Board Community Celebrates International Women’s Day 2023

Miran Saric
Miran Saric Employee
DACH Advocate Level 100: Foundations of Building in Board Level 200: Leveraging Board for Business Insights
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edited April 2023 in Blog

The Board Community invites you to join us in celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) 2023! This year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity and recognizes that equity isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. A critical component of this year’s campaign is education—recognizing that Equity and Equality, while often used interchangeably, are not the same thing. This year, IWD wants to encourage conversation about why “equal opportunities are no longer enough.”  

IWD shares the following:  

Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. 

Here at Board International, we celebrate and embrace equity by working hard to understand the individual needs of employees and equipping them with the tools they need to be successful every day. We're happy to announce that we've recently launched our Diversity Equity & Inclusion Program which underlines Board’s strong commitment to create an environment where everyone can fulfill their own potential no matter their background or characteristics. In line with Goals on Gender Equality and Reduced Inequalities of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we want to recognize and embrace the value of the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, as an integral part of our culture, which are expressed in the Code of Conduct & Ethics and our business activities. 

This DE&I program is just a beginning and will be followed by a number of activities aimed at raising awareness on the topic and reduce unconscious bias. Stay tuned! 

Hear from some of our leaders at Board International: 

Q: What does IWD and this year’s theme of #EmbraceEquity mean to you?  

Mandy: I like this year’s theme a lot because it forces everyone to change perspective. While equality means equal conditions for all, equity means proportional representation for the same opportunities, or a leveling of the playing field. As an employer if we want to be really inclusive, we cannot simply offer everyone the same conditions: we have to provide special conditions to some, to ensure all have the same opportunity and this is applicable to recruitment, training, promotion, attrition, and engagement. 

This shift in perspective is of paramount importance and does not apply to gender diversity only. It means listening to all parties and put ourselves into the shoes of the under-represented groups 

Rachael’s: According to the World Economic Forum, Davos 2023, it will take another 286 years to close the global gender gap. So, for me, Embrace Equity, means: 

  • Accepting that efforts to date have not taken us far or fast enough to where we want to be   
  • Acknowledging that the society we live is not equitable today – I thoroughly recommend a fabulous book “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a world designed for men” by Caroline Criado Perez 
  • Committing to the design of new structures and systems that address this equity gap.  

IWD is a fantastic opportunity to build awareness of these issues and celebrate people, businesses and other organizations committed to this task. 

Anne: I will be honest and admit that I needed to do a bit of homework on the difference between ‘equality’ and ‘equity’ before I could really understand and commit to this year’s IWD theme. While I read dozens of definitions and opinions on each, for me it really resonated for me when I think of it simply: no two people are the same and everyone could have different needs to accomplish the same goal. This means the same ‘solution’ won’t work for everyone.  To reach Equality, you need to understand the needs of people as individuals and provide them Equity by giving them what they personally need to succeed. This is a very simple example, but think about the act of dunking a basketball. If Equality is the ability for everyone to dunk a basketball, you need to assess the needs of the individuals to help everyone accomplish the task. The needs to perform this dunk would differ across people of different heights, ability, experience, etc., and these needs are examples of Equity. To me, this means that to achieve as a team we need to treat people as individuals. 

Nelson:  This year’s IWD theme hilights the need to emphasize the powerful distinction between two words that are often (incorrectly) used interchangeably. This distinction, however, needs to be supported by recognizing the ongoing need for education, awareness, and action on this topic. Education in not only the differences, but also in the drivers, implications, and biases associated with this important concept. From education comes awareness, both in the individual and across teams, and this awareness leads to action. Thus, for me, positive change towards the need to #EmbraceEquity starts with education which, when done correctly, can allow for these barriers to be gradually overcome. 

Ansgar: This year's theme clearly shows that even in 2023 it is still necessary to draw attention to equality and to keep asking oneself anew: am I living equality in my own (working) environment or where are there still things that can be improved; also, and in particular, with regard to equal opportunities for all? 

Q: What can we do as leaders to inspire a trend towards Equity in the workplace and beyond? 

Mandy: Creating the right culture in the workplace is a primary leadership responsibility. Whatever leaders do (intentionally or unintentionally), the way leaders behave, have an impact on the organization and its culture and will likely be followed and mirrored by others. As leaders we need to kick off the #EmbraceEquity conversation and engage Board people on the topic; we need to challenge views and make this a business priority. The conversation must be supported by data to show where we are; we need KPIs to set our ambition and measure progress against it. I’m looking forward to join forces with my peers and whoever wants to contribute to make this happen. 

