International Women’s Day celebrates female achievements and draws attention to gender bias. International Women’s Day 2021 theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’. This refers to the need for everyone to call out bias and inequality when they see it. Diana Campbell is the Managing Director of Zoek and a long-time supporter of International Women’s Day. A successful businesswoman under the age of 30, Diana has overseen the company’s successful expansion in the UK, US and India. We sat down with Diana to talk about gender bias in relation to recruitment as well as what it takes and means to be a young, successful female managing director.
Should hirers do more?
Regarding what hirers can do more to attract more females when recruiting for specific roles, Diana believes the solution is complicated. She says, “Industries could better showcase females in certain roles, such as through case studies. This allows females to see women already working in these positions and promotes equal rights for women in the workplace. This is important as it can reduce fears of feeling like you do not belong. However, the issue is complicated. Society needs to do more to show everyone that there are no male or female-style sectors. To show that all jobs can be performed by everyone. This will take time of course, but I believe we are seeing it slowly happen.”
Successful women are important role models
Females remain under-represented in many sectors. This is especially true for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) sectors. These industries are often at the forefront of innovation and will play an important role in the future economy. However, despite their growth, females remain under-represented. UK government data from 2019 revealed more than 1 million UK workers work in core STEM jobs such as science. However, just 24% of these were female.
Diana Campbell – Zoek Managing Director
Diana says part of the problem again, is women in these roles not being highlighted enough. She said, “When women are seen succeeding in roles, this can inspire others. From a personal point of view, I believe that my successes show others that hiring young females for senior roles should not be considered different. It also shows female junior members that anything is possible through hard work. This is how we can help to inspire the next generation of women.” Diana adds, “There is still a social consciousness that labels certain jobs as being male or female. For example, law and STEM roles are viewed as male roles, whilst positions in healthcare, HR, and education are now being considered more female-style jobs. This needs to stop. We all need to do more to show that all roles can be performed by both females and males.”
Work hard and believe in yourself
Diana understands the role she plays as a successful, young, female, managing director for others. Regarding advice for young females wanting to move into senior positions, she points to hard work and confidence. She says, “Whilst it’s a cliché to say work hard, it is still true. Furthermore, what is less spoken about is how hard you need to carry on working once you are there. It is important to have confidence in yourself and not be afraid to voice your opinion. This includes saying no to senior management when you feel strongly about something. Unfortunately, you may encounter men, often from older generations, that are not used to seeing women in the boardroom and positions of authority. I would simply recommend trying to not be offended. If you keep working hard such individuals will quickly see you are there on merit.”
Reporting gender bias in the workplace
Companies have an important role to play in helping employees call out workplace bias. Diana agrees, “Having a HR department is an obvious help. But this is not always possible for many SMEs. However, such companies should still work to ensure there are clear communications channels for such issues. It is important for staff to know they have management support and can speak to someone in confidence. I do this at Zoek as well as encourage my managers to be more open-minded regarding the types of candidates they select for interviews. Having such open-minded individuals interview candidates helps to hire more like-minded staff. This in turn can reduce gender bias issues before they even arise.
With Zoek now operating in the UK, US, and India, the company is well placed to see how different cultures deal with gender bias. Job descriptions can often provide a very striking example of hiring practices. Diana has seen first-hand the many differences between the UK and other countries. She, says, “As a company, we plan to expand extensively around the world in the future. One thing I have seen is that gender bias is more visual in some parts of the world than others. In some countries, it is not unusual to see hiring companies specify which gender they want for a role. This is illegal in the UK and highlights the work still needed to address workplace gender bias. International Women’s Day is an important way of doing this.”
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