Breaking the Bias

Breaking the Bias

by Charlotte Hopewell, OCF Project and Operations Senior Lead

Habits need to be collectively broken

Today marks International Women's Day (IWD). This year the theme is #BreakTheBias   and the aim is to create ‘a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination’. Cranfield School of Management, produced findings that only eight women hold the role of CEO in FTSE 100 companies. Although the number of women on their boards is rising - now at 38% - the percentage of executive directorships occupied by women was flat for a second year at 13.7%. So even with what we see as advancements in equality, are we still encouraging workplace bias?

I’ve been fortunate in my career to not have knowingly faced such barriers to allow me to get to where I am today but I’m still cognisant that these acts happen and affect many others around the world every day. Whether that be at work, school or in communities, there are obstructions and if we are to truly create a fair and diverse world then these habits need to be collectively broken. But how can we change people’s behaviours for the greater good?

Demonstrating the right amount of confidence is a tricky balance

In previous companies, stereotyping of female leaders happened. The usual whispers that they were stern and demanding would be uttered but if a male boss displayed similar attributes, then he was viewed as strong and professional. Was this right? Was this constructing gender bias and the creation of stereotypes without me even realising it? Looking back, I can see that it did.

Consequently, I feel that it might have made me subconsciously cautious on how I should present myself and demonstrating the right amount of confidence is a tricky line to balance when you want to be taken seriously but don’t want your peers or counterparts judging you in the same negative light. But I’m lucky at OCF, where I manage a 50/50 gender split team and as a company encourages a diverse workplace that supports gender equality, that I haven’t had to deal with such quandaries here. However, others aren’t so fortunate.

The IWD website  says ‘Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to level the playing field. Will you actively call out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping each time you see it?’ I challenge you to call it out. I know I will. I truly believe that actions speak louder than words and if by taking action when we hear negative words uttered, whether that be about gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity, then we all will play a part in making the world a more inclusive place.