It’s time to step up and drive systematic change for multiple, overlapping areas of inequality.
Maybe it is time for businesses to take an intersectional approach to gender?
For example - That means recognising that the inequalities faced by women of colour are not simply those faced by white women with a racial element added on - they are fundamentally different. Too often that distinction is under-appreciated.
Gender is not a single construct.
Women intersect across all the protected characteristics. The current approach of businesses seemingly focusing on one protected characteristic at a time or the one that is on trend.
How effective is it?
But approaching gender, race, disability, sexuality and all the protected characteristics one by one, on an individual basis does not help to recognise the interconnection between them all.
Is this actually slowing down the pace of progress?
What if the approach was to understand and tackle the reasons for the inequalities experienced by women.
What are the common denominators for inequality?
Tackling inequality is not the role of one, it’s the coming together of everyone.
Boughey, a member of the U.K’s All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Women and Enterprise, and Women and Work, argues that the rise of women is not about the fall of men. It’s about valuing the unique difference we all bring. “Gender balance is a whole-society issue where everyone has a role in bringing about change,” she says.“ Leaders need to demonstrate advocacy and an inclusive mindset, but also encourage everyone to commit to calling out inequality and involve them in decision-
There is often a ‘one size fits all’ approach to interventions and change. But the experiences within women – between individuals and between different groups of women – are often more varied than the experiences between women and men.
There is a need to understand this variety in women’s experiences, and how this is determined by other intersecting identities, especially those that are marginalised or stigmatised.
What is most troublesome about the one size fits all approach, is that gender interventions and initiatives are most often based on the experiences of the dominant group – such as those women who are white, middle-class or straight. This is problematic, both because the experiences of such women are by no means universal, and because women not included in this group often face the greatest inequalities.
How about having fully integrated groups and teams working together on reducing inequalities?
Of course, there as nuances, differences for each aspect of inequalities experienced by different groups and it is important to recognise what these are and embrace them, include them, and assimilate them into your organisations.
By taking an intersectional approach, a firm does not have to ‘pick and choose’ actions to tackle one social inequality over another. Furthermore, ensuring true diversity of thought requires a joined-up,
holistic, approach to equality.
We need to:
What are the common denominators? The root causes of systemic inequalities that impact various intersecting identities.
Businesses you need to ask yourselves:
We are proud that the Bristol Women in Business Charter is not just about gender, we are looking at gender through an intersectional lens.