International Women’s Day: Using Data to Address Gender Imbalance

Did you know that in the UK only about 5% of businesses are female-founded? Which makes it all the more surprising that Lansons was co-founded by current chairwoman, Clare Parsons in 1989.

Having looked for stats from that year to put this this achievement into perspective, the data is either stubbornly hard to find, or I suspect, wasn’t being tracked. The importance of tracking gender bias has come to the fore over the last 5 years. Gender Pay Gap reporting forced companies to pay attention to how they were treating their workforce, but of course it’s only one small part of a much bigger picture. Capturing data offers a unique opportunity to find the hidden places where inequality still exists.

The resurgence of the women’s movement in light of #MeToo, the founding of organisations like TimesUp and the Diversity Project, and the increased emphasis on International Women’s Day has focused attention on ongoing gender disparities in business. However, they have also contributed to what some are calling “feminism fatigue”. As Caroline Criado Perez highlights in her excellent book “Invisible Women”, two thirds of men in Britain still believe that women now enjoy equal opportunities, despite evidence to the contrary. Capturing data more effectively can therefore readdress the fatigue through a data lens.

The BBC is one organisation which has taken significant steps reconsider how it can use data to address historical gender imbalances in its programming. The 50:50 Project is the biggest collective action on increasing women’s representation in BBC content there has ever been. Programmes voluntarily track and report on gender representation, with the goal of ensuring their shows are more reflective of the actual population they serve. Crucially, the Project is gathering momentum across UK and global news media. The Financial Times and The Economist have become involved, along with other prominent media organisations, as have a growing number of corporate partners, including Lansons.

The Project reinforces the notion that representation is about more than just making sure your list of spokespeople includes a handful of women. It’s also about taking stock of the amount of content produced by gender. For example, despite having a workforce which is 65% women, no gender pay gap and having equality embedded in our DNA, as part of our involvement in 50:50, our most recent audit of the Lansons  blog highlighted that our content tends to be skewed to the male voices in the office. And so this is an issue which are now working to address.

Tracking gender disparity doesn’t have to be an onerous task. A piloted programme can be as simple as filling in a couple of data points at the end of each month. What’s more, they can provide invaluable insights to really help drive change supported by concrete evidence.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EachForEqual, and one focus is raising awareness of gender bias. Their ask is simple “how will you help forge a gender equal world?”

For more on information on BBC50:50, and how your organisation can get involved.

For Lansons voluntary Gender Pay Gap Report.