Article by Emma Clements, Principal.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #breakthebias.
Imagine a gender equal world.
A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
Together we can forge women’s equality.
Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias1.
This theme especially rung true with me as I’ve always felt success is most powerful when men and women can work together, when they actively engage together, when they support each other and respect each other’s values, perspectives, experiences, and opinions.
There are many studies2 that show having diversity at senior levels can increase profitably, can increase innovation, creativity, and improve culture in business. However, more recently another thought is that ‘Inclusion’ is more fundamental than diversity, as “Inclusion occurs when a diversity of people (e.g., of different ages, cultural backgrounds, genders) feel valued and respected, have access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute their perspectives and talents to improve their organisation”3
My take on #breakthebias is about inclusion. If you have a strong reputation for being inclusive, it’s more likely that people with different backgrounds or genders will be attracted to work with you, to collaborate with you, want you to be their trusted adviser. And through inclusion organisations can make the most out of diversity, benefitting from collective and varied experiences that reflect the society we live in and contribute to.
Being ‘inclusive’ requires you to be aware of your surroundings, respect people for who they are, find a connection and ensure all people feel they belong, make sure everyone’s voice is heard, give people the confidence you have their back and that you trust them to have your back.
I have often considered myself lucky to have not had many (if any) negative experiences of being a woman working in a male-dominated industry and I feel I have strong allies around me who have supported and encouraged me along my career path. However, upon reflection maybe it’s not luck, but more to do with that I always try to ensure my actions are ‘inclusive’ to all around me, that my actions support those people around me and in turn I’ve managed to create an uplifting working environment for myself and (I hope) those around me.
As an engineer, it is positive to see that our industry has made huge strides to become more inclusive, balanced, and reflective of society. And this is vital because as engineers we are given the opportunity to solve problems for society, to unlock land and pave the way for new communities. Our role is to create the infrastructure that meets the needs of society and in my opinion, we can only do that if our teams reflect the diverse society we work to support. With the recent heartbreaking scenes around South-East Qld and NSW, there is no better time for us all to come together and focus on our helping build back our beautiful city and homes and community to be even more spectacular than before.
So can we become more inclusive? Absolutely.
Can it be challenging? Perhaps, but it should not be, because the benefits are real and tangible for all.
So, when we think that creating diverse organisations that reflect society is challenging, I like to think of a quote from a world leader who in many ways was a trailblazer for breaking perceived barriers and glass ceilings.
‘Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away. (Indira Gandhi)