International Women’s Day 2021 – #IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge

Senior Inclusion and Diversity Consultant Addison Barnett shines the spotlight on International Women’s Day 2021, it’s theme #ChooseToChallenge and what your organisation do to raise awareness and understanding of it.

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Each year International Women’s Day has a theme which continues all year to provide a meaningful framework to connect and amplify action. The 2021 campaign is #ChooseToChallenge and aims to inspire us all to call out gender bias and inequality.

2020 saw, unsurprisingly, that women were disproportionately affected by lockdown. Women’s unpaid hours at home have nearly doubled to 65 per week, against 50 logged by an average father (source). Women are also more likely to be responsible for the ‘second shift’ of caring for parents or other family members.

Gender of course intersects with disability, sexuality, race and other characteristics and can compound the discrimination women face. For instance Black and Asian women MPs receive much more abuse on social media that their white colleagues – 20 BAME MPs received almost half (41%) of the abusive tweets, despite there being almost eight times as many white MPs in the study (source). Dianne Abbot in particular received an average 51 abusive tweets per day over the 158 day study.

At Inclusive Employers we often work with our members to develop and deliver programmes to create organisational and behavioural change and create inclusive cultures. Our Inclusion Allies, Reverse Mentoring and Inclusive Leadership programmes help to upskill staff to #ChooseToChallenge – to role model inclusive behaviours and to positively challenge others to encourage inclusion for everyone. We know that the only way we will achieve real change is if we step in and #ChooseToChallenge others. This doesn’t necessarily mean ‘calling out’ in the moment, in fact shaming people rarely leads to behaviour change; but speaking with them 1:1 and having an open conversation to help them see the impact of their behaviour and how they could do better next time.

There are several techniques for challenging offensive language, and you will need to select the approach that works best for you. Think about what outcome you want to achieve: is it to set an assertive boundary around what is acceptable, or is it to get someone into a learning space where you can educate them? Remember, the far larger group of people are those who say discriminatory things, use offensive words or terms but wouldn’t consider themselves discriminatory. In fact, being seen as such would probably make them feel ashamed, which then means they get defensive and resistant to change. The aim with this group is to get them into a space where they feel able to accept they’re wrong and commit to changing that.

We should #ChooseToChallenge – challenging exclusion and making change happen cannot sit on the shoulders of those who experience the exclusion. All of us must be allies to one another, and bring people along on this journey with us towards inclusion for everyone.