International Women’s Day 2022: #BreakTheBias
International Women’s Day was born out of the women’s rights movement. It first began in 1911 after an agreement was made at the International Conference of Working Women the previous year. By 1917, International Women’s Day was made a national holiday in most European countries. It eventually became a global holiday after its adoption by the United Nations in 1977.
Fast forward to today and the world has witnessed significant changes to women’s rights across the world. International Women’s Day is all about celebrating women’s socioeconomic, political and cultural achievements. It’s about commemorating the women who paved the way before us and uplifting the women around us.
It’s time to not only celebrate the women who paved the way for others in the industry, but to uplift those who are looking to make their mark in the marketing world and STEM positions that coincide.
A Brief History of Women’s Rights
In the UK, women over 30 were finally afforded the right to vote from 1918. However, there were certain criteria, for example being married to a member of the local government register and these criteria only applied to around 40% of women. In the same year, the Parliamentary Qualification of Women Act was passed, allowing women to stand as MPs.
In 1928, The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act lowered the voting age of women to 21 and in the first election after this change, the Labour party took over from the Conservatives. These achievements would not exist without the dedication and collaboration of women across the UK. Protesting, striking and marching were pivotal to the success of these movements.
The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 saw the protection of women against discrimination in the workplace, training, education and more. This was eventually repealed by the Equality Act 2010 which further stated, ‘equal pay for equal work.’
Although this legislation is a step in the right direction, the fight for equality is not over yet. There are women all over the world who still experience gender bias, discrimination, violence against women and inequality.
‘I believe it’s incredible that as working women, we’ve been able to eliminate gender bias in the workplace. My feelings on the matter are strong since I believe this should have happened decades ago and is something we are now still fighting for in some cases.’Hannah Knight, Social Media Assistant.
The Curator of the Women’s Library collection at the London School of Economics Library, Gillian Murphy says, ‘The suffrage campaign was a long campaign, taking 52 years from 1866 to 1918, because it was ultimately about changing people’s attitudes about women.’ But ‘this is something that we are still dealing with today if we think about the whole issue of violence against women and what is and what is not acceptable behaviours.’
Gender Disparities in Digital Marketing
At Castle, our workforce is 43% female which means we can make varied decisions when it comes to our clients and the way we work. We have many women in leading roles within the company as we know that expertise and leadership have no gender. However, we recognise the biases that still exist and aim to eliminate them from the workplace through several policies and the culture we have created.
‘As a woman in the digital marketing industry, it is important to celebrate the equality that we experience in the workplace, that once wasn’t a possibility. I think it is crucial to fight for what I believe in, including breaking the bias and making sure that as a younger generation, we continue to create a world free of stereotypes and discrimination!’Emma Cottham, Affiliate Marketing Assistant.
However fortunate we are in our current workplace, to feel free to express ourselves and be heard, to strive for ambitions and reach them, there are still wider problems in the industry that need to be looked at with a critical eye and addressed. Both in the wider landscape and within each business.
‘Social Media is a women dominated industry, but even in an industry with such a strong female presence there is still gender bias. Having the platform algorithms ‘mansplained’ to you, or even the fact that every mainstream social media platform to date has been created by a man with their own male experiences of interaction and socialising influencing how the app is designed.
In reality, women communicate in a completely different way to men and perhaps in an alternate universe Facebook would have looked a lot different if it was designed by a woman. When it comes to social media, men are the face of the industry, the owners, the leaders, but the women are the cogs that make it work.’Elena Rosewell, Senior Accounts Manager.
It’s important to note the presence of women within the industry and STEM positions that work alongside marketing, and how they keep the system going through creativity and innovative expertise. Both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.
Ellen Pao is the co-founder and CEO of Project Include, she’s a huge advocate for women’s rights and evolving corporate culture. When working as Reddit’s Head of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships she banned the use of ‘revenge porn’ and unauthorised nude photos, inspiring other social media platforms to follow suit. Project Include’s mission is to prevent and address sexism and gender discrimination in Silicon Valley and to improve diversity and inclusion within the tech world.
‘Achieving equality in the workplace must be an intersectional effort. It is not enough to view women in the workplace as a monolithic group. The challenges faced by women of colour, by disabled women, or by LGBTQ+ women, for example, are all different. Businesses who want to achieve equity in 2022 and beyond must be willing to confront themselves honestly to implement policies that benefit and uplift as many women as possible.’Shannon Mulligan, Head of Social Ads.
Kimberly Bryant is the founder and CEO of Black Girls Code, a non-profit that gives opportunities to girls of colour to break into STEM subjects through education in areas such as mobile and app design, web design and artificial intelligence. Bryant recognised that the gap wasn’t due to a lack of interest, but a lack of access. They have a goal of teaching a million black girls to code by 2040.
‘For me breaking the gender bias is making sure we equally value, celebrate and acknowledge a person’s achievements, skills or success, regardless of how they might identify. We should aim to be successful, not a successful woman!’Michelle McMullan, Accounts Manager.
Ade Onilude is the founder and CEO of Women in Marketing, a network created to inspire, educate, connect and recognise women working in the world of marketing. They hold events to educate and empower women in marketing and hold the Women in Marketing Awards every year. Onilude highlights the importance of celebrating the achievements of women in the industry.
