As a woman with an ethnic minority background, I have appreciated and celebrated International Women’s Day for many years. This year’s celebration is even more special as I have stepped into my new role as the leader for UCL School of Management’s diversity initiatives. Whilst I still look forward to the 8th of March on a personal level, I am also thinking about how the School can do more to encourage our female staff and students to realise their full potential.
The key motto for International Women’s Day 2021 is “Choose to Challenge”. Challenging the status quo is a value the UCL School of Management has embraced in our mission to develop business and thought leaders who are creative and entrepreneurial. Creativity is born as a result of challenging the old ways of doing things. Challenge feeds entrepreneurial minds to seek new horizons and growth.
Considering this, I wanted to share how we have harnessed the spirit of challenge and put it into practice to support women and other minority groups at the school.
Taking an intersectionality approach
For the past two years, UCL School of Management has identified specific gender issues surrounding inequality and started implementing a program of solutions, for example recognising the achievements of the excellent women at the school and promoting more women in senior positions.
As a part of our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion we now challenge the leaders of the School to identify more issues on fairness and inclusion through the lens of intersectionality. Discrimination is not isolated to gender, and characteristics such as ethnicity, age, religion, or sexual orientation must also be considered. This type of investigation will require time, but our long-term goal is to identify intersectional issues and develop a system of specific programs to help, all underrepresented groups, for example, a woman of colour who struggles to find mentorship or reversely a man in a token position in a heavily female-dominated team.
More self-initiated learning opportunities
To develop a fairer and more inclusive workplace, the School of Management offers staff training in areas surrounding equality, diversity and inclusion; such as debiasing and anti-bullying workshops. This gives staff basic knowledge and tools to understand how to treat others fairly and how to react if they experience discrimination.
The School, now challenges staff members, especially women and other minorities, to take a more active role in expanding their learning horizons. For example, as part of the Athena SWAN action plan we are currently considering the introduction of a support package for staff returning to work after a period of leave, to support self-initiated training programmes and professional development.
Finally, maybe there is something I can challenge us to consider as we celebrate International Women’s Day. As we have done thus far, please keep developing the themes and events of humanism and togetherness for International Women’s Day that resonate with not only women but also men and minority groups. Going through the difficult time of the pandemic and uncertainties, social divides have deepened. Empowering women does not mean that men or others with different backgrounds have to give up their own chances for empowerment and thriving.
Author, Dr. Sunny Lee is an Associate Professor and the Deputy Director of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion at UCL School of Management. Sunny’s research focuses largely on two topics: gender differences in the workplace; and biases in organisational decision making. She hopes to contribute to the ethos of diversity and fairness through her research.