Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

Each year UN Women choose a theme for International Women’s day that becomes the focus for events throughout the year. The theme for #IWD2023 is #EmbraceEquity and I have mixed feelings about it.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are fundamental to be work as a leader, a trainer and coach.

Diversity – I ask people to reflect on who is represented and who is present, also considering who is missing from the space we are occupying which could be a team, a meeting, a library or the curriculum.

Inclusion – I ask people to reflect on how we are doing inclusion by design. We often assume that others feel included because we feel included but the inclusion is not intentional. We need to interrogate how inclusive we are as a workplace and as an employer.

Equity – I ask people to consider the differences between equality and equity. We often think we are being fair by being equal, however the gaps remain the same and get moved up the system when we focus on equality, whereas equity is about identifying and dismantling the barriers.

It is interesting how many schools want to DEI work with the pupils and are less comfortable to do it with the staff. Schools are very focused on meeting the needs of pupils with different needs – there is a tangible commitment to find and remove the barrier pupils are experiencing, but we often neglect the different needs of the staff or do not have the data to inform us.

I ask schools to reflect on how data rich we are when it comes to our pupils and how data poor we often are when it comes to the staff. I ask schools to gather staff voice/ feedback and hear the uncomfortable truths of where the inequities for employees exist.

So having a spotlight on equity is brilliant and much-needed as it is the hardest part of this work. We need to make our workplaces more equitable and we need to address systemic, structural and societal inequities. However, embracing feels too soft for me.

Glass ceilings need shattering. Concrete ceilings need smashing. Inequities need dismantling and redressing. So ‘embracing’ equity feels like a bit of a cop-out. It is well-intended but misses the mark. Values need to be lived not laminated, and the value of equity needs activating for concrete actions not stroking. If it needed to be alliterative perhaps some better options could have been: Expecting Equity? Ensuring Equity? Embedding Equity?

A lot of DEI work does not stick, is not sustained and does not get results because it is framed as good intentions when instead we need to be focused on good outcomes. It is the impact that is essential in transforming how we do things to make a more inclusive workplace for all and a more equitable workplace for diverse employees (ie people with lived experience of the Protected Characteristics).
Thus, we need to consider: How will we measure it? How will we know when and where we are having impact? How will we track our progress?

In my DEI training sessions I talk about the 3 Cs of this work: Consciousness, Confidence and Competence. So here are my calls to action:

  • How will we become individually and collectively, personally and professionally, more conscious of the inequities experienced by women in our workplaces? How will we activate more #HeForShe allies and advocates?
  • How will we build confidence in analysing the gender data and openly discussing the inequities such as position and salary? How will we build confidence in calling in and calling out the gendered behaviour and the language that have become normalised in our workplace?
  • How will we develop the competence to do this work in an intersectional way to consider the experience of women who are doubly, triply and quadruply disadvantaged as they have lived experience of multiple protected characteristics?