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Change & Transformation3 MIN Read

Undoing the Performative Aspects of IWD

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Hello there. I am Karen, and I lead Learning Design & Strategy at Tigerhall. As the lead writer and editor of The Learning Room at Tigerhall, I will be sharing our take on business strategy through the lens of learning behaviors and mindsets. We hope you’ll join us for the ride.

Undoing the Performative Aspects of International Women’s Day

In terms of gender equality stats at my workplace, I’ve always had it pretty good. At my current employment, the proportion of female employees clock in at an exceptionally high number of 70%. Additionally, as I have been in the education line for almost a decade, with a long tenure in the child education space, my workplaces have always been heavily female oriented, due to the nature of the work. Plus, I have always had the fortune of being surrounded by strong, talented, hardworking female colleagues and mentors (as well as male ones too!)

Nevertheless, my earlier experiences of encountering gender bias and misogyny in the workplace will always be imprinted deeply on me, regardless of the positive ones I later had. In one of my very first employments, subtle and even outright practices of misogyny and gender bias were openly tolerated. (Do note that this was more than a decade ago, before the world turned woke.) These practices included Strict dress codes for females.

→ Women were allowed to wear only skirts and high heels; this was heavily enforced as well Hiring practices based on appearances and marriage status (more attractive women preferred; single women preferred)

There were even uncomfortable murmurings of a certain male superior making unwanted advances towards female colleagues, which were not reported due to fear. Fear of losing one’s job, fear of being blacklisted in the workplace; fear of not being believed.

So whenever International Women’s Day rolls around, I remember that place and the sinking feeling I always had reporting to work every morning, and I know that what I have right now shouldn’t be taken for granted.

What the Numbers Tell Us

Let’s look at some stats: Only in January 2023, did females form more than 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs ever in our corporate history.

The global pay gap continues to persist - females still make only 77% of what men make; and this decreases even further depending on your race, ethnicity and background.

81% of women have experienced some form of verbal or non-verbal sexual harassment at work.

With this in mind, I would like you to challenge yourself this International Women’s Day; whether you’re male, female or non-binary. IWD is not just about celebrating your female CEO or your female colleagues. It’s about reducing the biased practices and perceptions towards women on a daily and regular basis.

Your Action Plan

Here are some practical steps to start with (I like to call this the 4A approach)

ASK: Conduct focus groups or anonymous surveys to understand how your colleagues really feel about gender diversity and equality at your work.

ALIGN: Speak to business unit heads or HR teams on the needs of employees.

ACT: Design and execute learning strategies and interventions to achieve the mindset and behavioural shifts desired as outcomes.

ASSESS: Evaluate if your DEI strategy achieved the outcomes and metrics you had; through focus groups, interviews and even more long term changes such as increase in gender diversity or number of women / LGBTQ in leadership positions.

I am not discounting the importance of IWD; I only wish we put in the same amount of effort into dismantling gender discrimination every day, and not just once a year.

Recommendations for International Women’s Day

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