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International Women’s Day 2022: #BreakTheBias

08 March 2022
Written by Colette Cohen OBE

Bias… does it still exist? Are we making something of nothing? Many would tell us that in a time of war, our focus on the micro aggression or perceived slights have no place. We need instead to focus on the bigger picture. I would suggest that times of struggle only emphasise the gender bias issues. And hence, it’s a perfect time to shout from the rooftops that it’s time to change.

Time to change how we treat each other, how open we are to differing opinions, to alternate ideas, to different styles; as the main barrier to diversity is our reluctance to consider someone else’s right to hold a different position, or just be different.

#BreakingtheBias is opening the door, or your mind to a different style, opinion and approach. Opening the door to women holding any role in any company. We’ve often heard the expression ‘you’re not from about here’ or ‘this is the way we do it here’ – it’s just another way of saying you don’t fit.

And gender bias is all about the ‘you don’t fit’ – an expression I have heard many times in my career.

So, what can we do to change that? To capitalise on the proven value generated for a company when it’s run by a diverse team? To capitalise on better performance and a better working environment? How do we change the fact that according to the Powerful Women 2021 Survey, 78% of the companies in the energy industry do not have any female executive directors? And their female talent pipelines are woeful.

Barack Obama said that ‘change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.’

So the change we need is within our control, within our companies, within our individuality.

For companies there are some really simple steps you can take that make a HUGE difference:

And what can you do personally?

Well, if you’re male, seize opportunities for women in your organisation, push them, challenge them and help them thrive. And women – what can you do to break the bias? Don’t succumb to it, and don’t conform. And in the words of Oscar Wilde “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” 

Be brilliant. Be different. And ask for change. Expect equality. And call it out when it’s not there. 

Back yourself.

Be resilient and demand the change you need for you and for the women coming behind you. We have a duty to deliver the changes we need and in our lifetime. The World Economic Forum says we won’t see gender pay equality for more than 130 years – that can’t be allowed to happen. Let’s deliver the equality we want to see.

I lead a technical organisation with more than 50% women in the organisation and on the leadership team. It can be done. Don’t stay with an employer that doesn’t value you, an employer that doesn’t listen or embrace your diversity.

Silence is compliance. Use your voice and your feet.

You are powerful. And you know your worth. Together we can #BreaktheBias.

Colette will join the panel at Robert Gordon College’s International Women’s Day event, taking place 8 March at 18:30. Register here. 

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