International Women’s Day 2021: Choose To Challenge, allies & white privilege
Choose to Challenge
By Audit and Compliance Executive, Jen Corcoran
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is about choosing to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality.
This can apply in the workplace and outside of it – but how do you challenge it safely, and constructively?
Discrimination is never acceptable, whether it is intentional or accidental and ideally it should be challenged at the time, but this is not always possible. However, if we commit to tackling it together then we will find strength in solidarity.
Here are some tips and resources:
- If someone tells a derogatory joke, it can be effective to ask for an explanation. Eg I don’t get that joke, please can you tell me what it was about?
- Asking the simple question ‘would you have said that to/about a man?’ When a man and woman marry, women are often asked about when they would like to start a family whereas men report this query less.
- Seek the support of an ally – this could be a person of any gender; I recently heard an anecdote about a chap in a theatre group patting the women on their bottoms as they left the stage. They didn’t feel able to challenge directly but entrusted some male friends who subsequently came and blocked the access as the women left the stage.
- Report the incident to a manager/trusted colleague – Many forms of discrimination are protected by law; your workplace should take this seriously. Action can be informal or formal.
How to be a good Ally
By Junior Litigation Executive, Jessica Roberts
An ally recognises privileges in their personal lives, workplace and the community. An ally acts on inequality by taking responsibility to end such patterns. An ally supports others by recognising and using privilege to bring awareness and positive change to systemic issues that unfairly impact individuals, groups, and communities.
An ally can show support in the following ways:
- Listen and do not make assumptions of those who confide in you about their experiences of inequality.
- Speak up (if it safe do so) when you witness or become aware of inequality.
- Share and discuss (where you feel comfortable) The more we educate ourselves about the impact of gender inequality of all genders, the more united we become against economic, systematic, and social inequality.
- Advocate and provide a safe working environment and community for everyone.
- Engage in gender and inclusion initiatives and adopt these in everyday life.
- ‘Never stop learning as life never stops teaching.’ A good ally will make a continued effort to learn the needs of, and how they can best support individuals and communities facing inequality and injustice.
White female privilege and the necessity of being allies for their minority sisters
By Assistant Litigation Executive, Nermeen Salahuddin
Women in general are paid less, promoted less, and provided a platform less than their male counterparts. However, there is an entirely different and additional set of burdens women experience when they are also a minority. When discussing allyship, people usually talk about how to be a better ally for someone who is a completely different race, religion or gender as you. Not often enough do we as women discuss the necessity of allyship within our own gender.
Additional pressure of those in a disadvantaged position due to societal constructs is essential for allies (especially women who hold more privilege) to share their platform, to ensure that feminism within the workplace is intersectional.
Historically, feminist movements have excluded women of colour and the LGBTQ+ community. As a result, there is a lack of information regarding their history. Too often are the efforts of women of colour and our LGBTQ+ sisters ignored in the mainstream narrative. Women such as Marsha P Johnson, was a major catalyst in the LGBTQ+ movement in the 1980s and Meena Keshwar Kamal was a pioneer in the women’s efforts in the Asian subcontinent. Examples like these are rarely discussed in the women’s rights narratives and thus need to start being at the forefront of history.
It is essential to start pushing women’s rights through an intersectional lens. Kimberle Crenshaw coined the phrase ‘intersectional feminism’ in 1989 to express ‘a prism for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other’. UN Women explains intersectional feminism as being the centring the voices of overlapping concurrent forms of oppression with a view to understand the depth of the inequalities and the relationships among them in any given context.
Women, as a whole, suffer oppression and subjugation on a regular basis, however women who are classed as minorities are often overlooked and not as protected as their privileged counterparts. For example, a woman of colour not only has to deal with gender biases but also racial injustices. Research conducted by McKinsey states that ‘for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women were promoted—and this gap was even larger for some women: only 58 Black women and 71 Latinas were promoted.’ Therefore, we must all learn to stand in solidarity with one another to ensure that all women have equality between the sexes.
Most importantly, women in positions of power need to start listening more to become better allies. It is imperative that different perspectives are sought, and privilege is acknowledged in order to support our fellow female employees.
In the last few years, social change has often been led by women’s voices including the #MeToo movement and women’s marches across the world. In the wise words of Beyonce, our powers of persuasion can build a nation. Women have almost always been major catalysts for the world’s biggest social movements.
It is now time for women to start raising their disenfranchised colleagues who are being overlooked because of the colour of their skin, sexuality or their gender representation.