Why International Women’s Day is a reminder of the long journey ahead

If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that accurately predicting the future is impossible. However, one thing we can be sure of is that International Women’s Day will once again prove a hugely important event.

Gender diversity

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Break the Bias’ – a call for all to help create environments where difference is valued, celebrated, and women’s equality is an undeniable reality.

Bias can affect us all. The fact is, without a diverse workforce, organisations run the risk of viewing things from a very limited perspective. This serves nobody on any level. On 8th March, we at Ricoh Europe will host an internal virtual event for colleagues across the region. We will discuss the topic of unconscious bias, including its potential impact on career progression and limiting beliefs, as well as the importance of being our authentic selves. Our staff will hear experiences and views from a range of speakers before being invited to take part in a Q&A session.

While International Women’s Day is the most logical date on which to draw attention to statistics and the general state of play regarding gender inequality, it’s also the perfect time to celebrate the progress made. Good work is most definitely taking place. We are seeing more women in the boardroom, entering what have been traditionally male-dominated fields, and a rise in the number of female-focused paths to progress further up the business hierarchy. At the same time, pay gaps are shrinking. While I would love for this to be happening at a faster pace, the challenge is tantamount to turning a juggernaut as opposed to a speedboat.

More often than not, change of this scale is the result of tireless work at the end of a long and committed journey. Rarely is it both instant and seismic. What will always remain is the potential for what we think, say, and do to have a ripple effect that benefits everyone. We must all take advantage of that.

At Ricoh Europe, we have a number of actions and initiatives to support gender equality and female empowerment in the workplace. This includes:

  • Creation of the EMEA Women’s Leadership Forum bringing together over 90 members with the goal to develop connections and facilitate collaboration
  • Establishment of a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council to advise the Board on best practices and current perspectives
  • Continuation of our female leadership programme focused on building a network of effective future business leaders
  • Ongoing development of our female mentoring programme designed to support the development of mentees’ personal skills while encouraging knowledge and perspective sharing with mentors (both male and female)
  • A planned diversity and inclusion data gathering exercise where employees will be asked to voluntarily provide data to help us establish where we are underrepresented, why this is, and how we can improve
  • Supportive maternity and paternity leave policies
  • Placing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the heart of our business strategy, including SDG #5 to ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’

A recent personal highlight was seeing no less than 20 of our incredible female colleagues make it to the finals of the European Women in Sales Awards. A fantastic and well-deserved achievement for them all!

There is still a long way to go in the battle for gender equality. But let’s remember that we are making strides every day. For that, we should all celebrate.

Nicola Downing