Break the Bias: What Women Leaders think about Taking Action for Equality

Break the Bias is the theme for 2022 International Women’s Day, and rightfully so, women around the world are collectively and individually taking affirmative action for equality at the workplace and everywhere else where women are under-represented. With the global scenario changing in the blink of an eye, we certainly require positive actions to #BreakTheBias — not as a mark of appreciation this Women’s Day on 8 March, but as a more coherent thought process to celebrate a woman’s individuality and forge solid foundation to sustain women’s equality.

This post celebrates the spirit of women empowerment at the workplace and how #BreakTheBias actions could force transformations everywhere.

Tanu Srivastava
Tanu Srivastava, Head- Learning, Development & Talent Management, AirAsia India

Tanu Srivastava, Head- Learning, Development & Talent Management, AirAsia India says, “There has been an inherent shift in dynamics across organizations and people, giving rise to the possibility of acceptance and acknowledgment of difference. We thrive in our diversity, which empowers individuals to push boundaries and take charge, while also recognizing the unique value that each individual brings. Women have created a place for themselves across the most unconventional fields, and are making their mark in industries such as aviation where they are reflecting their true mettle. Women are indeed forces to reckon with.”

Tanu continued, “From helming an aircraft to serving passengers, enabling seamless on-ground operations to research & development, engineering, technical assistance, and monitoring, there is nothing that a woman in aviation cannot do. We are dauntless, resilient, determined, and compassionate. We have the ability to build and nurture ourselves, through the face of adversity, crises, while shattering stereotypes that may aim to contain us. India has a significant number of women in aviation, which is a mark of our prowess and progress, as we are leading the example that other countries can learn from. This Women’s Day, let’s celebrate how we have slowly but surely worked towards Breaking the Bias and pursuing our passion relentlessly. Let us stand tall with pride as we make our mark across the skies, and lift everyone’s spirits on the ground, paving the way for more women to join us and conquer aviation.”

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Rachel Pedreschi
Rachel Pedreschi, VP of Community and Developer Relations, Imply

Rachel Pedreschi, Vice President of Community and Developer Relations, Imply says, “I have been in the technology field for over 20 years and have run the gambit of positions from on-the-ground engineering roles to organizational leadership positions. As such, I have been privy to and experienced first-hand the oftentimes unconscious biases against women in this field. For example, I’ve been the technical spokesperson lead for my organization countless times. Yet, it is not an uncommon occurrence that during the Q&A session following my presentation, the audience has directed their questions to my male counterpart. Even when that male has looked to me for guidance, and I would take the lead in providing the technical response, the next questions would, again, be directed back to my male colleague.”

Rachel added, “To survive and thrive as a female in previously stereotypical male roles, women must be prepared to actively break biases. We must teach girls and women to assert themselves, which historically has not typically been a trait to which we are attributed (not positively, anyway). At the same time, we need to teach everyone to stop making assumptions based on the gender of the person they see in front of them. Technical people come in all shapes and sizes but there has been a tendency to assume that males are the more technical ones.”

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Pedreschi continued, “We have indeed come a long way. Yet, biases do persist. As women, the more we speak up, actively pursue and contribute to typically male-dominated fields, the more we can help to shatter these preconceived notions.”

Women Making History in Tech

Rachel’s colleague, Catherine Qu, Vice President of Growth Marketing, Imply says, “I fully support and agree with this year’s International Women’s Day theme of #BreaktheBias. While it’s human nature to have biases, it’s something I strive to be cognizant of and sensitive to—especially as a minority woman. You will find biases wherever you go, so it’s important to learn how to spot them and overcome them.”

Catherine added, “One way women can accomplish this is by speaking up. For so long, women have relied on the quality of their work to speak for them, but that’s an outdated way of thinking. In today’s world, women need to be forthright, direct and confident talking about their accomplishments and acting as self-advocate. In addition, women should seek champions who believe in them and will speak highly of them to others. Also importantly, women should keep an eye out for each other. If you see a woman trying to speak up in a meeting but being ignored, say something about it and make sure that woman is provided the opportunity to share her thoughts.

Qu continued, “In the technology industry, I do see improvements being made, and there are certain actions women can take to create our own change. Be a mentor to the younger women in your organization, and seek out mentors who can be your champions. Get involved or support organizations that are focused on empowering and educating women such as Girls Who Code or Women in Tech. By working together, women can create the future we want to see now.”

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Lindsay Mantzel
Lindsay Mantzel, Senior Full Stack Developer, Retrospect

Lindsay Mantzel, Senior Full Stack Developer, Retrospect, a StorCentric Company says, “While we cannot ignore the tremendous progress that has been made, we live in a world where perceptions of what it means to be a woman or a man are still very much defined by stereotypes. I have been fortunate to have forward-thinking parents, educators and employers that have encouraged me to reach for and achieve my goals of working in STEM. However, others around the world remain not as fortunate,” said

Lindsay added, “This year, as we consider how we would like to recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day, I encourage everyone to lean into the conversation around gender stereotypes. And then, I hope people take action – there are so many ways to do so – from acting as a mentor, to speaking at a career fair at schools, to simply donating to an organization dedicated to the cause. In other words, let’s help close the opportunity gap, with a goal of ensuring girls and women have all the support and resources necessary to reach their full potential.”

