• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Embracing diversity: The essence of International Women’s Day 2024

Guinness partners  female led initiatives to champion women this IWD

There is a trend that plagues not just our workplaces but our society as a whole: the lack of true inclusion, particularly among women. As women gather to celebrate International Women’s Day under this year’s theme of “Inspiring Inclusion,” it is imperative that we confront the uncomfortable truth that women themselves can sometimes subvert the growth and progress of their fellow women.

What does inclusion mean?

Inclusion goes beyond mere tolerance or acceptance; it embodies the idea of creating environments where all individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered to participate fully. It means acknowledging and celebrating differences in gender, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, and socio-economic status, among other dimensions of diversity. Inclusion is about ensuring that everyone has equal access to opportunities, resources, and decision-making processes and that their voices are heard and respected.

In our quest for equality and empowerment, it is essential to acknowledge the various ways in which women themselves perpetuate barriers and hinder the advancement of their peers. Allow me to shed light on some examples:

Gendered job roles: Some women may subconsciously uphold traditional gender roles by discouraging or blocking other women from pursuing roles that are considered more “suitable” for men. This not only limits opportunities but also reinforces harmful stereotypes.

Excuses for family responsibilities:

Women who make excuses for family obligations, such as antenatal care, baby care, or household duties, and then use these excuses to make it difficult for other women to be recruited perpetuate a cycle of exclusion and discrimination.

Expecting conformity to male norms:

There are women who adhere strictly to masculine work styles and behaviours, expecting others to emulate them. This pressure to conform to male standards can create a severely hostile environment for women who do not fit this mould.

Playing the victim card:

Some women resort to portraying themselves as victims to gain sympathy from male superiors, thereby undermining the credibility and professionalism of their female colleagues.

Discriminatory interview practices:

Women who engage in discriminatory practices during recruitment processes, such as asking invasive questions about marital status or family plans, contribute to systemic biases that disadvantage female candidates.

Belittling financial independence:

There are those who undermine the financial independence and responsibilities of women, perpetuating the harmful notion that women do not need money or career advancement because they lack significant family responsibilities.

Perpetuating stereotypes:

Lastly, women who perpetuate harmful stereotypes, such as equating every attractive woman with being a sex symbol, contribute to the objectification and marginalisation of their peers.

These behaviours not only impede gender equality but also erode professionalism and mutual respect in our workplaces. True inclusion will only be achieved when we recognise and embrace our differences as sources of strength, rather than viewing them through the lens of weakness or competition.

We must strive to create environments where women uplift and support one another, where diversity is celebrated, and where all individuals are given equal opportunities to thrive.

Creating safe and welcoming spaces, whether in workplaces, educational institutions, or communities, it’s essential to establish environments where individuals feel safe to express themselves authentically without fear of discrimination or prejudice.

Let us commit ourselves to fostering a culture of inclusivity, empathy, and solidarity, not just today but every day. Together, we can inspire true inclusion and pave the way for a more equitable and prosperous future for all.

 

Written by Ime Enang.