Tackling unconscious gender bias in the workplace

BITCI News - Members News - May 28, 2013

Business in the Community Ireland

Business in the Community recently held a diversity and inclusion breakfast on gender equality in Cork which was co-hosted by our members Sodexo and Bord Gáis Networks. The event provided a forum in which ways to tackle unconscious bias in the workplace could be shared in an open, informal and collaborative format with other companies and organisations. The event was attended by senior managers from a range of business sectors that share the gender equality agenda.

Attendees at the event heard from Dr. Kara McCann of IBEC on how unconscious gender bias can affect women’s careers. Margot Slattery, Managing Director of Sodexo Ireland shared her experience of leading Women Work, a networking group of Sodexo employees within Sodexo which aims to support women’s professional and personal growth. Women Work aims to: facilitate personal and professional development opportunities for women in order to increase the confidence, awareness and skills of female employees; to hold networking events that develop real relationships and promote awareness of the contribution and challenges of women and; to support programmes and practices designed to increase the retention of female employees. The attendees of the event then split into working groups to address three key questions:

  • Gender diversity is often positioned as a ‘women’s issue’. Do we need to better engage men in the gender agenda? And if so, how can this aim be achieved
  • Is tackling unconscious bias the solution to achieving gender equality in organizations or do we need to focus on more overt stereotypes and behaviors
  • Research tells us that men and women have different perceptions of the barriers to women’s progression and that women themselves can have self limiting biases. To what extent do organizations have a responsibility to improve this situation?

The Breakfast built upon a similar event that Business in the Community and Sodexo ran in Dublin last year.

Margot Slattery, Managing Director, Sodexo Ireland, said “all rational considerations support gender equality, better business performance, better adaptation to client and customer needs, better productivity of individuals, cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives. But data shows that only 29% of senior executive and managers are female across the EU. Rather than taking a short-term, initiative-based approach, we have embarked on a long-term, strategic journey to firmly embed a culture where all different perspectives are understood and valued for the benefit of employees, clients and the business. “

Tina Roche, CEO of Business in the Community Ireland, said, ”One of the significant drivers of innovation is diversity and inclusion. An organisation aiming to be innovative needs to deal squarely with this. One of the key drivers of talent retention is also diversity and inclusion. In this day and age it is a prerequisite for an organisation if talent is important and which company doesn’t want top talent.”

Pictured above l/r, are Billy Perkins, account director for Sodexo Ireland in Munster; Margot Slattery, managing director, Sodexo Ireland; Fergal McGrath, public affairs and media manager, Bord Gais Eireann and Aoife Connaughton, Business in the Community Ireland

For more information on how Business in the Community Ireland can support you in developing a diverse and inclusive workforce please contact Aoife Connaughton at aconnaughton@bitc.ie

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