March 8, 2023

International Women’s Day: #EmbraceEquity

The theme of International Women’s Day 2023 is #EmbraceEquity.  We are supporting their goal to get the world talking about why equal opportunities aren't enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.

Our expertise is in Workplace and Organisational development, so we wanted to take this opportunity to look at how if we #EmbraceEquity we can improve work for everyone.

Equity is How Different Perspectives Thrive

Equity in a workplace ensures that every employee has access to the same opportunities – how does that fit into an organisation that practices Diversity, Inclusion and Equity?

  1. Diversity
    Creating workforce of people from different genders, ethnicities, ages, abilities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  2. Inclusion
    Everyone in the diverse workforce is included, heard, valued, and respected.
  3. Equity
    When all members of the diverse, inclusive workforce have equal opportunities to succeed and grow.

When you value equity, you realise that not everyone is standing on the starting line together.  The world we live in is imbalanced and some of your people have access to different opportunities than others. 

Equity is not Equality

Before we start defining the differences, we understand that not all companies can go straight to Equity. When you are starting at zero, aiming for Equality is a great goal to have and not one that we are in any way diminishing. We're just looking at the best possible outcomes for people in an ideal situation. Step one might be Equality, and step two can be Equity.

To get you started, let's look at a simple example to demonstrate the difference. You can provide lunch for everyone in the company.  Equality is handing everyone exactly the same portion of the same meal – in this scenario, some people go hungry. 

Equity is ensuring that the vegans have their own choice of meal, and that diabetics are offered a meal that suits their needs, at a time that they need it. When a company focuses on equality, with one level of employee experience for all, without a view of what everyone actually needs, you can actually end up creating an unfair work environment.

Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.

Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

The Practice of Inclusion

Equity is like the practical side of inclusion, it’s providing everyone the tools and support that they need to achieve the same goals.  Unlike diversity and inclusion which are open to quantifiable metrics, equity is less a focus on the outcomes, and more on the process to get there.

From making accommodations for a staff member with a disability, to offering flexible working hours to a single parent who is juggling work and childcare commitments – inclusion is about giving everyone a voice to ask for what they need, and equity is providing them with just what they need to work to the best of their ability.

It could be learning and development opportunities; opportunities for growth, success and promotions; fair distribution and assignment of projects and tasks.  It’s about ensuring that no one is discriminated against, consciously or unconsciously, because of their circumstances.

Inequity and Skills Gaps

In previous articles we’ve looked at the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive management team, but to achieve this team, you need to give every employee the opportunity to progress to management level – that happens through equity.

Inequity may be particularly obvious in a larger workforce where people are likely to have come from a wider range of educational and socioeconomic backgrounds to get to the same level in the business.  By introducing a strong focus on equity within learning and development, you stop using ‘catch all’ or ‘blanket’ training courses, and instead offer tailored support so that all talented individuals reach their full potential, no matter where they started.

Let’s consider that you are in HR, and have recently employed a woman in her 50s to a director-level position (diversity).  She has a Ph.D. and two decades of experience in your field and is perfect for the role.  You include her in decisions, and ensure her voice is heard, communicating with her frequently on a one-to-one basis so that she can voice any concerns she has about her role or her team (inclusion).  She has just come from a five-year career break to care for a relative, and so has not used Microsoft since Windows 8.  But your induction training doesn’t include digital literacy, so she is unable to perform her job at her best.

You must identify skill requirements, and equip your people with the skills that they require as individuals to be amazing at their job.

Equity is the Hardest to Get Right

Out of the diversity-inclusion-equity trio, equity is perhaps the hardest, and the most resource-intensive to implement – but the cost of staff turnover is higher than the cost of equity.

Here are some little steps you can take towards creating equity in your workforce:

  • Language
    Everyone in your office, or remote workforce, may speak the same language – but is it everyone’s first language?  When it comes to company documentation and contracts where it is important that the meaning is completely understood, with no room for interpretation, consider having them professionally translated into people’s first languages.
  • Communications
    Not everyone communicates in the same way – this isn’t just about ‘language’, some people are better at getting their thoughts on paper, and some people are happier with the spontaneity of a phone conversation.  Think of sending your important messages to staff in the way that’s best for them.
  • Space
    We need to think beyond wheelchair accessibility and consider making spaces inclusive for all.  What about gender-neutral restrooms, dedicated meditation or prayer spaces, lactation rooms for new mothers, and quiet zones for people with conditions such as autism or ADHD to work without overstimulation?

