Why acknowledging the system as biased is not enough

Maria Da Silva – PR & Influence Consultant at Agence Proches.

Every year–as we get closer to International Women’s Day–it is essential to reflect on the significance of this date and the reason behind our celebrations, as although it is a great thing to be able to dedicate a full day to celebrating women and their successes all around the world, it would be even better not to have to. The celebration of women and their place in society should be as mundane as that of men, and we should not have to wait for a rainy or sunny day in March to show our appreciation. Unfortunately, the relentless, seemingly everlasting, biases against girls and women has forced us to resort to decoys, such as celebratory dates, to showcase the “real” value of our contribution to society.

On this special day that is IWD, business leaders, and companies around the globe will put forward all the actions they’ve taken to promote their female talents. However, some of them will remain partially blind to the deliberate or unconscious bias female workers face in the workplace, whether it be from their managers, colleagues, clients, or even other female co-workers, bias is everywhere. We know it, we see it, we hear it, but only on occasion do we really fight it.

If political institutions and companies are taking more and more initiatives to promote women in positions of power, often helping bring a small percentage of diversity to their boards, we also need to focus on the “micro-biases” and aggressions that both high-level and junior level female employees can face. Acknowledging that the system is biased is not enough, and it is pressing time for change. To level the playing field, society needs to be acutely aware and on the lookout for situations in which a women can easily be dismissed or overlooked, and actively call them out. A zero-tolerance policy to micro-aggressions, unconscious biases, and other dismissive or limiting behaviors towards girls and women will greatly help in giving them courage to pursue their studies, careers, and dreams, without feeling like they are at a disadvantage because of their gender.

So, pay attention to the way women around you are treated, question the promotion of your male co-workers over your female ones, wonder why a certain task or subject was attributed to a woman when a man could have also done the job, don’t politely smile at the sexist remarks disguised as everyday humor or banter. Only strong, steadfast, outspoken support for the deliberate progress of women will help cement the fact we are real contributors to society and need to be seen as such.

Every day, women accomplish amazing things, as well as –and sometimes even better than– men. It is important to recognise that and reward them for it, not just on March 8th but every day.

Four ways to elevate women’s voices and make the PR industry a level-playing field

Nitin Mantri, ICCO President, Group CEO Avian WE

Just two years into the new decade and the world has seen an astounding number of breakthroughs in science and technology. Shared knowledge resulted in the fastest development and rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine; WHO approved the world’s first malaria vaccine for children; NASA learned how to fly in a Martian atmosphere, IBM launched the most powerful quantum processor yet, and every company worth its salt jumped on the “metaverse’ bandwagon.

The speed at which new discoveries and advances are helping humankind accelerate into a new world is both exciting and ironic. Because all the progress notwithstanding, when it comes to gender equality, we are abysmally behind. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, the pandemic has increased the global gender gap by a generation – from 99.5 years to 135.6 years.

Gender inequality exists in every industry – from technology to corporate, politics, media, sports, entertainment, and beyond. It is a complex issue and there is no one size fits all solution.

What can we do about this? How can we ensure that the communications industry, where agencies are overwhelmingly staffed by women but often led by men, functions fairly and equitably? Here are four ways we can elevate women’s voices as powerfully, and as often, as we elevate men’s and make our industry a level-playing field:

Gender equality should be a CEO’s top priority

Gender equality must be in the DNA of every communications firm, embedded in its values and culture, and used as a lens for every decision from strategy to recruitment. And it must swoop down from the top leadership. If the CEO and the board of directors are not committed to ensuring a safe and supportive work culture that is conducive for the growth of their women employees, equality will just be a tick box. Change must start at the top of an organisation and the onus to eliminate biases lies on the CEO.

Build a work culture that integrates work and family

Even though we are living in the 21st century, women are still the primary, and at times, the sole caregivers in their families. In the absence of an office structure that integrates work and family, several women are forced to drop out of the workforce every year. We can prevent this by developing policies and programmes that support both women (as mothers and daughters) and men (as fathers and sons). Provide sufficient maternity and paternity leaves; introduce flexible hours for expectant and new parents, give caregiver leave or part-time work opportunities to employees who need to tend to the medical needs of aging parents or ailing family members. This way the burden of family responsibilities will be equally distributed, and women will find it easier to do their jobs.

Introduce returnee programmes
Invest in returnee programmes to balance the gender gap. Many women are not able to restart their careers after a break because the rapid evolution of technology results in their skillsets being outdated. We can address the industry’s talent problem by helping women reskill and upskill and join back the workforce. VMware, for example, started India’s biggest returnee programme called VMInclusion Taara in 2019 to address the increasing gender gap in the technology sector. Over 12,000 women have registered with the programme in a span of two years and around 2,000 women have found their way back into the workforce.

Measure progress to achieve gender equality

Gender equality policies and programmes will remain only on paper, if we don’t track and measure their implementation and progress. The best way to do it is by tying executive bonuses, including the CEO’s salary, to diversity goals. Companies like Microsoft, Intel, Nike, Facebook and Johnson and Johnson, to name a few have already done that. So, while we counsel our clients on the importance of sustainability and purpose, we also need to put our money where our mouth is and incorporate gender diversity goals in our business strategies. This will hold our leaders accountable for their behavior, help them address their unconscious biases, and build a steady pipeline of senior talent.


It’s critical to remember that gender equality is not for the benefit of women alone. When companies empower their women employees, it has a multiplier effect on businesses, families, communities, and economies. High time we made a conscious effort to #BreakTheBias, and bring about genuine structural changes for gender equality in the communications industry.