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IWD 2023: Women, don’t forget to bring men on the journey

Illustration using bikes to show the difference between equality and equity, courtesy of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In equality, everyone is given an equal size bike, from the tall man to the smaller woman to the child to the disabled woman. In equity, each has an adapted bike to fit their needs
Diana Wilde 7 March 2023
This year the theme for International Women’s Day is #EmbraceEquity.
Equal opportunities aren’t enough, the IWD 2023 campaign states: as people start from different places, true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.
  • Equality means everyone gets the same, regardless of whether it is right for them.
  • Equity means everyone getting what they need, considering all barriers and circumstances.
As palliative care physician Naheed Dosani tweeted in 2014 (in a quote often since turned into a social media meme): “Equality is giving everyone a shoe. Equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits.”

Becoming the cobbler

This was a move that made us into the cobbler: we want everyone to have a shoe that fits, not just women.
Talented men and talented women both thrive in organisations that provide equal opportunities.
At the board level, yes – but also in leadership, in management and even at the lowest rung of the organisation, for the newest intern.
[Find out more about Aurora50’s AIM accelerator for internal management and Table Talks, for whole-company diversity discussions.]

Allying women

Inclusive organisations need to attract, retain and promote new staff to create the balanced, performance-led businesses they wish to become.
This means that, as a development company, we encourage men to advocate for women at work and to become their allies.
We recommend that men who want to champion women ask questions of them, rather than ever making assumptions.

Inclusive meetings and hiring

Is someone not raising their hand for a promotion because they don’t feel ready or because they have a barrier, like childcare, or even feeling imposter syndrome?
We want to see that meetings are run inclusively, and that everyone is encouraged to speak and be heard.
That the hiring process is conducted inclusively and without bias.

Introducing women to your network

We would love to see men sponsoring aspiring and talented women, and introducing them to their male network.
We have seen – and helped – many women take on board roles simply by gaining access to board-level men.
[Find out more about Aurora50’s board accelerators, Pathway20 for board directors looking to expand their portfolio, and Gateway, for senior women looking for their first board role.]
We hope that men continue to educate themselves and others, to stop bias and create a thriving workplace.

Women thinking inclusively

But women need to think inclusively too.
We recommend, for instance, that women list out all their career stakeholders.
That list is wider than you would first think, as it should also contain family (parent, partner, children), future recruits and even suppliers.
Powerful people do not need to be in powerful roles; it is what they can do for you that makes them powerful.

Finding a career sponsor

A colleague may have a great contact for you, or someone junior may step into an amazing next role.
Once a woman has listed her stakeholders, she should look for career sponsors.
A sponsor is not just an advisor or a mentor. It is someone who can lobby for you, who has a great contacts list and who can give you career-changing feedback.
Someone who will open the door for you.

Why sponsors love to sponsor

If that feels intimidating, remember that it’s not a one-way street: a sponsor wants to sponsor a rising talent.
Having a ‘star’ under their wing furthers their own career or helps their company.
Ideally a sponsor should be two levels higher in a large organisation, or the founder or director of a small business.
With a list of candidates, it’s time for women to network and contact would-be sponsors with a very specific ‘ask’ of them – perhaps a monthly coffee, perhaps a nomination or a contact.

Using privilege

This is how women can ensure they are asking men to become their allies.
With their privilege and power, senior male leaders are uniquely positioned to drive cultural change.