    These considerations don’t end at physical space.  Fully remote companies should encourage employees to block out time for prayer and other personal needs as required, and make sure that introverts and those who find video meetings stressful are given breaks during long sessions.
  • Skills
    You must identify skill requirements on an individual basis, and equip your people with the skills that they require to be optimal at their job.

There is no one route to equity – as with inclusion…that’s kind of the point!  It’s about tailoring to your people’s needs.

Each one of us can actively support and embrace equity within our own sphere of influence. We can all challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination, draw attention to bias, and seek out inclusion. Collective activism is what drives change.

Forging gender equity isn't limited to women solely fighting the good fight. Allies are incredibly important for the social, economic, cultural, and political advancement of women.  Everyone everywhere can play a part.

Next steps

  1. Check out these free courses from the UN on Gender Equality
  2. Take a look at our articles on Inclusion, Diversity, and Belonging to find out more.
  3. Download our free DEIB in the Workplace guide.
  4. Get in touch with Connect Three today to find out more about our EDI products and services.
  5. See Barbara's article on Why Imposter Syndrome Plagues Women.

March 7, 2022

International Women’s Day 2022

This International Women’s Day, I spoke with two of our Explorers, Katy and Barbs about our Scottish Enterprise Principally Women’s programme and to find out what they’ve learned from the programme, and what IWD and #BreakTheBias means to them.

  1. Can you tell me what the Principally Women programme is all about?

Barbs: “It’s a programme designed specifically for female senior business leaders to develop their leadership with a focus on the real challenges that are specific to women.”

Katy: “Absolutely – we’ve worked to make a space where women are able to truly be themselves, feel supported and safely challenged to develop personally and develop their businesses. It’s a place to feel confident and empowered.”

  1. Be honest, before we started running the Principally Women programme, did you think that there was a need for ‘women only’ or gender specific leadership training?

Barbs: “Unfortunately, yes. Women face situations, challenges and barriers that do not exist out-with their gender. The programme works to identify some of those challenges, and offer practical support on how they can address them.”

Katy: “If I’m honest, unlike Barbs I rebelled against the idea that women should have their own programmes/network, as I felt that we shouldn’t need our own spaces and should be able to be successful within a mixed gender environment.”

  1. We've run the programme twice now - having been part of it, is that still what you think?

Katy: “No! As soon as we had our first introductory calls with women on the programme, I very quickly saw how wrong I’d been. A women’s only programme, wasn’t a sign of weakness but of amazing strength.

Women do face differently challenges and barriers in the workplace to men, and men still hold the majority of leadership positions, that is just fact. Being in the minority can at times feel can feel wearing and lonely, but in a women’s only programme you don’t have to deal with the perceptions and stereotypes that may hold you back in a mixed group.”

Barbs: “I agree with Katy - the reality is that from birth that women are viewed in a different way, across continents and cultures, and we want to make sure that there are opportunities for women, and everyone, to thrive, no matter what they face. One of our key messages in the programme is about sitting with fear and courage. Acknowledge it, but don’t let it stop you.”

  1. What has been your favourite part of your involvement so far?

Katy: “All of it! These programmes have enriched me and I always look forward to the sessions as I know there are going to be some brilliant conversations. A huge privilege for me was sharing feedback that family members had given. Seeing the impact that this had on the women will forever make me smile.”

Barbs: “I love when the women share really personal experiences and we can support them, through great conversations, to find a solution, or even options. The women speak about the difference in their confidence that they have experienced after taking part in the programme, and this is the stuff that has the greatest impact for them, and me.”

