International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to open up a discussion about what we can all be doing to break down gender bias in the workplace. In this article, Liz Drummond shares some of the challenges she has faced throughout her career, as well as some thoughts on how we’re #BreakingtheBias at CGI to help promote a more inclusive future.
I’m the type of person who learns by doing. I had a great education but I never excelled at school – and I discovered why later on when I was doing my Technology Management degree. I suddenly realised that I learned really well when I could ‘get my hands dirty’, rather than just looking at text and trying to understand it.
By the time I was in my final year of uni (the only female in a class of 40!) I’d switched to all the practical engineering modules. When I graduated, I joined Logica as a technical graduate and just kept on learning from others on the job as I went.
Simply giving things a go: that’s the approach I began my career with and I’ve carried it with me since. While I’m ambitious and driven, I’ve never had a real ‘plan’ – I always say I don’t know what to be when I grow up! The great thing about this is it leaves me very open to new ideas, roles and challenges. From technical, to project management, to HR, bidding and account management, my roles have been diverse to say the least.
But in truth, I still struggle with a lack of self-belief. Luckily, people I’ve worked with and for have seen attributes in me that I simply don’t see in myself, and it’s that willingness to trust me, take a risk on me, offer me the opportunity to take on a new challenge, that has got me where I am today. My own experience has taught me that support from others can make all the difference.
Challenging gender bias
I’ve often wondered why I don’t have the same confidence in my abilities as others seem to. I consider myself extremely fortunate to work for a company like CGI that supports women in tech so actively and does so much to ensure gender bias is not a part of our workplace. Gender bias was not talked about 20 years ago and sadly, there were certainly times earlier in my career where I didn’t feel the level of support that I do now.
I think people have become more aware of their unconscious bias. At CGI, there has been training available to raise awareness and educate leaders on this, which I think has been really helpful, particularly when recruiting people into new roles.
One example of how this is benefitting us is that women are becoming more confident about applying for roles. Traditionally, women are more likely to apply for a new role only when they can demonstrate that they can do most of what the job description wants. I’m a case in point – when I first joined the tech industry I found it hard to look for and apply to a role that I knew I could do but that was still a step up for me, so I just didn't apply.
However, in the last few years, I've seen people reaching out to women and encouraging them to consider applying (I've benefited from this myself). That isn't to say they’ll get the role – they still have to be the best candidate – but in my experience, sometimes it's the confidence boost they need to make the application at all.
Breaking down barriers is everybody’s responsibility
In my opinion, taking action to promote gender equity is a critical step to overcoming the roadblocks many women face, particularly in the tech industry.
There are a number of ways in which CGI does this, including:
- Placing women in leadership roles
- Supporting, promoting and retaining women
- Actively trying to attract female talent
- Spearheading initiatives that teach young women about tech and inspire them to consider pursuing careers in this field
- Addressing gender pay gaps
There are also things that all of us – both women and men – can do to support each other. We should be supporting and mentoring each other, and encouraging women to go for promotions and to share their opinions. I also think we should be vocal about our achievements. Admittedly I'm not great at doing that myself, but I'll happily do it for other women in the workplace (especially if they, like me, aren’t comfortable doing it themselves).
This year’s International Women’s Day theme, #BreakTheBias, is as relevant as ever. I believe this is about respecting and valuing people for who they are and for the value that they as individuals bring, and being responsible for challenging those who discriminate or stereotype people.
At the end of the day, breaking the bias will lead to more diverse teams. We will have more empowered women who believe in themselves and have the confidence to contribute enormously to their businesses and industries – and there is no doubt in my mind that we will all be better for it!
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