‘95% of the content creators I speak to on a daily basis are predominantly women. These women range from busy, single mums to hard-working nurses to uni students. All of which hustle hard to earn extra cash to help pay for their lifestyle/homes and more! And… they do this, all on their own.
I think already this shows how far women have come considering there are many stereotypes of it being the man’s role to provide and fund their family instead of the woman, yet, we have many girl bosses and content creators earning hundreds on a daily basis through what they do for a hobby which is incredible to see!’Danielle Hulligan, Affiliate Manager.
Breaking the Bias
This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. We’re all responsible for our own thoughts and behaviours, and it’s time to challenge the gender biases that are not only still present in the workplace, but in everyday life.
‘Unconscious biases are still prevalent in our society.’Imogen MacLellan, Social Media Assistant.
The thing about unconscious bias is that it’s a deep-rooted problem, only able to be eliminated by mass systemic change. It’s not covered by the discrimination act because it can happen without awareness, without intent to harm or offend. Yet these biases can still be harmful.
‘Women should be able to make their point without being interrupted, we should be able to write a data driven report without sending it attached to an email that ends in ‘I hope that all makes sense, let me know if you have questions. We should be able to be firm without people saying, ‘oh I bet she’s on her period’. We should be able to be unapologetically ourselves and not overcompensating because we are women. To be able to do all of that, we need to be trusted and empowered by our male colleagues.’Elena Rosewell, Senior Accounts Manager.
Unconscious gender bias can often go unnoticed and unchecked but continue to perpetuate the problem. The two most prevalent areas where unconscious bias appear in the workplace is during the interviewing process and when considering promotions.
Two of the most pivotal stages that can make or break a woman’s career. But by having a diverse workforce, a company is afforded a variety of views, opinions and insights that can help progress, innovate, and inspire their work and the next generations to come.
‘Breaking the bias within social media means taking on more responsibility and leadership within the industry. Women often face a hard decision when it comes to leadership as we can be so quickly classed as ‘bossy’ rather than being recognised as a boss. But we need be in positions of leadership so that we can challenge the gender bias and influence our industries.’Elena Rosewell, Senior Accounts Manager.
Our progression within the industry should not be hindered just because we are women. Its deeper than just words that keep stereotypes alive, these unconscious and conscious biases keep women from achieving their goals.
Working Together to Make Change Happen
We must all try to acknowledge when a women’s voice isn’t being heard and uplift women to make change. This notion doesn’t just apply to women helping women, but men need to put the work in too.
‘My advice to other women who work in digital marketing is to keep looking around the room, see whose voice is not represented and use whatever privilege or leverage you have, to elevate those voices. Be flexible, open minded and ready to confront your own biases. Uplift other women, support them, mentor them; the only way that we succeed, is together.’Shannon Mulligan, Head of Social Ads.
Gina Martin is a campaigner, speaker, writer and advocate for equal rights, well-known on Instagram. Martin made ‘upskirting’ illegal through campaigning the Voyeurism Act. In recent years, she used her platform to help Nyome Nicholas-Williams change Instagram’s policy on nudity after her photoshoot pictures were continuously being taken down.
The campaign highlighted not only the disparities between the way men can present themselves online compared to women but also how plus-sized, black bodies are perceived by the media. Together with Alex Cameron, the photographer of the shoot in question, they managed to change the policy on nudity to differentiate artistic expression from pornographic content.
‘The advice I would give to other women in my industry, would be to always have confidence in what you do and who you are. Unfortunately, there are times when we may be called out for something that a man would be praised for, so having the ability to speak up and show assurance of ourselves is key. Also, to be making sure you’re supporting other women too!!! It’s okay for us to be proud and show others our achievements but others may struggle with it.
Social Media can sometimes be a toxic place and it’s easy to get wrapped up in our own world that we can become competitive and jealous of other people’s version of life, online. So please don’t be afraid to support other women in the industry as we’ve fought too hard for our rights to then fight against each other. Be kind, always.’Danielle Hulligan, Affiliate Manager.
While most women have a similar mentality, to always be cheering each other on despite our barriers, our male colleagues should be just as supportive. And at the end of the day, it’s not women’s place to educate the masses on how to be a kind person. Or how to have respect for your peers. It’s down to you to educate yourselves.
‘Breaking the bias means standing up to gender bias when you experience it and educating individuals when they’re exhibiting these behaviours. I’d advise other women in my industry and in general to always stand up for inequalities and point out gender bias in the workplace. Even if it isn’t intentional – especially if it isn’t intentional – as no one will ever learn, and nothing will ever change if you don’t challenge it. Don’t sit back and let people treat you differently. Even small things like being spoken over or down to, being condescended to, or the odd off-the-cuff remark or sexist joke. It may come from a place of ‘humour’ or simply misunderstanding but if it makes you feel uncomfortable and unfairly treated you have every right to challenge this.
Don’t be afraid to have uncomfortable conversations or stand up for yourself and your colleagues in the name of equality. It’s also the responsibility of everyone in the workplace, men and women, to educate themselves and assess their own bias – don’t wait for someone else to point it out. It’s not someone else’s job to educate you on what’s right and wrong.’Sophie Sorrell, Head of Communications.
It’s deeper than just words. Together we can break down bias across our industries and the wider world through educating ourselves, challenging behaviours and standing up for what we believe in.
‘Gender equality and gender bias is not something that should only be fought for by women, it’s something that should be fought for by everyone.’Elena Rosewell, Senior Accounts Manager.