This International Women’s Day, we spoke to Cheryl Stewart, Andron Board Director, who shares her thoughts on combatting bias in the workplace, the progress that we’ve made towards gender equality, and what still needs to be done.
Today, on International Women’s Day (IWD), I feel fortunate to be a young woman working in a leadership role, particularly within a forward-thinking business that values my input and ideas. However, I know that this privilege doesn’t exist for many women in society, and gender inequality still exists.
In 2021, only 38% of FTSE 100 companies had women in their boardrooms, and only 8% had a female CEO – a stark reminder that there is still a long way to go on the long road to equality.
This year’s IWD campaign theme — #BreaktheBias —therefore aims to spotlight the individual and collective biases against women that fuel gender inequality. A recent Women in the Workplace Report found that 73% of women experience bias at work, yet less than a third of employees can recognise bias when they see it. By learning to recognise and challenge bias, we can create a more inclusive and fairer workplace for all.
Building an Inclusive culture
Creating cultures of inclusion and empowering employees to interrupt bias in the moment is key to challenging gender inequality. At Andron, we are committed to building a more inclusive culture. We provide our teams with unconscious bias training to help raise awareness of the different forms of bias and how they perpetuate inequality. The interactive training consists of workshops, challenges and debates led by experienced facilitators, and empowers our employees to challenge bias in the workplace and to step in when they see hurtful or undermining behaviour. In doing so, we are ensuring a supportive and inclusive working environment for all.
Many organisations are also looking towards new policies that support women in the workplace. As well as family-friendly policies, we are launching a new menopause policy to ensure additional support to employees during this challenging time. Although this will ensure progress, we recognise that we are only at the beginning of our journey towards gender equality and still have a lot of work to do.
Shifting the balance in the Facilities Management Industry
The facilities management industry has always been very male-dominated and although I have often been the only female in the room, it has been great to see more women joining the industry in recent years and progressing into leadership roles. Women provide a different set of skills, perspectives and cultural differences and it’s proven that greater gender diversity on senior executive teams directly improves performance. By creating a supportive working environment that allows women to be successful and progress in their careers whilst juggling their personal lives, we can encourage even more women into senior leadership roles.
Personally, I am looking forward to launching our school and college programme this year, where we will be working directly with disadvantaged students to expose more young women to career opportunities within the FM industry. We are also launching our diverse supplier programme where we are looking to support more SMEs operated by under-represented groups, including women.
As the first female member of Andron’s board, I am committed to supporting the empowerment of women within our business, the FM industry, and our local communities. By focusing on gender equality, not just today but every day, we can build a more inclusive future for all, and to quote Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook: “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”