David Bickerton with daughter Connie who attends St Mary's School in Cambridge. Mr Bickerton is the London Managing Partner of international law firm Clifford Chance.

Girls’ schools encourage fathers to take ‘unconscious bias’ test to mark the first National Dads4Daughters Day

Fathers working at some of the UK’s largest organisations are being asked to take an unconscious bias test as part of a nationwide drive to eradicate gender inequality in the workplace.

This Wednesday, March 15, sees the first National Dads4Daughters Day, when fathers across the country are being asked to take the test and pledge their commitment to greater equality in the workplace for current and future generations of daughters.

UBS, Aviva, Ernst & Young, Spencer Stuart and Accenture are among the City firms which are calling on fathers to back the campaign, which the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) is promoting with the support of 50 schools up and down the country.

As part of the campaign, GSA schools have undertaken an alumnae survey which shows that:

  • 71% of alumnae have experienced or witnessed gender inequality in the workplace
  • 75% believe men could do more to support women in the workplace
  • 73% believe pay inequality is the most important issue facing women in the workplace
  • 65% say women might not challenge workplace culture for fear it may impact their promotion prospects

To mark the day, the supporting businesses, as well as the City of London Corporation, which represents the Square Mile, are hosting discussions and debates with their staff about how they can tackle gender bias in the workplace, as well as encouraging fathers to take the unconscious bias test. Schools are also hosting talks from alumnae and fathers whose daughters are currently in school.

Launched last year by St Paul’s Girls’ School and inspired by the United Nation’s HeForShe initiative, Dads4Daughters aims to enlist fathers in the achievement of full gender equality in the workplace. It is based on the firm belief that fathers, not just mothers, are in a strong position to effect change.

The growing campaign hopes that as many organisations as possible will celebrate the day by asking all fathers to consider whether their workplace is somewhere they would be happy for their daughter to work.
Some of the individual comments from the women surveyed include:
“What has surprised me is how subtle and innocuous it [gender bias] can be – you sometimes don’t even notice it until all those small moments of difference build up. Only then do you realise the chasm between you and the people you are supposed to be on an equal level to.”

“[I can’t believe] that in 2017 we are even still having this discussion! That grown men, many with wives and daughters, still exhibit sexist attitudes. That people are still sometimes surprised when I say I have an engineering degree.”

“Pay inequality is still an issue nearly 50 years after the equal pay act.”

“The stereotypical idea that women are not as good leaders as men remains in some areas.”

“It seems to be accepted that once you have a family that seems the end of being able to progress up the career ladder. It is very difficult, once you go part time, to develop, which leads to stagnation.”

Charlotte Avery, President of the Girls’ Schools Association, said:
“Gender bias happens for all sorts of reasons, in all sorts of circumstances, and affects the lives and outlooks of men and women. It can begin in the home, or in the books you read or the TV you watch, and can continue into the workplace. Sometimes this is overt; sometimes it can be extremely subtle. Either way, it can cause significant damage to the confidence, and career choices, of young women.

“Hidden bias is especially difficult for women to challenge because often those who display it are completely unaware they are doing so. We hope this test will help men and women to become more aware of any bias they may possess, the negative impact their beliefs can have, and to pinpoint the ways that they can begin to turn around gender bias in their own workplace.”

Clarissa Farr, the High Mistress at St Paul’s Girls’ School, said:
“The Dads4Daughters initiative is based firmly on the belief that everyone – both men and women – are responsible for the achievement of gender equality in the workplace. We are urging men across the country, from all walks of life, to hold their organisations to account and question whether they would be happy for their own daughter to work there.

“When men become fathers of daughters, many report that their perspective on gender equality dramatically changes. They also become acutely aware of the challenges of achieving work-life balance both for themselves and the women around them. We hope that with the help of fathers, women will enjoy workplaces free from bias, pay inequality and glass ceilings.”

Will McDonald, Chair of the Fatherhood Institute and Group Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility Director at Aviva, said:
“I want my kids to grow up in a world where the limits to what they achieve are not set down by what gender they are. But to see real change, we need to harness the power of dads at work. After all, dads don’t stop being dads when they walk through the office door.

“Research shows that girls whose fathers are actively and positively involved throughout childhood do better at school, get higher pay, more demanding jobs, form happier relationships, have better mental health and are better at dealing with stress. So being an actively involved dad is a vital first step for fathers who want to support greater equality in the workplace.

“Dads4Daughters Day is a great opportunity for fathers to make themselves visible at work – to show how important being a dad is to them, and help their organisations think about what changes are needed to bring about greater gender equality – for today’s working dads and mums, and those of the future.”

 

[Pictured above: David Bickerton with daughter Connie who attends St Mary’s School in Cambridge. Mr Bickerton is the London Managing Partner of international law firm Clifford Chance.]

 

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