Samina Subedar
Samina Subedar, VP of Marketing and Communications, StorCentric

Lindsay’s colleague at StorCentric, Samina Subedar, Vice President of Marketing and Communications says, “International Women’s Day is a day dedicated to celebrating all women across all diversities around the world. It is a day among many on which I reflect on and appreciate just how far women have come in the technology field. At the same time, I recognize that there remains work to be done to ensure future generations have the support and resources necessary to explore, pursue and grow in these fields. I strive to emulate those that provided opportunities for me to pursue and now thrive in my career. And I am fortunate to now work in an organization that appreciates the immense value of a diverse workforce.”

Samina continued, “So this year on International Women’s Day, I encourage everyone to give purposeful thought to how they can actively support a girl’s or woman’s goal of entering a career in technology or their chosen field – whether it is donating your time or from your wallet. And business leaders, I likewise implore you to review your organization’s HR practices – from hiring to programs designed to train and retain the most richly diverse workforce possible. After all, diversity in the workplace isn’t just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing. Bringing diverse people and thereby diverse perspectives into the workplace leads to a greatly enhanced ability to generate ideas and problem solve, which lead to solutions, innovation and business transformation.”

Caroline Mastoras
Caroline Mastoras, Bloom President

Caroline Mastoras, Bloom President 2022, says “Our vision and mission at Bloom UK is to ensure that every woman in the communications industry is given equal opportunities. We seek to make a significant difference to individual lives and to empower women to be whomever they want to be – by removing the barriers to women’s equality, one by one, and acting as a formidable force for change in the industry; shining a light on the challenges women face and fighting for the equity we all deserve.”

Caroline continued, “We are delighted to support this year’s International Women’s Day theme, Break the Bias, and fully support this call-to-action. It’s so important that we all take every opportunity that we can to expose and to highlight bias in our everyday lives – whatever form it may take. Real voices make all the difference. We call upon women, and our male allies, to focus their voices and their actions towards the goal of a truly equitable society.”

Samantha Frankel, Bloom UK Chief Strategy Officer 2022 says, “The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Break the Bias’ – and, as Chief Strategy Officer at Bloom UK, I’m 100% behind this goal. Eradicating bias and stereotype lies at the very heart of all that we do at Bloom – our guiding vision is to ensure that every woman is given equal opportunities in the comms industry and this means calling out bias and inequitable behavior at every turn, tirelessly challenging the barriers that women still face in our industry and in our culture. We’re on a mission to make a real difference to women’s lives, spearheading change within the industry now and for the next generation.

“I’m a big believer in collaboration as a key driver of success and so look forward to supporting this IWD celebration of women. Bringing creative individuals and organizations together to make real positive change in our world is so important. As a network, Bloom works with allies across the industry to drive the change that’s needed, shining a light on the challenges women face, inspiring others to stand with us and take action and encouraging and empowering women to be whoever they want to be”, continued Samantha.

Samantha added, “Our program of enriching content & events seeks to address our greatest obstacles whilst inspiring, up-skilling and challenging each and every one of us. In this way, we aim to provide a platform for discussion, support and advice, giving back via our mentoring program and donating to our charity partner, Women’s Aid. Let’s hope we can make great strides towards breaking the bias that’s still entrenched in our society, throughout 2022 and beyond.”

Karen Carter, COO, Bloom UK added, “As Bloom UK looks ahead to International Women’s Day (IWD) and embraces its aim to ‘Break the Bias’, we are delighted to announce that we were able to donate £92,000 to our charity partner Women’s Aid last year. With a significant rise in new members, we plan to beat this figure in 2022; enabling its life-saving work to continue.”

Karen also said, “We are fully allied to the themes of IWD and always look forward to the celebration of women and of positive collaboration that surrounds this annual event. Bloom UK works to engage the industry to drive change; supporting and developing initiatives and working with leaders and allies – male or female – to continue to address barriers to equity in society and in the communications industry. Our 500 UK members are committed to spearheading industry action; via education, inspiration and encouragement. Working together, we identify opportunities and overcome challenges, through innovative, original ideas – brought to life through determination, resilience, integrity, creativity, competence, care and spirit. We seek to spearhead industry action again throughout 2022, to continue to Break the Bias – and, in this way, we can all help to future proof women’s careers and pay it forward.”

Sophia Durrani
Sophia Durrani, Vice President, Bloom UK

Sophia Durrani, Vice President, Bloom UK says, “This International Women’s Day, we must once again remind ourselves that, to be truly equal, we need to break down the barriers in our way. One by one: The cultural ones, the industry ones, and the ones we reinforce within ourselves. At Bloom, we’re committed to empowering women to be whoever they want to be; allowing individuals to unlock their potential, as we fight for the equity each of us deserves.”

Sophia added, “Real voices can bring about the change we need. Real stories, shared honestly, lift us up; giving us the strength, confidence, and skills to overcome the challenges we face. Hearing from others can encourage action from both women and their allies – ‘breaking the bias’ and helping to bring about a truly equal society. We seek to drive change by supporting and developing industry-wide initiatives with our allies. Bloom UK is delighted to put its full support behind International Women’s Day, as we deliver on our mission to help ensure women from all backgrounds have equal opportunities in the communications industry, by harnessing the power of their voices. In turn, understanding their lived experiences can help us to future-proof women’s careers, spearhead industry change, and pay it forward for the next generation.”

#BreakTheBias could also peel away from superficially-created opportunity hogwash in the current tech-centric industries that somehow show disparaging trends in financial services and asset management industries. According to a recent report, overall, only 13% of women invest in financial assets whereas 35% of women invest in traditional instruments. Women are always perceived to be more family-oriented and keep family first. This was validated as family security and children’s education are the primary drivers for 67% of women whereas only 12% of women invest for self-security, retirement and starting their own business. Only 1% of women invest in retirement funds. There may be a need for women to also prioritize themselves and their financial needs.

Priti Rathi Gupta

LXME’s Founder Priti Rathi Gupta said, “The Women & Money Power 2022 survey India resonates with the motive behind starting LXME – raising fearless financial feminists. Our extensive survey showcases a strong message on how women are not making their own money decisions. This stems from a lack of financial awareness leading to misconceptions and a fear of investing. While we have seen time and again how women make excellent money managers, we have noticed that the involvement of women in decision-making is low to average for financial investments and high purchase decisions. In today’s world, where women are constantly breaking barriers, with every leading day they need to become more powerful, not just in society or in their organizations, but in financial prowess too. Learning to invest and gaining financial literacy is a necessity for the woman of today. In the end, it is taking control of their investments that give them the power to have a say in their financial future and that of loved ones.”

Bex Campbell, Chief Product Officer at GWI
Bex Campbell, Chief Product Officer at GWI

Bex Campbell, Chief Product Officer, GWI says, “Reflecting on why there are so few female leaders in tech, I think it comes down not only to a pipeline problem (fewer women entering tech in the first place) but also a fundamental misunderstanding of what it takes to be a great leader. Traditionally we equate leadership with confidence, and this is an issue for women largely due to the ridiculous notion of “the confidence gap” (suggesting there are fewer women in leadership because women are innately less confident). This is problematic for two reasons; firstly it misunderstands women and the constraints of systemic unconscious bias, but crucially it also misunderstands confidence itself.”

Bex added, “We interpret “loud” confidence (putting yourself forward, risk-taking, and sticking to one’s convictions through difficulties) as strong leadership qualities. We actually need leaders with the kind of quiet but powerful confidence it takes to welcome being challenged and proven wrong. A truly confident leader sets measurable tests for their ideas and is able to admit and even celebrate when they’re proven wrong because that means they can course correct (saving time and resources), learn and do better next time. This is especially true in tech leadership; a culture of experimentation and a focus on valuable outcomes has to be driven top-down, or people will be too afraid of failure to really unlock any innovation.”

Bex continued, “To break down bias and create more inclusive environments, we must reimagine the qualities and experience we value in a tech leader and create more non-traditional pathways into tech for women of all career stages.”

 Lucy Hinton, Head of Client Operations at Flashtalking by Mediaocean
Lucy Hinton, Head of Client Operations at Flashtalking

Lucy Hinton, Head of Client Operations at Flashtalking by Mediaocean said, “For those women striving to get into the adtech space, don’t be intimidated and don’t assume you need to be “techy”. The single most important piece of advice I’ve ever been given is to know your truth and don’t let self-doubt get in the way. There are plenty of female role models who can support you, finding a mentor can make a real difference. Talk to people, use your network of contacts, ask questions, and be curious. I’ve always had authoritative female role models in my life who have shown me it is possible to achieve, and any limitations were only put there by myself. Equally important to the strong females, I’ve had incredible male support at home and at work, who never made me feel anything less than an equal. Having a team of people around me who didn’t doubt my goals, was a powerful stimulus to achieve.”

Lucy added, “It’s important, however, to also be a self-starter and learn for yourself. The more we learn and try to understand, the more empathetic we can be as leaders and empathetic leaders are, in my opinion, the best to work for.”

Julia Linehan, Founder and MD, The Digital Voice
Julia Linehan, Founder and MD, The Digital Voice

Julia Linehan, Founder and MD, The Digital Voice says,”With an 80% female team, International Women’s Day is naturally very important to The Digital Voice. It wasn’t intentional to have a majority female team, it just happened to work out that way. Every day we champion and uplift each other for the intelligent, hardworking team that we are, irrespective of our gender. I hope that we show how it should be done. We show why breaking the bias is important because we’re successful at what we do and our clients love the diversity of voice that we have on our team across race, culture, gender, sex, religion and opinion.”

We hope #BreakTheBias doesn’t remain within the confines of marketing and HR branding campaigns. Instead, it should be championed as an initiative to encourage every woman in her journey to aspire for greater heights and succeed with self-sufficiency.

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