  1. What struggles do you think that women in the UK still face in the professional world?

Katy: “There is still a perception that women are inferior to men and less able to be successful in roles of ‘power’. Unfortunately, I can give numerous examples to back that up with what I have experienced, and what the women we work with have told me. Things such as, women being left out of meetings, being described as “over-emotional” or “all women are weak” … I could go on. Gender pay gaps and representation also evidence this. It’s my opinion that every single challenge that women face, comes down to systemic gender bias.”

Barbs: “I was doing research last week to design more content for the programme, and I came across some interesting (and terrifying) stats on gender bias when it comes to influence and negotiation. There remains a lot of negative stereotypes about what a woman should or shouldn’t be, how she should behave, and the role men play in supporting women.”

  1. The theme of International Women’s Day this year is Break the Bias – what does this mean to you?

Barbs: “To me it means everyone taking a proactive approach (all genders) to what is not appropriate and what is not helpful and to know how to call that out not if they should. This can be behaviours, workplace cultures or practices. This is a responsibility of all. It’s about challenging those things we hear and observe every day in our workplaces and in all aspects of life, to give women their rightful place of equity in the world without fear or bias.”

Katy: “For me it’s about people being honest and taking in the fact that gender bias still exists. Open your eyes and don’t hide to this. From here you will be able to call out biases and call in those who have them to learn and do the right thing. There are amazing women out there that we haven’t even met yet, who haven’t had the opportunity to show how amazing they are. What a shame it would be if bias continues to dictate that.”

Thank you both so much for your time – if you would like to find out more about Principally Women, or International Women’s Day, follow the links or get in touch with Connect Three today.

March 12, 2021

International Women’s Day

This week, in the spirit of International Women's Day 2021, Shona asked our team to spill the T on what they will #choosetochallenge, why they are choosing it and how they will be approaching it in the next few months.  To make sure we all stay on course, we'll be back in 3 months time to check in on our individual progress and see how we can support each other further.  Here are three of our responses, why not comment on the post to let us know what you are choosing to challenge in 2021?:

This year, I am out to smash the stigma!  Even in 2021 the stigma that women are over emotional, weak, not as capable, not as skilled, over or under-confident still exists and limits what we can and will achieve.  This stigma presents itself still in gender pay gaps, less representation within certain sectors, and can lead to damaging impacts on mental health.

The pandemic and remote working has resulted in all parental figures having to juggle more, make different choices and whilst men have also been affected, in my circles both personal and professional, it has been mostly women who have taken the majority of caring duties. I worry that the perception of this has been damaging when really we were not stepping away but stepping up and being role models to our children.

How am I going to challenge the stigma?  I'm going to continue to questions my own perceptions, listen to understand and never judge, and be an ally to all.

In 2021 I am choosing to challenge my own limiting beliefs and the limiting beliefs of others around me. I recognise that my limiting beliefs held me back many years ago with me saying no to some pretty huge opportunities that I was scared to take on as I didn’t think I was skilled enough, capable enough or good enough. I see so many people still holding back in life and business today and I want people to strive for progress not perfection.

To start with, I am going to share my story on how I’ve overcome those early career limiting beliefs, then I will keep asking people what they think is holding them back, and work with them on improving their mindset and putting progress steps and actions in place to move forward and quash those limiting beliefs and negative self talk.

I’m choosing to challenge the fear that myself and others let get the better of them. Too often we allow false evidence appearing real to limit ourselves from realising our potential. The action I’m going to start with is consciously separating fact from fiction and then working with the facts.

March 8, 2020

How Can a Business Celebrate International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day “should be a day when brands say publicly that they are going to do something to support women, whether it is their female staff or their female consumers. And do it with authenticity and credibility.” Tanya Joseph.

International Women’s Day this year falls in the week that Connect Three will launch the incredibly exciting Principally Women programme.  Working in partnership with Scottish Enterprise, this programme represents an amazing opportunity for us to develop a new way of working with senior female business leaders and providing tailored support where they need it.  But as we developed the ideas for the workshop topics, it quickly became apparent that these types of programmes are prone to…well, let’s be nice and say ‘misguided intentions’!