Rachael: Each individual leader needs to be honest with themselves about whether this really matters to them. I think that the narratives around a commitment for DEI have been around for a while and it's our responsibility to lead with integrity and authenticity, whichever way you land on the subject. To put it more simply, "if we talk the talk, we also need to be able to walk the walk." Which means if this is a critical business priority, that it needs to be managed in the same way as any other. It starts with setting clarity about what success looks like with clear quantifiable aspirations (what and by when), deeply understanding root causes and developing solutions that address these in a scalable way with continuous KPI tracking and course correction to get the desired results. 

Anne: To inspire a trend towards Equity, we need to make an overt effort to show it is important to us as individuals as well as across our teams. You don’t need to have direct reports or a fancy title to be a leader, and it's the efforts of us as individuals that will impact change. Have the difficult conversations, encourage open dialogue, ask questions (even if they are uncomfortable for you), and embrace the fact that we are not perfect and mistakes will be made. Just keep learning and do better next time. When the effort and discussions stop, progress will also stop. Keep trying, listen, treat people like individuals, and remember that we succeed more when we embrace our differences and unleash the power of all people. 

Nelson: As leaders, I believe there are several activities that we can use to drive equity. Lead by example, promote open and transparent communication on the topic, and be conscious of the fact that equity cannot be achieved through “one time only” actions. Build awareness, not only in yourself and any conscious or unconscious biases, but also across your teams as to what it means to truly promote and support equity through actions. Acknowledge disparities, encourage diversification, and put policies and procedures in place to address the needs of marginalized individuals or groups. These can take time, but placing a priority on these activities can help drive the #EmbraceEquity initiative. 

Ansgar: As a leader in particular, exemplifying equality and justice is a key task. We can only live #embraceequity if we set an example, actively point out grievances and offer opportunities for open exchange. I've had many situations in which female colleagues in the team were not treated equally; by actively addressing this, some only became aware that the action was not good and that it was not fair and over time we could eliminate misconduct altogether. 

Q: As a leader, what advice would you give this year to women working in the technology sector? 

Mandy: I would recommend everyone to join the #EmbraceEquity conversation and involve men, not just other women. Operating in an industry which is still male dominated cannot be a good excuse to accept our metrics are worse than other better balanced industries. Learn from others, build networks within and outside the technology sector and be a passionate advocate of Diversity Equity and Inclusion by calling out any bad practice and help shaping the environment in which you want to work. 

Rachael: The ‘Women in the Workplace’ report, from McKinsey & LeanIn.org, reports that women at senior-leadership levels risk burning out because they're working harder than men to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).  Women in tech are no different, although technology has a larger gap to close than other industries. So, with that context, my advice to women working in technology is to remember that the onus on solving the DEI challenge is not on you. It requires deep and thoughtful work from everyone to ‘collectively’ bring about change. Focus your efforts instead on building allyship and support networks within and across organizations, be they men or women, that act as a force multiplier for change. Proactively leverage connections for personal development and mentorship opportunities and align yourself with senior leaders who elevate you. 

Anne: My advice to anyone, in any sector, would be the same. First, be your own advocate.  You can’t expect people to do it for you. Second, find a job, team, company, or environment where you can be yourself and you feel supported. A supportive environment will make it easier to share your needs, concerns, and will most likely have other likeminded people who are dedicated to inclusion and diversity. Plus, you'll your best work when you bring your true self to work. Third, find mentors and role models that you see living the values that are important to you. Hopefully you'll then turn around and ‘pay it forward’ by becoming a mentor or role model for others. Realizing true equity is not an easy task and it'll take all of us to make it a reality. 

Nelson: As a leader, and given this year’s IWD theme of #EmbraceEquity, I would advise that for any woman faced with challenges related to equity in the workplace, don’t be afraid to speak up and voice your opinions, ideas, and concerns.  Many people aren't fully aware of the differences between equality and equity, and sharing your expertise can be the first step towards narrowing this gap. Surround yourself with supportive peers and mentors, build your network, and continue to learn and grow as an individual and as part of the technology community. And finally, never give up! 

Ansgar: Women working in the technology industry in the Western world are often already predestined compared to other industries. This allows things to be addressed openly when they are not okay and through this culture of exchange, equality and equity becomes far more integrated into daily life. In this way, we can all serve as role models and do more for equal rights for women in other industries and countries as well.

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