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Towards equality of opportunity

8th Mar 2022
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At the time of writing International Women’s day is being celebrated across the globe. Under the theme ‘break the bias,’ the day gives us all a chance to reflect on whether conscious or unconscious bias is contributing to a world in which equal opportunity is not universal.

In the UK we have seen some positives. For example the number of FTSE 350 board positions held by women has seen a fifty percent increase in the last five years to 34.3% overall. All FTSE 350 boards now have at least one woman representative. And the number of women in leadership roles has also seen an increase.

However, that doesn’t mean that we can afford to be complacent. There may be an increased awareness of the importance of equality but there is also some way to go before equality of opportunity is available to all. As 30% Club UK Investor Group co-chair Diandra Soobiah highlighted: “Diversity and inclusion in companies are integral to sound corporate governance and corporate culture.” Diandra Soobiah added the warning that “Time is up for organisations that seek to simply tick boxes” as the group announced that it was considering a policy of voting against the reappointment of board members at companies that do not address inequity and discrimination.

Equality of opportunity is a two way street.

The headlines may look at boardroom representation but unless the board ensures that outlook and training disseminate across the organisation, there is little chance that tomorrows crop of leaders will be drawn from a true diversity of talent. So perhaps it is time for organisations to look towards opening up an equal future for all.

Where it is easy to go astray is with a mindset that sees equality in terms of treating everyone the same. For example, you might see the delivery of a single training course as a way of opening up the next step for a wide range of people. But have you designed that course in a way in which it is truly accessible for all? Might the scheduled hours or a requirement for overnight preparation make full participation difficult for those who have children or caring duties? Does the subject matter or presentation style assume a background knowledge which might not be universal? Or might specific exercises within the module be uncomfortable for some individuals?

It can be all too easy to think, ‘I am part of the company and everyone in the company will think like me’ rather than stepping out of your own comfort zone to acknowledge that everyone is not the same and everyone has different needs and approaches. But when you do that you might be able to step into a world in which you offer multi-layer flexible training which meets the needs of a greater spread of individuals. That’s a world which can provide true equality of opportunity for all.

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