As our whole team sat around the table, sharing ideas for the programme, we told stories of “women’s” events we had been to where they had missed the mark.  I have been to a conference where the keynote speaker presented pink slides for the women’s survey responses and blue slides for the men’s answers.  My colleague had been to a prestigious women’s business award ceremony and received a branded nail file from an accounting firm while her male counterpart received a pen.  As these stories continued, we began to worry about what we could get wrong in the new programme rather than focusing on what would work well.

This is probably akin to how most companies feel when faced with celebrating International Women’s Day.  Brands who have got it wrong in the past are paraded in the news for their prehistoric ways and irrelevant ideas, while those who have done it well have been briefly saluted then forgotten about.  Those who do nothing risk even more wrath online, so what should a small business do?

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EachforEqual so before you celebrate equality in your workplace Tanya Joseph, architect of the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign at Sport England, suggests that authenticity is key.  Figure out if you are truly committed to doing something to improve the lot of women with a simple gender equality audit for your workplace:

  1. What are you doing as an employer of women?
  2. Is there a gender pay gap in your organisation?
  3. Do you have flexible working options that really are workable?
  4. Are women being recruited, promoted and retained in your business?
  5. Is your workplace one in which women are not subject to unwanted attention?
  6. Do women get a voice in your organisation?

You may not ace Tanya’s test, but committing to improving on each of these points is a step in the right direction.  In addition, “a workplace which works for women has the added bonus of working for men too.”  It cannot be a surprise that men want the same things in their working lives as we do, so how supportive is your business towards flexible working for men?  Why not use International Women’s Day as an opportunity to engage your male colleagues and staff in the conversation and get real feedback on what would improve your culture for all genders?

As always, at Connect Three we will never claim that we get it all right, but we do our best to practice what we preach, and I am so proud of the role our team has played in developing both male and female leaders in companies across the UK.  So this year we will do what we always do on International Women’s Day in March and International Men’s Day in November; get together and talk about our pledges from last year, see how we did against them and make some new ones for 2020.  It is the collective work of all members of our team that has helped guide and shape Connect Three’s policies and culture into something I am so proud of, so thank you team.

CJ Morley

March 8, 2019

International Women’s Day 2019

It's no hidden fact that there's a lot to do to level the playing field for women in work. From better employee perks that support women who are mothers, to reducing the gender pay gap until there is none to even talk about, and let's not get going on the challenge of getting a better balance of women in senior positions & greater diversity of women.

This International Women's Day we wanted to spend the day celebrating the amazing work that's being done by organisations across Scotland and the UK. To celebrate the wonder women who make Connect Three the awesome business that it is. To join with an inspirational global organisation to talk everything #BalanceForBetter, and to inspire women in the workplace and beyond to believe that there is a brighter tomorrow.

Kicking-off our International Women's Day with Lenovo, we hosted an inspiring workshop to explore and engage some of the Head Office team in Scotland to reflect on ways in which they could balance their professional and personal lives for better. Organisations which value their staff will always strive to support the celebration of equality within the workplace and it was fantastic to be able to help lead that process in honour of International Women's Day 2019.

In fact, we left so inspired by the pledges made by the changemakers in the room that we've pulled them together into our top hacks for the month.

Do more things for fun.

Spend more time doing things that just make you happy.

Stop wanting to take control of everything.

Stop making excuses.

Use my day better.

Participate more.

These pledges honestly made us grin from ear to ear and we're hop, skip and jumping into the rest of International Women's Month with a renewed sense of how valuable workshops like these are for empowering woman and men alike.

On the other side of Glasgow some of our team came together to host the latest workshop in our Scottish Enterprise, Managing People for Growth programme - a development series for supervisors and managers ready to supercharge their careers and those of their team - and it seemed like the perfect way to close off a day of celebrating all of the amazing women in business throughout Scotland.

However your business is celebrating the theme of #BalanceForBetter this week, month and year we encourage you to involve your staff and have them partake in some self-reflection and pledge setting.

And of course we couldn't finish without saying a huge Connect Three thanks to the women in our team who make what we do one of the best jobs in the world. So to Barbara, Fiona, Susan, Shona, Tina, Katy, Laura, and Vicky; thank you for being so awesome.

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