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IWD might be behind us, but the need to work towards greater gender equality continues.

At Cognito, we know how important it is to create a balanced, and equitable workplace. This year, we marked the occasion by hosting a panel discussion that covered topics from juggling a career with caring responsibilities, how the pandemic has impacted workplace culture and career growth (for good and bad), and how to make D&I part of a company’s DNA.

The panellists shared moving personal experiences of adversity and how they overcame institutional bias. They gave powerful advice on how individuals – and organisations – can continue to challenge the status quo all year-round.

Here are my five workplace takeaways from the discussion:

  • Allyship is the key to real culture change. Speak up. Challenge stereotypes and inequality if you see them. If you have a seat at the table, make sure you are using your voice for others. On gender specifically, everyone needs to work together to accelerate progress. Male allies can make the difference between slow progress and no progress at all.
  • Microaggressions add up. They are the subtle, almost invisible, everyday indignities that mainly women face. They need to be called out and not ignored. Leaders need to shift the culture and model positive interventions that send a message that microaggressions will not be tolerated.
  • Representation matters. You can’t be what you can’t see – visibility of diversity in senior management roles is important. Give your younger cohort positive and powerful roles models, otherwise they will go elsewhere.
  • Equality is a continuous commitment. There is a prominent gap between enthusiasm for change and tangible results. Unless proactively addressed as a strategic priority and put into action (from the top down), systemic issues won’t be resolved. It must be embedded into an organisation’s business strategy.
  • Focus on what you can do. As institutional biases are still entrenched within society, you can’t change everything. Understanding bias and building awareness is an important step. Equally, focusing on your organisational culture and recruitment practices is a good place to start.

The panel ended with a message of hope and solidarity. It was encouraging to see people of all genders in attendance. In my view, if equality and diversity is to be achieved it is a job for everyone, not just the people who experience the adversity in the first place.


Angelina Haynes is an associate director in Cognito’s London office