Karen Blanc, Chair of the AXIS Network outlines a guide to getting started on your Diversity & Inclusion journey.
If you want to change the world, go home and love your family. Mother Theresa
As the chair of Aberdeen's gender-balance action group, I get asked a lot how people get started on their gender balance journey, and this quote always springs to mind first! There’s so much we can do without even getting close to activism, and I truly believe it’s the cumulative impact of these (seemingly) small things which will change the world quicker than any gender-balance action group can! My strongest wish is that we all start at home, and do everything in our power to address the gender balance in our own lives. If you share a home, who does which life admin? Why? Is it equally shared? Is your share defined by societal norms and should it be? Does one partner rely on the other for direction in where to get involved? Do you decide how to divide caring duties based on take-home pay and is that okay? Do you place equal value on the paid and unpaid work contributed? If you have children, do you challenge any gender norms pushed on them by society?
If every one of us committed to starting at home, I’m convinced AXIS Network won’t need to exist in 10 years time!
Be a role model to your team
Lead inclusively. Even if you’re not in a leadership position, there are plenty of ways you can involve and include everyone around you. Start with hello, and build from there. Don’t forget that equality doesn’t necessarily mean treating everyone the same, it means everyone having the same experience. Look for barriers blocking that experience for any members of your team, acknowledge them, and commit to working to remove or reduce those barriers.
Be a role model of flexible working and work-life balance. Flexible working is the currency of the future, and is hugely valued by our new diverse workforce. Be transparent and show your team how you lead on this, talk about how you use your flexible time – and walk the talk!
Check your privilege
There is a great story in The Guilty Feminist book about the author’s first experience of driving in London, where she drove around in her employer’s Land Rover, believing all the other drivers to be polite and accommodating. She later switches to her partner’s beaten up Golf for a week, and finds that nobody gives way to her, and she can’t get out of the first junction. Armed with this new insight she alters how she drives in the Land Rover, and endeavours to give way to other drivers over 50% of the time. Her point is that some of us have lived our entire lives as Land Rovers, and have no idea that life might feel different for the other drivers. Imagine how you might see the world if you drove a different body for a week, and how you would change your behaviour based on new insight into your daily privilege!
Work hard to notice what doors are open to you but closed to others, and invite others in. Use your privilege to support others.
Join the conversation on all aspects of diversity and inclusion. Join groups and follow others with different life experiences to you. Listen and learn. Follow the AXIS Network on LinkedIn and become a member, come along to our events and talk to people. Read our Resources (coming soon!), read the content we share, and read our book recommendations. You have valuable insight into how the world works for you, and women’s rights are human rights!
What can your company do to address gender balance, and what can you do about it? Can you encourage your organisation to sign the AXIS Pledge? Can you support them with actioning it? Is there already a gender balance working group and can you offer to share any of their actions? If your company is doing a great job and actively closing their gender gap, can you share what you’ve done with AXIS for others to learn from?
Next stop, the world!
If you have an idea for a project, or a skillset you think AXIS could benefit from, we’d love to hear from you. We need people to write thought leadership content for us, to recommend role models, and to produce case studies based on their company’s experiences. We also need people to talk about the benefits of gender balance within their organisation, so if you are already getting active in all of the spaces above, and would like to get involved in one of the initiatives above, then we’d love to hear from you!
Karen Blanc, Chair of the AXIS Network, Aberdeen and Operations Lead, Atkins.