How we can champion change for women with the power of #EverydayActions

Making a meaningful difference when it comes to elevating female talent in our industry requires more than hosting a panel on International Women’s Day but committing to change every day.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director


How do you solve a problem like prioritising gender equality in the midst of a global pandemic, which has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on women’s careers? If your strategy centres on a panel discussion around International Women’s Day, then the chances are that strategy is doomed to fail. This is why to celebrate and elevate female talent across the industry we are teaming up with women’s network Bloom to launch a new monthly series featuring women from across the network highlighting the #EverydayActions that both companies and individuals across our industry can take to build back better in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

Caroline Wilkinson, Head of Partnerships at Bloom believes that now is a vital time to elevate women’s voices. While she points to the fact that the industry has made some improvements, huge sections are still male dominated.

“Board rooms are male dominated; bosses tend to be more male. We need to change this to give women the confidence to know they can achieve and just because their voice is not the loudest in the room doesn't mean she shouldn’t be heard,” she explains. Wilkinson is dedicated to ensuring that this situation changes for future generations of female talent which is what Bloom aims to achieve through its mentor program. “Giving the next generation of women in our industry the confidence to find their voice, to push through doors, through glass walls and glass ceilings and know that they won’t be locked out is vital,” she says.

The underrepresentation of women’s, and more broadly, diverse voices at senior levels of organisations is a glaring blind spot in our industry.

Zara Bryson

Challenging the status quo

Jackie Randhawa, Head of Mentoring at Bloom believes the benefits of making space for women’s voices are twofold. She explains: “Firstly, we need a diverse range of opinions to keep our perspectives fresh, to challenge our thinking and assumptions and to strive for excellence across all functions. It’s a no brainer that this absolutely includes a female voice.”

She continues: “Secondly, we need strong female senior role models in leadership roles throughout the industry, for the girls that are school, for the young women who are starting out in their career. Seeing yourself reflected in successful roles, in positions of power and influence, normalises the achievements and reinforces the attainability of such success.”

It’s a state of play which means that elevating women’s voices in the industry well beyond the confines of International Women’s Day is business critical. Particularly when it comes to an industry whose very success is based upon its ability to reflect and connect with culture.

Zara Bryson, Head of Purpose and Impact at Bloom, believes that where women’s voices aren’t elevated, they aren’t heard. Where their voices aren’t heard, their experiences aren’t represented and when their experiences aren’t represented their views are not factored into important decision making and design of policies, benefits and ultimately workplace culture.

“The underrepresentation of women’s, and more broadly, diverse voices at senior levels of organisations is a glaring blind spot in our industry,” she explains. Pointing to the recent headlines surrounding Yoshiro Mori, the President of the Tokyo Olympic committee and former Japanese President’s comments on women speaking too much in meetings. He said: “When you increase the number of female executive members, if their speaking time isn’t restricted to a certain extent, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying.” Bryson highlights US research that shows that the opposite is true; women speak up less in meetings and are more likely to be interrupted.

“We need people to respect, stop interrupting, invite and listen to what women have to say, not only to make a fairer and more inclusive industry but because that’s how the best creativity, progress and business success will be possible,” she continues.

Bryson believes there are clear ways to elevate women’s voices which also extends to creating inclusive working environments, something anyone in our industry can do. She urges people across the industry to actively question their blind spots. “Check who is in the room, or the Zoom! It’s time to ensure that women are included in decision making, not interrupted when they are talking, instead championed, sponsored and that their voices are amplified in your organisation,” she adds.

One data point from disaster

Every week a new data point shows the ways in which this crisis disproportionately impacts women. Research from the TUC reveals that across the board working mothers need greater support; 90% said their stress levels had increased during this lockdown, 71% who asked for furlough were denied, while almost half (48%) were worried about being treated negatively at work because of childcare. Believe women or risk burning them out.

Research released last month by UN Women, shows that, since the outbreak of the coronavirus, women in the UK are doing on average 30 hours of childcare a week, compared with 24 hours by men, a figure lower than the 26 hours women were doing pre-pandemic.

While research from McKinsey and LeanIn.org, reveals that a quarter of working women are currently considering scaling back their career ambitions or leaving the workforce entirely.

Behind these data points are human stories too, of women who have been pushed to their absolute breaking point, who feel they have failed or that they are not enough.

Sophia Durrani, Chief Strategy Officer at Bloom believes that inertia is a major barrier for the industry to overcome. She explains: “If they are getting on fine without it, many will fail to make changes unless put under external pressure, perhaps from the media or their clients, when it is likely to impact their bottom line. Loss aversion is a far bigger motivator in this instance. There is a huge amount of cognitive dissonance in this industry, which is why so many D&I initiatives have boiled down to tick boxing exercises rather than healthy practices.”

Durrani explains: “Ours has always been an industry where women seem to disappear at a certain age, and I believe we are on the brink of a mass, and involuntary, exodus of women from our industry. So, I think it’s enormously important for companies to double down not just on retention but hiring women at this time.”

She highlights the fact that getting back into the workplace is not going to be an easy feat for many with a recession imminent. Already scarce senior roles are likely to become rarer still. “If the industry starts to close its ranks as the economy tanks, can we really afford to let some of our most talented women leave?” she asks.

