IWD 2022: What’s being done to break the bias?

Posted on: Tuesday 08 March 2022 | IAB UK

Bauer, Blis, Meta, Index Exchange, The Telegraph and Xandr fill us in on how they’re tackling gender bias

The theme of International Women’s Day this year is ‘break the bias’, emphasising our collective power to do so by taking responsibility for our actions and working together to forge a gender equal world.

Bias can see women overlooked for opportunities, stunting careers and ultimately leaving women's voices unheard and perspectives neglected. But as awareness increases of bias at play, what action is being taken in our industry? With our work patterns continuing to shift as a result of the pandemic, will this inhibit gender equity, or provide an opportunity to propel it forward? 

This International Women’s Day, we’ve asked members of the IAB Inclusion, Diversity and Equity group to share what they’re doing to break the bias and what advice they would offer for allies. 


What’s the best thing your company does to tackle gender bias in the workplace?

Rebecca Holman, Digital Director, Grazia: Silence is one of the biggest proponents of gender bias in the workplace - it’s why Grazia campaigned for a change in the law compelling companies with over 250 employers to publish their gender pay gap each year – a campaign which we won in 2015. 

Last year at Bauer, we launched a Gender Equality Pillar as part of our Diversity and Inclusion forum, sponsored by our leaders. This is an employee-led group designed to review areas that are crucial for our company to explore when looking at gender bias – from our parental leave and fertility policies to how we can promote our commitments to flexibility and putting family first. We also have a team called Thrive, where members organise discussions or talks from external speakers to cover all aspects of wellbeing. We’ve recently held talks around menopause, fertility, nutrition and returning to work. These aren’t issues that just affect women, and to tackle gender bias effectively, we need to see true engagement and open discussion from everyone.

Simone Payne-Powell, Director, People, Index Exchange: While International Women’s Day is a powerful platform to celebrate milestones and consider challenges still to overcome, the real work happens every day of the year. At Index Exchange, we have developed initiatives our employees can access throughout the year. These include learning and development paths around building a safer and more diverse work environment, as well as sessions on allyship and diversity in action.

Meanwhile, our internal affinity groups, Women in Engineering and the Women’s Network, and our partnership with She Runs It, provide crucial forums for activating change in our community. Thanks to mentorship programmes, networking events and resources, these groups provide opportunities for upskilling and career advancement, ultimately empowering our women to become leaders. This commitment at multiple levels of the company contributes to lasting change in tackling gender bias. 

Polly Fox, Agency Partner, Meta: Firstly and most importantly, it’s prioritised by leadership. As a technology and data-driven company, we set KPIs we want to hit, and diversity is no different. We measure it and share how we’re doing through our annual diversity report which we’ve published since 2014. Whilst we’ve consistently made progress every year, we still have work to do and by 2024, our goal is to have at least 50% of our workforce comprised of women globally. 

We have frameworks in place to ensure that diversity is a cornerstone of how the business operates, from how we hire to the products we build. Whether that’s developing for our ads platform, to collaboration software tools like Workplace, or even how we approach building for the metaverse - we’re guided by responsible innovation principles to ensure we’re not only building products that are inclusive of our diverse communities, but employing the diverse teams needed to build them.

At Meta, we’re given access to tools to educate ourselves, with a number of mandatory training courses, including ‘Managing Bias’ and ‘Be the Ally’. We also have active employee resource groups, such as ‘[email protected]’ and ‘Practicing Allyship’, that provide safe spaces of support and community, and we have a strong culture of open feedback, which I think is crucial to making progress. 

Kelly Jacobson Collins, Global Chair of Rise & Privacy Compliance Director, Blis: In 2020, we created Rise to support and celebrate diversity and inclusion at Blis and the industry as a whole. Breaking the gender bias has always been a priority for Rise, and we are constantly educating our staff in company meetings and specialised training. 

We also encourage open and honest conversations across the board, and specifically to support women in their careers whether at Blis or somewhere else in the industry, we created a women-only monthly event called ‘Let’s talk about…’ to discuss different issues and challenges we all face as women in tech. With that, we are better at equipping and encouraging women to raise their voices, be seen and heard and to break the bias in the workplace. We also partner with other powerful people in tech by hosting panel discussions about different diversity topics – from black empowerment to challenges faced by women in the workplace.


