To celebrate this year's International Women's Day, our Head of People & Culture, Emily Bignell, shares her views on equality, diversity and inclusion.
Q: Tell us a little about your background and journey with Ideal.
A: I joined Ideal in February 2018 so have been part of the company for just over 4 years. I started as one half of the People team, working closely with the People Director to get to know the ins and outs of the business, and then I have managed the function solo since she left 3.5 years ago.
Q: Congratulations on recently becoming the Head of People & Culture at Ideal! What does your new job role mean to you?
A: Thanks! It’s a great opportunity to work closely with the Senior Management Team, to shape and develop a People & Culture strategy that feeds into the organisation and helps to support the wider strategic direction of the business. The ‘functional’ People elements have always run pretty smoothly (if I’m allowed to say so… 😊) but the pandemic, and our subsequent changed ways of working, highlighted again how important our colleagues and culture are and how many things can impact that. So, it’s important to me to ensure we’re doing everything we can to make Ideal the best place to work and it’s great to play such a key role in that.
Q: Can you describe the culture at Ideal, and what is important about it?
A: The culture at Ideal is fantastic – it always feels like a company that has been built on, and for, the success of every individual who joins. It is really positive and supportive. Being a 60-person organisation, it’s so important to be able to get to know your colleagues and to feel as though we are all working towards the same goal. During the lockdowns it was nice to have those relationships with each other and as things are opening back up, it’s lovely to keep building those connections with colleagues, old and new, in the office.
Q: What does International Women's Day (IWD) mean to you?
A: IWD is a very important reminder that we are still living in a world without gender equality – in fact, there is data to suggest the pandemic has pushed this back 25 years as a result of women having to do more domestic chores and family care during lockdowns highlighting even more clearly that it is an issue we are far from solving. It is a date that reminds us how far we’ve come, but also how much work there is still to do. Embracing diversity in all its forms is so important to create companies and workforces where everyone feels empowered to share their individual ideas and perspectives, and IWD is an important day to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women everywhere.
Q: How do you think companies can empower women? What changes would you like to see for further equality?
A: Take the opportunity to start (or continue!) the conversations that matter; equal pay, equal opportunities for promotion, professional and personal development across the board, utilise mentoring programs to nurture and inspire, think carefully about the language used in job adverts, support women and diversify senior leadership, and simply let female voices be heard and listen to them… Give space for women to share their lived experiences and act on the changes needed to improve the working world for everyone.
The post-pandemic world is an excellent opportunity to rebuild the world of work without bias and promote greater equality. Flexible working quickly became the ‘new normal’ for many during the last 2 years, and now moving to a hybrid model and giving flexibility over home and office work will continue to enable those with additional responsibilities, and commitments outside of work to be included.
Q: This year’s IWD theme is #breakthebias, what steps can we, or are we taking at Ideal to break the bias?
A: As stated by IWD, “individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day… Together we can all break the bias”. At Ideal we have an ongoing conversation across the organisation about our diversity, inclusion and belonging and are constantly striving to improve. We celebrate wins from all colleagues and ensure the women in our business are given a voice. We're using external providers/help to assist us in our improvements including Watch This Sp_ce and Diverse Sussex.
But we can all do more. We can call out the biases where we see them and recognise where they feature in our own behaviours. The technology industry is always searching for new talent but still only 19% of the tech workforce in the UK are women – there is a need for more representation across the sector, but particularly in senior roles to help motivate more women to join us.