When I think about ‘embracing equity,’ I think about the critical need to dismantle structures and processes that may be barriers to equity. But I also think about something simpler than that—I think about dismantling the societal assumptions that still exist when it comes to women. The everyday stereotypes that are applied to them—who they are, what they can do or what they can be. These still exist and they need to stop—and for them to stop, we need to acknowledge they exist and call them out.
So, what are these assumptions? Well, for me, they are varied—and they have happened in the workplace and outside. Almost every time I am out for dinner with my husband and children the server brings him the bill—there is no question like, “who would like the bill?” asked. Just an automatic assumption that the man at the table is the one who pays. Then there were the calls from my children’s primary school when one of them was sick—always to me; always making an assumption that I am the parent on duty even though the reality was that I was typically the parent who was in back-to-back meetings at work. Then there have been the workplace assumptions—like the time I was meeting with someone from outside the company I had never met before and took a junior colleague who’s a man so he could gain some experience; it was my colleague who was instantly assumed to be the more senior of us.
But I need to admit that I too have been guilty of this in my earlier years—I look back to when I was working at a restaurant when I was a student and I remember how I always gave the bill to the man at the table. And I am mortified to admit that I too once assumed that the man was the most senior person in the room—turns out the woman was the most senior by a long way. I never forgot how I felt when I realised that.
These may seem like minor things, especially when no offence is intended, but the fact is that these assumptions—typically inherited from long-standing social and cultural norms—continue to shape the daily experiences of women and girls. And I believe that these stereotypes undermine the collective strides we make towards gender inclusion and equity.
This is why, to coincide with this year’s International Women’s Day, we at Deloitte have decided to draw attention to some of these stereotypes and turn them on their head. Through our #ImAWomanAnd campaign, we are calling out some of the common stereotypes and we are asking everyone to do the same—and to play their part in stopping them.
So, this year to #EmbraceEquity, I am going to continue to drive critical actions when it comes to gender equality in the workplace—but I’m also going to play my part in finally stopping the gender-based stereotypes that simply have no place in the workplace or society. And I am asking you to join me. #ImAWomanAnd