International Women’s Day 2022 – #BreakTheBias

A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality.

Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to level the playing field.

In speaking to women from across procurement and supply chain, and sharing their thoughts, we are helping to #BreakTheBias.

You too can get involved and help Break the Bias by actively calling out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping – not just on International Women’s Day, but every day.

Be an ally, help break the bias and show solidarity.

Katie Deem, Senior Management Consultant, 4C Associates

I feel hugely grateful to all the courageous women who have gone before me, who have enabled me to work in a profession where women are equal to their male counterparts.

I believe it is important for us all to use our privileged positions to encourage further change across industries and geographies, where inequality is still prevalent, and to showcase that women are just as capable to succeed in their career choices, whatever they may be.

Some ways in which I feel we have responsibility is around inspiring the next generation to break the historical barriers with regard to what is deemed a career suitable to a gender.

It is also wonderful to see inclusion and respect for colleagues within the industry who are non-binary or use female pronouns.

It is inspiring to be part of a generation of women who are influencing and becoming leaders in particular fields that were once dominated by our male counterparts.

It is fantastic to see women celebrate the success, not only of other women but of forwarding thinking companies and leaders that drive change. Everyone has a part to play in eliminating inequality, not just across gender, but ethnicity, sexuality, economic, and age-related prejudice.

Today is a day to celebrate all those who have pioneered the way for women to succeed.

We must celebrate also those women, who, thanks to these earlier pioneers, can now envision a bright future in their chosen field.

Every time I see a woman who has risen to the top in her field, I find it to be a great source of inspiration.

I applaud all the women who are putting in countless hours of hard work to succeed, in addition to all those working alongside to encourage and enable us.

Together we can achieve more.

Happy International Women’s Day! Elizabeth, Procurement Engineer

Mukta Hashmi, Head of Procurement at Balfour Beatty plc and Co-Chair Gender Affinity Network at Balfour Beatty

Balfour Beatty celebrates International Women’s Day each year as it forms part of our overall Diversity and Inclusion Strategy to help attract, promote and retain more women.

With my role as co-chair of the Gender Network, this campaign is a key one in our calendar and one that resonates with me; the theme for 2022 – Break the Bias – is so pertinent and I hope to see all genders get behind the ethos.

Currently, in Balfour Beatty 18.9% of our workforce and 23.3% of our emerging talent population (graduates and apprentices) is female. This is a slight improvement on 2021, but we know can do more to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

We aim to be an attractive, inclusive place to work and we encourage everyone to commit to creating an inclusive environment; however, there is still a long way to go to reach a utopia where the bias is truly broken.

The co-chairs of Gender have created a series of conversation starters about how we can break the bias, and we are encouraging people right across Balfour Beatty to set aside 20-30 minutes for a virtual or face-to-face catch up with their team, to allow colleagues the opportunity to pause, reflect and connect about how we can help drive better equality.

I would love to get to a space where we don’t need to specifically call out days such as this, simply because equality is something that happens naturally and no longer needs to be a discussion point.

In the meantime, I welcome IWD as it generates the required discussions; the challenge then remains in how we keep the conversation going all year round so it is a regular drumbeat, where biases are constantly being challenged and broken.

Emma Osborn, Commercial Director, Wales & Western at Network Rail

I’ve worked in the railway for 24 years, in senior leadership roles for 13 years, in procurement and commercial for four years and I’m a woman, a wife, a daughter and a step-mum to two great young women.

In my life, I’ve experienced all sorts of negative situations where the working environment has either deliberately or carelessly disadvantaged women and other under-represented groups – physically, mentally and emotionally.

I have also learned loads, enjoyed myself, met wonderful people, experienced amazingly supportive managers and leadership role models, received huge career investment and development, and observed an increasing degree of enlightenment about the benefits of diversity, and also of creating an inclusive environment so that everyone can flourish.

Given the global challenges and complexity that we all face, it is obvious to me that diversity and inclusion are part of the solution, not another thing on the ‘to do list’, or a nice to have.

A high performing procurement and commercial team benefit from diversity and inclusive leadership for all of those reasons, as we can’t keep doing the same things in the same way and expecting to get a different result.

Removing barriers, breaking through silos to make meaningful connections, challenging privilege, discrimination and group-think, being allies to under-represented groups, and inviting a variety of voices and views into the conversation are essential leadership activities.

It’s in all of our interests to #BreakTheBias in order for society to survive and thrive.

Saffron Demel Espeute, Commercial Lead – BPO at Crown Commercial Service and Founder of Black in Procurement

‘She believed she could, so she did’, says the mug in front of me.

It is a quote that resonates with me more and more as I develop in my career and continue to challenge my internal imposter syndrome.

To me ‘Breaking the Bias’ means showing up as myself in every interaction that I have and championing equality, inclusion and diversity through the work I do both inside and outside of work, to ensure that everyone has access to equal opportunity and is valued for their contribution.

Sheri Hinish the Supply Chain Queen and Global Sustainability Services Lead, IBM

You know what, it is better than it has been, but we have a long way to go.

I wasn’t someone who was outspoken in my past but social media was a great tool.

I think that I stepped out of my shell when sharing and posting then I realised so many people feel like I do and I can help them and that has been an incredible journey, but I don’t want to give anyone false expectations, it is still hard.

I have been discriminated against several times in my career.
Sometimes around fair pay, it was just what happened when you’re the only woman on a team.

It is still an issue.

You have to be intentional and you have to insist on making room.

I have a diverse team, diverse teams outperform.

Gender diversity and ethnic diversity. There is cognitive diversity that happens. Lots of research shows when you have that diverse mix on a team you can unpack and rethink complexity more effectively, especially at scale. You are also able to have the customers that you serve represented in the conclusions that you are giving them.

We also have to work very hard to create inclusive environments.

A lot of the women I meet, really bright women who are far smarter than me that I hire, say I don’t want any favours. I just don’t want anyone stepping on my neck and that is that feeling that people don’t realise. It is more often than not an education.

Maybe people don’t know, maybe it is micro-aggression but none has ever stopped to tell them about a comment they made and why they shouldn’t do it again and how it made someone feel.

Be intentional, insist on making room, model the right behaviours, tie it to performance incentives and be selfish you are leaving value on the table if you don’t prioritise diversity.

Prior to setting up Minerva, I worked in a high street bank for almost 20 years. Around 18 years ago, I recall starting a new role as a Commercial Director and attending a conference, there were 95 Commercial Directors in the room – 90 of them were men!

It’s probably the only time there was a queue for the men’s toilets and not the women’s, which was a refreshing change!

I am delighted that we have come a long way since then but there’s still some way to go.

I like to think of Minerva as ‘small but perfectly formed’!

In the past three years, we have tendered more than £100m of contracts for our schools and generated in excess of £2.5m in ongoing savings and revenue generation for them. These are results that we are justifiably proud of.

Our team of six has a two-thirds to a one-third split of female to male and it’s a really good balance.

I strongly believe that both genders have something different and important to offer in the workplace which is why equality is so crucial.

In my view, an organisation would be much poorer if there was a gender imbalance.

We recruit on skills and behaviours and in that sense are gender blind when we’re considering candidates.

We offer hybrid working as well as part-time positions and this is particularly beneficial for mums with young children.

My Executive Assistant would have left the organisation if we couldn’t offer part-time working and so I think there are things we can all do to ensure we don’t lose female talent from our workplaces.

So I hope everyone, no matter gender, has a wonderful International Women’s Day! – Lorraine Ashover, Director, Minerva Procurement Consultancy

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