To celebrate this year’s theme #BreakTheBias, PR Newswire interviewed Chelsea Perino, Managing Director, Global Marketing & Communications, The Executive Centre and Paula Slater, Global Diversity & Inclusion (DEI&B) Lead, ZF Group on how companies can share meaningful stories on fostering a more inclusive and fairer workplace and communicating gender equality in their investor relations initiatives.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. How do you think companies can explore authentic and meaningful #BreakTheBias stories?
Chelsea Perino: It all starts with asking the question and creating a platform for those questions to be answered in a safe and open environment. Senior management needs to empower their female workforce to take leadership roles and allow them to share their stories and advice about how they overcame gender adversity so that the younger generation can be confident to demand equal opportunities.
Paula Slater: By having events that promote two-way communication – allowing the audience to fully interact with speakers. Also, by having speakers in these events that are bold and direct, they will be able to share real insight without the fear to have consequences for it. In the end, you do need a culture that fosters psychological safety – this is, where it is okay to express different or new points of view without having consequences. The most relevant factor is to really be able to listen to those stories in an unfiltered way.
Besides female executives, what other stakeholders do you think companies can tap into to tell empathetic stories?
Chelsea Perino: Everyone, but especially those in leadership positions, should take an active role in promoting and encouraging quality and diversity in the workplace. An environment that provides empowers its teammates to have meaningful conversations about gender equality needs to start at the top.
Paula Slater: It needs to be any leader that truly believes that change in the field of diversity is necessary – not only gender but in other areas such as age, sexual preference, physical abilities, etc. We need both men and women advocating for minorities. It needs to be based on data. You cannot say you don’t have a problem in terms of any diversity dimension unless you have the data to prove it.
These stories are often centred around female stakeholders. What are some ways that companies can make their male stakeholders better understand the meanings behind the stories?
Chelsea Perino: We need to help our male counterparts understand what they can do to help solve these issues. So often gender bias is positioned as a “He versus She” issue, but that is much too simplified. Inaction is equally as damaging as active bias, but often men are not aware of the challenges that we as females face, especially in more male-dominated industries. This is why sharing positive experiences, where our male counterparts helped us push through glass ceilings, sends a much more positive message and shows the difference that comradery can make in fixing this issue.
Paula Slater: It lies in the concept of allyship – stepping outside your privilege to reach out and go beyond your comfort zone to make sure others are in the same situation. We must understand that privilege is not a negative assumption, but it is something that’s there when there’s a majority and when you are a part of this majority. So, people in the majority should take action to ensure that people in the minority stop being a minority as such and that if they are, they have access to equitable opportunities.
I suggest companies should tap into those stories of leaders (male or female) that are going out of their way to make significant action for minorities to advance. Stories on allyship should be highlighted to inspire others to take that step out of their comfort zone.
“Walking the talk” is more likely to make audiences perceive the values that the company is promoting. How do you think organizations should evaluate which women's organizations to donate to?
Chelsea Perino: There are so many amazing causes in the world right now that support equal opportunities and workplace diversity. I always think finding an organization that shares the same fundamental values as your organization makes support and involvement more valuable and meaningful.
"Gender equality" is listed as one of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. In this context, what information or data do you think investors expect listed companies to disclose?
Chelsea Perino: I think several metrics would be expected - some are quantitative and some are more qualitative. The first is the number of females in the company overall, those in senior management roles, and the percentage of those that were promoted or grew within the company in comparison to their male counterparts, and lastly, the change over time. Organizations should have growth goals and investors should hold them to those numbers.
The second, which is harder to track, is how female employees feel in the company – do they feel supported, that they have equal opportunities and that their concerns are listened to and acted on? Lastly, organizations should develop programmes that build awareness about the importance of diversity and equality.
Paula Slater: Overall workforce analysis (men vs women) and then narrow it down by how that distribution looks like in management or leadership roles. The same should be done in fields where the bias towards women is more challenging – like manufacturing and R&D.
Once the data analysis is done, getting to the root cause of that – is it the policies or the expectations companies have on their leaders, is it the way talent is selected, is it the talent pools where you are searching, is it the way hiring managers are making decisions, etc. Then the company should have initiatives that target those root causes to ensure equality. But it all starts with the data.
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