Businesswomen who live and work in and around Worcestershire have been sharing their stories for International Women’s Day on March 8, whose campaign theme this year was Break the Bias.
Rachel Jenkins is the managing director of Curvy Kate, a global lingerie brand known for spearheading inclusivity when it comes to loving your body. Its recent campaigns have included “Wear the bikini” and “Self(ie) love”, and this year it has chosen to support the charity The Girls Network.
Rachel, who has recently featured in LDC’s Top 50 Most Ambitious leaders, said: “As a brand which has always championed diversity and inclusion, it is important that Curvy Kate continually challenges the bias. Through day-to-day business, we can learn what unconscious biases are and how they affect our company, educate staff on how to challenge their bias and we can always be better by bringing diversity into our hiring decisions.’
Speaking about The Girls Network, Rachel added: “This wonderful charity believes that no girl’s future should be limited by her background, gender or parental income. To break the bias I believe that the groundwork starts with the next generation of women. Supporting women and girls to have self-belief that they can contribute to a world where differences should be celebrated is a strong foundation and springboard to a world of equality.
“I am proud that we are funding five of our team in a mentor programme where they will regularly meet, guide and support a mentee. In addition to fundraising for the charity we wanted to show action and representation, and we have incredible women who work for the business so it felt right that we could support the charity in this way.”
Phillippa Mills, the new Chief Constable and first female chief of West Mercia Police, said: “I’m incredibly proud to be the first female chief constable of West Mercia Police. I take that responsibility seriously and have committed to using my senior position to effect change in the service. As such, I am delighted to have launched ‘Inclusive’ as our fifth organisational value.
“I’m committed to improving our workplace culture and am well aware that under-representation by women in the service, and the consequential male-dominated culture, continues to be a challenge. The new entry routes into policing are already making a welcome difference in increasing the number of women joining the profession and I will seek to build on this success in West Mercia.”
Liz Warner, Detective Inspector in West Mercia Police and chair of the women’s network, WOW – Women of West Mercia – writes passionately on the subject of bias. Indeed, Liz recently conducted an internet search on the phrase “female police UK”. The top results included stripper costumes, “The ‘hottest’ cop returning to work from a career break”, a force being criticised for using a “fit” female officer in its recruitment campaign and a website called “Britain’s hottest female cops”.
Liz says: “We want to re-write these results. We want the search to bring back results to reflect the brave, empathetic, heroic, hard working women that we are. We want to challenge perceptions of who we are and what we can achieve as women in West Mercia Police.”
WOW is using the theme of International Women’s Day to encourage colleagues to find out more about the diversity within the organisation, bringing aspects of the black and minority ethnic network and the women’s network together in celebration. Inclusivity is an important aspect of the organisation.
Liz added: “By understanding and celebrating everyone’s ‘differences’ we can become an even better organisation to work for and serve our public to the best of our ability. Society is subject of bias around women in policing from a very young age, whether this be through TV programmes, books or the use of language. I still regularly hear children and adults refer to me as a ‘policeman’ and there are still false assumptions that women can’t do certain roles within the police organisation.
“You don’t need to be in a position of power to make a difference. Each one of us has the power and choice to turn away and keep quiet or to stand up and make ourselves heard in order to ‘break the bias’.”
Sharon Smith, CEO of the Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, agrees. “In a world where all is not yet equal, we should continue to call out biased behaviour. Let’s use the strengths and differences in us ALL, and work together for a kinder world. I’m committed – are you?”