HeForShe is an incredible movement set up by the UN to call on people of all genders to support gender equality. Whether a country has equal laws or if the problems are still rooted in society, change can only be affected when the men, the people who hold the majority of the power, lean in to support the cause. For more information, I thoroughly recommend watching Emma Watson’s emotive and inspiring speech and reading from their website.
"If not me, who? If not now, when?"
- Emma Watson
One of HeForShe’s suggested actions is to write and publish your own personal pledge. It should be a list of measurable actions for you to follow over the next year to make a tangible difference to at least the community around you, if not the entire World. So, here’s my three-phase pledge for this year and whilst this inspired by gender equality, that is not where this ends:
a. I will continue to educate myself through both media and experience - There are lots of great resources out there, and I will keep you all updated as I find them. To start with, I will be looking for more books, TED talks, and groups to join.
b. I will take opportunities to active signal - Active Signalling simply means demonstrating overtly your support for the cause to show solidarity. If you work in a male-dominated environment, active signalling might show the women you work with that you value their contribution and that they will be respected as equals. At work, for example, I can where a women’s network lanyard, which gets excellent feedback. At home, I have recently ordered this HeForShe bracelet to wear at all times, and then of course, there’s the infamous pussy hat for cold days…
c. I will seek to diversify my friendship group - Sadly, most of my friends look like me. We’re mainly middle class, straight, cis, white men. If that’s my friendship group, what impact will that have on my unconscious bias and my ability to diversify my experiences? This year, as forced as it seems, I aim to remedy this by doubling the number of women in my close friendship group.
d. I will treat my niece and nephew equally, regardless of their sex - This comes down to the adjectives I use (“clever” not “beautiful”, “brave” not “be careful”) and the gifts I buy them. I try hard now, but I will do better.
2. At work:
a. I will lobby for unconscious bias training for all colleagues, regardless of their grade - This is currently available for managers and above, but by then, it’s almost too late. Besides, it’s a free resource!
b. I will be open and honest with colleagues who do not advance the Diversity and Inclusion agenda, without “calling them out” - The key here is to not alienate people because none of us have all the answers and, even if we did, that’s not how you change people’s minds. Instead, I want to become a point of contact for information, advice and suggestions.
c. I will boycott events with non-diverse panels - This started from a heated debate with colleagues about my company’s refusal to recognise International Men’s Day in the same way as the do International Women’s Day. If women and men’s voices aren’t treated as equally valid, despite being eminently qualified and regardless of topic, then the next generation will lack role models, inspiration and the change that’s so necessary.
d. I will seek opportunities to continue to train my team and me - Whether this is unconscious bias training, inviting them to events, or suggesting they create their own pledges, I will do what I can to ensure that my team leads the way.
3. In the wider community:
a. I will continue to work with disadvantaged young people in order to promote equal opportunities - By the time that we reach the work environment, it can be argued that too much inequality has already been ingrained. To further this, there is a social mobility crisis in this country, which we need to fix for the sake of equality, economics and our global prospects. I currently mentor two 13 year olds and will also apply to be a school governor to make my contribution.
b. I will use social media to promote the Diversity and Inclusion agenda, and to challenge people’s and my views - As I learn and find out more about this evolving and complex environment, I will share with you all and with my friends to further our collective education. For example, have you seen this TED talk?
c. I will be open and honest with my friends, family and others to challenge our inclusive behaviours - This is very closely tied with 2b, but I believe that none of us have all the answers. Instead, I only try to raise people’s awareness and education, including my own, in an open, honest and inclusive way. If we lash out, we only serve to repel people further and feminism deserves better.
What will you do this year?
16th March 2017