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IWD: Don't be pressured into ignoring equality issues

As humans we can’t help but see the differences in each other, the good ones and the bad. We make assumptions about people based on age, race, sex and disability. Quite often we do it without knowing, it’s an unconscious bias, and we’re all guilty. To alter these unconscious biased assumptions and prejudices we all have it’s vital to see a more diverse leadership.

In light of International Women's Day (IWD) on 8 March, I think the quote: ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’, sums up why the gender diversity issue is important. It's vital more women step forward into the limelight, much like our male counterparts are very good at doing. This will encourage more women to do the same and one day the disparity between men and women in senior roles will be no more. So I urge you not to bow to the pressures that tell you awards, programmes and national days for various minorities are bad because it discriminates against the majority, the majority are doing just fine, and perhaps us minorities can learn a thing or two from them.

It’s important to talk about equality until it exists. And I don’t believe it will exist until both men and women change the way they think of themselves and each other.

In 2014’s ‘Breaking Barriers’ feature, Fran Brosan, chairman and co-founder of B2B agency Omobono called on businesses to encourage men to share the childcare load. She said: “Anything that makes it more practically possible for men to take on the childcare role will free up the possibility for women to continue advancing on their career paths, towards board positions.”

I would love for all organisations to take this quote on board. I truly think to make positive changes for women in business, we also need to look at addressing stereotypes around men and male behaviour. It’s natural for men to be caring and nurturing, but from a young age they are not allowed to be. It’s not a feminine trait, it’s a human trait, so encourage it in everyone, and admonish no-one for having it.

Women, stop referring to yourselves as girls, you don’t call men, boys. It’s small things like this that are so ingrained in our behaviour that imbed a feeling of inferiority among women, we do it to ourselves without realising.

To stop you doing this, and with this year's IWD theme 'Make It Happen' in mind, I’ve collected a few inspirational quotes from some female B2B leaders I’ve met or interviewed over the last few months:

“From a female perspective, self-belief and courage are necessary to succeed, if you believe you can do something then you can make it happen.” 
Catherine Howard, head of UK&I marketing at Atos.

“We need to kick the notion that women simply don’t aspire to leadership.”
Claire Mason, MD of Man Bites Dog

“Have the serenity to know the things you can change, acceptance of the things you can’t and the wisdom to know the difference. It is something a teacher told me over 10 years ago and it is only now I appreciate the importance of this in my own leadership skills.” 
Gemma Davies, account director, The Marketing Practice

“Know that you have a lot to offer as a CEO (or c-level executive). It has been highly publicised that the companies with the best performance have senior and board level diversity that is representative of the holistic company. Women bring a very balanced and collaborative way of working, as well as natural multi-tasking skills, to the c-suite and boardroom and those attributes can complement other leadership styles.” 
Mimi Thigpen, CEO of North Plains