You are not alone
02 February 2021
Sresha Banerjee, Full-time MBA alumna and co-founder of the Women in Business Club at WBS, discusses the importance of raising your voice, starting productive discussions, and becoming an ally so that we can stop imagining a world where gender equality is the norm, and make it into a reality.
The accusation that “feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians” – is just one of many anti-feminist slurs that I have come across in my adult life. I’ve even witnessed laughter at what is essentially “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes” (Oxford Languages, 2020) within rooms and audiences that you would not imagine.
Is it really funny to think that gender equality matters? I will share some facts, and let you decide. Did you know that…
- 137 women are killed by a member of their family every day.
- 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation to date.
- 15 million girls aged 15-19 years have experienced forced sex.
These are just a few of the many statistics found online which fall under the umbrella of feminism, along with a portfolio of issues where women are not only at a disadvantage, but also in danger. So, no, it’s not funny at all.
According to international statistics, the pandemic restrictions have seen an increase in violence against women, with social services and support becoming increasingly limited. As UN Women assert “ending violence against women is everyone’s business” and, in accordance with, UN Women’s 10 ways to help end violence against women, I am pleased to introduce the MBA Women in Business Club at Warwick Business School, co-founded by myself and Chaarvi with the support of the women in our cohort. The MBA Women in Business Club has embodied and applied many of the steps outlined by UN Women to further the cause of gender equality.
How did it all start?
Any initiative has to start with an identified need – we identified three:
1. Create a safe space – “We Hear You, We Believe You, We Stand With You”.
The first aim of the MBA Women in Business initiative was to build a strong and supportive community that offers a safe space to share individual stories and experiences. “When a woman shares her story of violence, she takes the first step to breaking the cycle of abuse. It’s on all of us to give her the safe space she needs to speak up and be heard.” (UN Women, 2020). This is applicable to domestic violence, harassment in the workplace, gender-based discrimination, surviving in a rape-culture and systematic patriarchy.
2. Representation matters – “You Are Not Alone”
MBA means ‘networking, networking, networking’, and I found myself attending a multitude of events within and beyond the business school, making lots of new connections. However, there was one very noticeable problem – the majority of the panels at these events were occupied by men. In fact, when considering ‘major events’, recent studies have found that in areas like policy making, “women average only one in four conference speakers” (Koester, 2018), this means that women don’t have an equal opportunity to shape policies, resulting in gender-bias affecting female health, safety and well-being across the board – in medicine, technology, urban planning, and more (Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez, 2019).
The Guest Speaker Series was a response to not enough women showing up on panels and networking events. As a result of the pandemic, all speaker events were held virtually, and the added flexibility helped us bring on and promote more women as professional speakers. Over term 3, we enjoyed speakers from different backgrounds; PwC Strategy&, Boston Consulting Group, Apple, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, ARM, Simon Kucher & Partners, Two Magnolia’s Ltd, and the Centre for Public Impact, covering consulting, fintech, leadership, innovation, start-ups, impact investing, and more! I was pleased to see the positive response towards these events from both women and men at WBS.
3. Starting conversations – “Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable”
The Inclusive Leadership Series focused on starting wider conversations around diversity and equality, and was comprised of:
- A Diversity Discussion Panel hosted by our MBA cohort, exploring Diversity and Inclusion programmes, cultural history and impacts on gender and creating biases, and expected change in the future.
- Senior Executive Speakers from Jaguar Land Rover, Apple and GlaxoSmithKline, discussing leadership, diversity and inclusion in the workplace – including a feature from Empower 2020 Role Model and Future Leader, Ambily Banerjee, Director at GSK.
Through encouraging everyone to ‘get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations’, we hoped to equip individuals with a sense of community and courage, to take a stand by calling out inappropriate behaviour such as catcalling, sexist jokes, inappropriate sexual comments and general ‘locker room’ banter.
It is everyone’s responsibility and duty to challenge each other, and to reflect on our own behaviours. We cannot stay silent. Positive action starts from encouraging healthy discussions so that we can becomes allies.
Allies are important.
This year, the MBA Women in Business Club is proudly led by co-presidents Princy Marin George and Gabriela Murillo Alencaster, and a growing team comprising of VPs Humaya Hernandez Grijalva, Priyanka Kaur and Shubhi Tripathi.
“Imagine a world where all people have equal rights and opportunities. Women and girls are not afraid of walking home late at night, and men and boys are not trapped in oppressive masculinities. In this world, gender equality is the norm. Men and women get paid equally for work of equal value and share the care work at home.
Imagine equality in political leadership, classrooms, corporate boardrooms, and factory floors. Women and girls have equal say in decisions that affect their lives, their bodies, their policies, and their environment, from villages to cities" (UN Women).
As of 2020, there is no country in the world that has achieved gender parity across economic, political, and social indices.
We hope you will join us in raising your voice, starting productive discussions, and becoming an ally so that we can stop imagining a world where gender equality is the norm, and make it a reality.
One step at a time. One year at a time. Welcome to Generation Equality.
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