Gender bias: what we think about it and what we’re doing to tackle it at dxw

Every year feels like there are more and more resources from the view of women, non-binary people, and underrepresented groups

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) is #BreakTheBias. It calls on us to challenge gender bias (which trans and non-binary people experience too), wherever we encounter it.

Although the pandemic has deepened existing inequalities, including gender inequality, #BreakTheBias encourages us to be hopeful and imagine a gender equal world that:

To mark IWD, we asked 5 dxw colleagues what riles them about gender bias, and what motivates them when it comes to tackling it. Here’s what they said.

Ellie Williams, HR Administrator

What are you angry about?

I’m angry about women’s safety and how the focus is always placed on us to carry a personal alarm, cover up, learn self-defence, flag down a bus. Why not invest that time and energy into stopping male violence and aggression at its root cause?

I’m frustrated about how society expects modern women to have a career while also managing traditionally female tasks such as childcare, household chores, or support for elderly relatives. We know that women are still taking on a disproportionate burden of this work, which is considered low value by society.

Imagine how much more time we’d have on our hands to pursue career goals, or that next pay rise, if the default was for men to shoulder this instead.

What are you optimistic about?

I’m optimistic about the workplace being forward thinking around existing gender biases, and that society seems to be addressing barriers women have to achieving equality. However, this does not extend to all women in all walks of life.

I’m quietly optimistic that the #MeToo movement has started a shift towards calling out inappropriate sexual misconduct or assault in our personal and professional lives, but I’m disappointed by the low rates of convictions for rape and sexual assault. Too often womens’ experiences fail to stand up in court.

What or who inspires you?

I’m inspired by the women I surround myself with. Friends who have juggled babies with careers. Colleagues who have progressed into senior leadership roles through talent, hard work, and breaking through stereotypes and limitations that may have been placed on them.

I’m also inspired by women who have spoken up against sexual misconduct or assault, and navigated the backlash they received for holding their perpetrators accountable.

Clare Young, Director of Delivery

What are you angry about?

I dislike the narrative that says we can “have it all”, which often refers to women who are building a career and have other priorities and aspirations. It sends the message that women are superhuman and just need to work harder. In reality, “having it all” is messy. We might say yes too many times and feel overwhelmed, or no and feel guilty. It’s about finding balance, prioritising, getting things wrong, and then trying again. While we may be able to have more than we ever have, we don’t want the burden that comes with it. I like Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail Podcast where people talk about when things haven’t gone right.

What are you optimistic about?

Every year feels like there are more and more resources out there on the topic of the workplace from the view of women, non-binary people, and underrepresented groups. We’re learning that there are so many different ways to “do” work and I love to hear about it.

Some things I’m enjoying right now

What or who inspires you?

Lauren Currie has created an UPFRONT movement that helps women redefine confidence. Realising that confidence is a skill, not a personality type, has been revelatory for me. Now I actively practise my confidence skills.

I love the idea that being successful and happy at work goes beyond learning how to do your job well. It’s about accepting yourself as you are, and knowing where you can add value.

Lauren’s global community of UPFRONT alumni has been hugely inspirational to me over the last 18 months. I find the Weekly Wins section motivating, and it’s great to see everyone’s achievements. There’s enough space for everyone to succeed.

Catriona Brown, Account Manager

What are you angry about?

I’m angry that we’ve been conditioned to mistrust and dislike strong, confident females who walk through life with swagger. When asked outright, I don’t think many would admit to this, and many would genuinely not be aware that they have this bias. There are great people out there trying to change this view but it’s going to take a while. I’m angry about this for many reasons. Most recently because I’ve experienced the minefield this creates while trying to work on my own confident behaviour and for how often I see it show up for so many others.

What are you optimistic about?

Not much, and yet everything at the same time – this is a hard question for me! It’s good to see that more topics around women’s health are being discussed and tackled. Period poverty is a good example of something that’s been addressed in the UK in the last few years, with pads and tampons now free for school children and many workplaces placing supplies in their bathrooms. At dxw, I’m encouraged to see the menopause being considered as worthy of support.

What or who inspires you?

I’ve been lucky enough to work for 2 different organisations, both with strong women in senior leadership roles. There are too many individuals to mention, but what I can say is that it’s been great to be able to draw from female role models, each with their own style and to see how they’ve drawn from their strengths to become respected leaders.

Additionally, as an avid food and cookery consumer, I love the strength and compassion that chefs Angela Hartnett and Ravneet Gill bring to the industry, and urge you to go look them up if you’re not familiar!

Poss Apostolou, Chief Operating Officer

What are you angry about?

I’m angry about the inherent gender bias that’s ingrained in society. But I’m only angry about it because I have a daughter who, at 7, is old enough now to both be aware of her older brother’s privilege AND not be aware of the disadvantages she faces.

Which leads me to my main point – I’m only aware of the bias because I have kids (a boy and a girl). I suspect that, without them, I wouldn’t have figured some of it out. But the reality is that unless you have something at risk, you don’t truly appreciate what you’ve got (in this case – my privilege as a bloke).

As an example, my kids both play football for different teams. So I’ve naturally started to watch women’s football. On the one hand, it’s great that kids don’t associate football being a male thing. On the other hand, most male football fans over the age of 30 will have unfair and sexist opinions on women’s football. This has developed over many years, and will take many more to reverse.

What are you optimistic about?

In terms of tackling bias, and staying with football, having female representation matters. Aside from the fact she’s really good at her job, the sports commentator Alex Scott is doing brilliantly at breaking down old stereotypes (particularly for men of my age!). Away from sport, I believe tackling bias has to start as early as possible. At the earliest age, children are unconsciously split into camps. “Smart, brave boys” or “pretty, kind girls”. Parents, media, clothing, grandparents, all perpetuate this issue. I’d like to see more done at this level in addition to the more nuanced conversation among adults.

Michelle Szaraz, Delivery Lead

What are you angry about?

I’d say I feel more frustrated than angry and it’s because gender bias still exists and affects our daily lives (whether we’re aware of it or not). What makes me particularly sad and frustrated is when I see women not supporting other women and belittling their experiences simply because they can’t relate to them. If someone is lucky and/or privileged enough to not have experienced gender (or any other form of) bias that doesn’t mean others haven’t either, or that the bias doesn’t exist. Listening to and acknowledging each others’ experiences goes a long way in bringing about positive change.

What are you optimistic about?

I’m optimistic about the fact that, as people, we’re becoming more open about our experiences and sharing our stories with a growing audience to listen to them, and care about them enough to strive for doing better. At a personal, society, and global level. It also makes me very happy to see more and more people fighting for and supporting efforts to tackle gender bias. And I love witnessing how extraordinary solidarity among people who often don’t even know one another can be.

What or who inspires you?

Everyone who speaks out, finds the courage to share their stories and experiences, and who offers to back and support others. It doesn’t matter if that person is someone famous and super inspirational like Michelle Obama (she rocks btw!), or someone who stands up for you and backs you up when you encounter gender bias in daily life or at work.

What we’re doing to reduce gender bias at dxw

The Women in the Workplace 2021 report by and McKinsey concludes that, “companies have shown what they can do when change is critical. Now they need to treat women’s equality and diversity, equity and inclusion with the same sense of urgency.”

Providing a work environment that’s accessible, welcoming and empowering for everyone is a priority for dxw. Some of the things we’re doing to tackle gender bias include: