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The importance of allies this International Women’s Day by Bridgit Woods, Principal, Wholesale Commercial and Propositions Planning at BT

“Each year, we’re seeing more and more women in tech roles and it’s predicted that in 2022 the overall proportion of women in large global technology firms will reach 33%. International Women’s Day gives us the opportunity to recognise the progress we’ve made but also highlight how far we still have to go. COVID has disproportionally impacted the careers of women. Over the past 3 years, we’ve only had a 3% increase in the proportion of women in tech roles. For women of colour the negative impact of COVID on their careers has been even greater than for white women.

For a step change in the proportion of women in the workplace and senior leadership, we need the same commitment and strategic focus on improving gender equality as given to other key organisational initiatives. Companies must be fully committed to making a change. Most have started as seen by the increase in women in executive roles and by changes to recruitment and hiring policies to make them more inclusive. Many companies are also looking at equalising parental leave to allow women and men to have equal opportunities in caregiving responsibilities – “we will never have equality in the workplace until we have equality at home”.

Although change is happening, the rate of change is slow and there is a need to address the existence of pre-existing biases. In the workplace nearly three quarters of women say they have experienced bias, yet less than a third of employees are able to recognise bias when they see it. People have many aspects to their identity so, in addition to experiencing bias based on their gender, some women will experience bias based on their race, sexual orientation, disability or other aspects of their identity, compounding the discrimination they face. Bias against women is rooted in our society and unless everyone comes together to advocate for gender equality, we will never achieve it.

BT is working towards creating a diverse and valued workforce and I’m passionate about supporting the change required. In addition to my day-to-day role at BT Wholesale, I’m also chair of BT’s Gender Equality Network. We aim to challenge the business and inspire change in policy, process and the cultural norms that create gender equality. We highlight the difference individuals can make to women’s experiences in the workplace, in particular line managers. A line manager’s behaviour can make up to 70% of a difference as to whether an individual reports feeling included at work.

International Women’s Day is an important event for the BT Gender Equality Network. We’re often asked how allies can help improve the experience of women in the workplace and further gender equality. For gender equality to be achieved, we need active allies who are advocates, supporters, and friends. Allyship is crucial to stamping out biases. Allies can help day-to-day, from ensuring women colleagues are not spoken over in meetings and giving them credit for their ideas to helping break biases such as that once women have children they are no longer career focused.

International Women’s Day is a great opportunity for the channel and tech sector to show their support through recognising the systemic biases faced by women and pledging personal responsibility to do more to change the dial. “


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