With the pandemic having made working from home/hybrid working commonplace, what are the opportunities and challenges here in terms of achieving gender equity?

Lizzie Knights and Susanna Edwards, The Telegraph, Women's Network Co-Chairs: As is the same across many industries, the ongoing challenges of the pandemic throughout 2020/21 resulted in fewer internal opportunities to progress diversity and, as a 24-hour news organisation, the impact of COVID meant we had to focus on our core operations to ensure business continuity. However, this presented an opportunity to pause, reflect and reevaluate our D&I approach and ensure that we are supporting individuals with achieving work/life balance.

At TMG, we offer flexible working which we know increases productivity, boosts staff morale, allows for greater work/life balance and greater collaboration. We know that having progressive policies and support in place is essential in achieving gender equity - our Equal Parental Pay policy offers both new mothers and fathers 26 weeks full pay for parental leave and our Emergency Back-Up Care policy provides 4 free days emergency backup care for working parents and carers. We also offer Executive Career Coaching for all employees taking maternity or paternity leave.

Rebecca Holman, Digital Director, Grazia: We certainly saw a huge shift in how we worked when the pandemic hit and, at Bauer, our working from home pledge – made at the start of lockdown – included commitments to putting family first. These promises were everyone balancing caring responsibilities, home-schooling and work (and studies show these were disproportionately women). We pledged to set boundaries, which brings us to an obvious challenge for gender equity. Just because we could squeeze in a full day of home-schooling on top of eight hours of work a day or answer emails on our phones as we picked up our children from nursery, was it doing us any good? We need to be aware of the potential dangers of being ‘always on’, especially in a world that encourages perfectionism in women who are often already overloaded, and ensure flexibility and technology don’t become a way of cramming even more onto our to-do lists.


From your perspective, what’s one action an ally can take to help prevent gender bias? 

Lucy Spain, Senior Manager, Customer Support, Xandr: The best allyship is action-oriented, where individuals use the power and privilege they possess to implement tangible changes. A great place to start is within the workplace, especially as more companies require employees to implement individual ID&E goals. If you can identify a specific area within your current scope to affect change, it is more likely you will be able to take action and deliver an impactful outcome. 

For example, if you have influence within an office operations team, take into consideration that women are comfortable at a temperature that is 2.5 Celsius warmer than men. If you work in recruiting or are a hiring manager, scan the language of your job postings and qualifications to ensure there isn’t gendered wording that may hinder your efforts to recruit women (postings that include words like ‘aggressive’ or ‘competitive’ have been proven to deter women). As allies identify these biases inside the workplace, they can start implementing changes within their remit that will add up to make a big difference. 

Kelly Jacobson Collins, Global Chair of Rise & Privacy Compliance Director, Blis: An ally needs to be aware that even the smallest move can make a difference to help us all break the gender bias. When men think about how they can be better allies, they normally think about how they can do more. But sometimes, they could make a bigger impact by simply doing less. When they share opportunities with women, they will automatically be given the space to be heard. Just as actionable examples, allies could recommend a woman to take part in a panel they were first invited to or pass a big, visible project on to a female colleague who can take it on. This pass-up and pass-on approach is simple, but helps increase the number of opportunities for women in our industry.

​​Polly Fox, Agency Partner, Meta: Intentionally be an ally. Remember that ‘ally’ can also be a verb, so it’s all well and good saying you are one, but it’s what you do that matters. It’s important to start off by recognising that everyone has unconscious biases. Aside from training and education to better identify bias, it’s important to foster an environment and culture which empowers everyone to call out bias when they see it, but also where you can be open about mistakes, where you can ask questions and move forward together. One way to do this is to actively listen and learn about the lived experiences of others.

Simone Payne-Powell, Director, People, Index Exchange: Allyship is a crucial part of creating a company culture where everyone can feel empowered to be their authentic selves. At Chikere Igbokwe's Allyship Training that our company attended, in which we discussed how we can build an inclusive and anti-racist environment for all, we learned how important it is to talk to people you know about current issues, educate yourself, and ultimately take a stand against injustices. Most importantly, we learned how being an ally is a journey and that the work in becoming a diversity champion never truly ends. Through this, we can start to make meaningful change—in our organisations, with our families, and communities at large.


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