"We welcome you to join us to ‘#ChooseToChallenge’ in celebration of International Women's Day and, support us in calling out gender bias and inequality."
International Women’s Day is celebrated every year to recognise the significant achievements of women in various fields, acknowledge the progress made in terms of gender equality and as a reminder that there is still work to be done. This year’s IWD theme ‘#ChooseToChallenge’ is about taking a stand and calling out gender biases, inequality, and stereotyping. This year is different from others as we all face an unprecedented situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it has been particularly difficult and challenging for women.
In addition to celebrating the achievements and successes of women as part of our wider IWD celebrations, this year Oaklin also participated in the #choosetochallenge pledge campaign, and employees highlighted some thoughtful action-orientated ways to challenge gender bias and inequality.
Our book club book this month was ‘Wordslut’: A feminist guide to taking back the English language, by Amanda Montell, a hilarious and insightful view on gendered language and the way it shapes us, and we were delighted Amanda was able to attend our virtual social this month to take part in a fascinating discussion on her book.
We also organised a special ‘facts and snacks’ afternoon tea event to review the research on the impact of COVID-19 on women. Research highlights that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people work, with around half the workforce reported to be working from home or remotely. The unemployment rate in UK for the period between October and December 2020 was 5.1%, the highest rate in the last five years. In the UK and globally, job losses have impacted women more than men, with women's jobs 19% more at risk due to the pandemic than men’s. In addition to the direct economic impact of job loss and reduced incomes, the pandemic has also significantly increased unpaid care and domestic workload for women, more so than it has for men. Women are more likely than men to pick up household activities such as cleaning, childcare and cooking, and are also 43% more likely than men to increase their hours at work due to the expectation to be “always-on” while working from home. This has clearly had an adverse impact on women’s mental health with a staggering 86% of working women, who also have childcare responsibilities, reporting mental health distress last year.
After reviewing 'the facts', we tucked into our 'eggcellent' sandwiches and other treats and discussed the personal impacts of the pandemic. Many of us opened up about how the pandemic has impacted us as women, daughters, mothers, fathers, sons, husbands, friends and more. We shared how the pressures of work have been compounded by the challenges of home-schooling and upkeep of the home . Those of us who do not have care-giving responsibilities celebrated a newfound respect for those dealing with this loaded responsibility. Some of us also spoke about enjoying the extra time we would not normally have to spend with family members (even though it might have been stressful at times!). We also discussed different collaborative needs that have not always been fulfilled during the ongoing lockdown situation, like talking problems through with peers' face to face. And of course, there was a significant amount of time spent debating whether the cream or jam went first on our scones!
In the last part of our celebration, we generated several ideas of things we should stop, start, or continue to further support women (and everyone) at Oaklin, during the pandemic and beyond. We had some really creative ideas and received some great feedback on all that we had done so far (including our virtual socials, care packages, and access to the Thrive mental wellness app amongst others). We have reviewed these ideas and the Inclusion and Diversity team have agreed to take a few forward as our immediate priorities:
1. Oaklin puts emphasis on catching up with colleagues regularly on an informal basis through social events, virtual cups of tea and hopefully soon, face to face kitchen chat! We commit to providing new joiners at Oaklin the opportunity to be matched with a buddy. Where possible, and desired, we will match females with females. This will offer the opportunity to develop support networks, share experiences, form close social bonds and of course bounce professional problems between each other.
2. The expectation is that everyone at Oaklin uses gender-based language in a sensitive way. We commit to expand our focus on this to encourage our colleagues to educate themselves about the impact of gendered language. We have already started this education through our book club and monthly social where, as mentioned earlier, the author attended to discuss ‘Wordslut’. One of our Partners, James Ball pledged “to stop using male words when referring to people in general (like ‘guys’!)”.
3. Last year we extended our paid paternity, maternity and adoptive leave policies, we now commit to reviewing our shared parental leave policy.
We welcome you to join us to ‘#ChooseToChallenge’ in celebration of International Women's Day this year and, join Oaklin in calling out gender bias and inequality.
 Burnout-Britain-overwork-in-an-age-of-unemployment.pdf (compassonline.org.uk)
Katie is a passionate and dynamic Business Transformation leader who is obsessed with the human side of change and continuous improvement. Katie is a Management Consultant at Oaklin and has successfully led numerous change management workstreams for largely technology centred Transformations across a breadth of industries both as an external consultant and through change management lead roles internally.
Katie has focussed her people change expertise recently by digitising the end-to-end customer journey at a financial services organisation as well as improving the end-end-customer journey at a global aerospace manufacturer during the pandemic.
Katie also sits on the CMI London Board. Katie is passionate about ensuring traditionally under-represented groups have a voice and support network in the workplace, particularly in industries and functions where challenge of workforce diversification may be further compounded, such as Digital and Technology.
Shikha is an accomplished consultant with over 12 years’ experience of successfully delivering large scale technology transformation and data programmes. She has led multiple end to end delivery programmes, from inception through to operationalisation in a variety of industries including Financial Services, Hi-Tech, Energy & Utilities across UK, US and India.
She enjoys working on challenging technology projects and is passionate about helping clients keep pace with the changing technology landscape, stay competitive in the market and achieve their full potential.
Prior to joining Oaklin, Shikha has worked with Baringa, Deloitte and Accenture. She has an MBA in Finance from University of Rochester, NY and graduate degree in Electrical Engineering from India. Outside of work, she enjoys travelling and hiking.