Durrani believes it's up to everyone, not just companies but individuals as leaders, friends, colleagues and partners, to fight against the tide. She explains: “Be aware we could be on the precipice of an equality imbalance reminiscent of several decades ago. Given the economic boost that attracting women back into the workplace could have on our country, we must tackle this head on.”

A lone voice can get drowned out but a collective one becomes a loud roar.

Elizabeth Anyaegbuna

#EverydayActions: From Panel to Progress

We have a once in a generation opportunity to reset the workplace for the better. With this in mind we asked the Bloom leadership team to share how they #ChooseToChallenge the industry to do more to support women on the other 364 days a year.

Tap into the power of the collective

Elizabeth Anyaegbuna, Co-Head of Allyship, Co-Founder of Bloom in Colour, explains how the power of Bloom is found in its collective voice.

A lone voice can get drowned out but a collective one becomes a loud roar. Sounds a bit dramatic but you can never underestimate its power, just look at history for proof. The Suffragettes, civil rights movement, the Me-Too movement, abolition of slave trade and the global protests against racism post the killing of George Floyd to name a few. Bloom has evolved over time, become more diverse and inclusive as it grows and embraces all women. Personally, being able to co-found Bloom in colour, a space for women of colour and stand as co-head of Allyship, a new role ensuring a safe, supportive space, shining a light on marginalised groups is testament to that. Bloom is also a network recognising the need to build equity amongst women and is refreshingly unapologetic in its push for equality for all. I’ve met so many wonderful, talented women in Bloom. I’m grateful to be part of it.

Address the motherhood penalty

Sophia Durrani, Chief Strategy Officer at Bloom, believes that women in the creative industries have paid the motherhood penalty prior to the pandemic.

Our industry has never been kind to mothers, and now, in the time of COVID-19, this has been exacerbated. While companies have been forced to witness how easy and efficient working from home can be, there is still so much more we need to be doing. For instance:

·      Offer truly flexible schedules, taking the best from the COVID WFH learnings. One size of flexibility does NOT fit all.

·      Elevate real role models who have made the juggle possible and I’m not talking about those with nannies and rich husbands.

·      Subsidise childcare.

·      Launch return-to-work programmes, fast-track schemes, and mentoring to tackle the confidence crisis women face.

·      Give them choices rather than making choices for them about their workload and work options.

·      Train managers to provide constructive feedback to interviewees and colleagues.

·      Embrace the Creative Equals seven point charter and Equality Standard.

·      Implement blind CVs in recruitment.

While the challenge most recently has certainly about mothers, the fight for gender parity is also about fathers too.

Meagan Bickerstaff

Commit to making the industry more inclusive for parents

Meagan Bickerstaff, Co-Head of Membership at Bloom, believes embracing paternity leave will be key to achieving equality.

It's not just the motherhood penalty, it's the parenthood penalty. While the challenge most recently has certainly about mothers, the fight for gender parity is also about fathers too. The role fathers play in society, the workplace, and at home is equally as important. Changing the culture and mindset about how your workplace views paternity leave, for example, will in fact positively impact the way mothers are treated before, during and after maternity leave. We want to get to a place where all men feel comfortable with the idea that they could be a stay-at-home Dad and where all women can confidently walk into work with a breast-pump in one hand and a workbook in the other without one person batting an eyelid.

Recognise and address the emotional load in the workplace

Lucy Cutter, President of Bloom, believes that addressing the emotional load in the workplace and celebrating empathetic leaders is key to achieving equality in the workplace.

For years women have been carrying the emotional labour which goes on in the workplace. Often it goes unnoticed or is not perceived as important or valued as other key metrics in driving results such as sales, billings or relationship building. The emotional labour which goes into the day to day by being organised, keeping the peace, picking up cues on team/individuals’ behaviour and motivation, being enthusiastic, checking in on everyone and anyone to see how they are and what needs to be done takes a lot of work and time and makes the workplace feel a bit more human. In terms of what can be done about it, firstly recognise it and call it out. Celebrate the personal, caring and emotional intelligence and the results which it has delivered. Secondly let's talk more about the rise of the empathetic leader and how successful these leaders are. 

Embrace the power of diversity to drive business forward and practice intersectionality

Dinah Williams, Co-Head of Allyship at Bloom and Co-Founder of Bloom in Colour on the power of authentic engagement.

In my experience, some do, and some are gaining that understanding. I love the fact that I work with clients that want us to help them to be innovative, purpose-driven and forward-thinkers. These are the organisations that are embedding inclusion and diversity across all aspects of their business, employee engagement, CSR commitments, marketing and comms, recruitment, supply chain and procurement etc and understand it’s not a ‘nice to have’ or solely a HR function. Organisations that truly incorporate diversity into their business strategy, consistently outperform those that do not. This can be as much as an increase of 35% on profitability according to McKinsey. There are so many missed commercial opportunities, for example, the British Muslim spending power alone has an estimated worth of £20.5bn. Engaging with diverse audiences shouldn’t be taken lightly though. It needs to be authentic to that community, and align with your internal policies and practices, otherwise it can appear as performative rather than embedding long term inclusive change into the business.

What does an #EverydayAction around this look like? When contributing to a project, practise taking a more intersectional approach. Imagine even one characteristic about yourself being different to what they currently are, maybe your gender, your race or age and ask, 'would this still speak to me in the way that it should or could?' If it doesn't, challenge it.

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