The theme of International Women’s Day 2023 is #EmbraceEquity.
Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.
Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.
To celebrate and support International Women's Day 2023, Portobello Institute is sharing inspiring insights from women who follow their passion to fulfil their potential as they share their experiences with embracing equity.
Based in Dublin, I have worked in aircraft leasing for over 20 years, most recently leading the EMEA team at Avolon where my region owned and managed 150 aircraft across 50 airlines. I am currently in an equity fund-raise process for a start-up Lessor, SolÉir, which plans to launch in 2023.
I have a passion for diversity and sustainability in the aviation industry and have become an industry spokesperson on the challenges facing lessors as they seek to integrate meaningful ESG initiatives in their businesses. By way of example, in January 2023, the EU Director General, Dr. Henrik Hololei and the Head of Sustainability for Eurocontrol, Marilyn Bastik, were on my ESG panel held at Dublin’s Convention Centre.
Whilst at Avolon, I led its DEI committee and helped spearhead hybrid working as a norm prior to the pandemic. I also hold a primary degree in psychology and have published research on cultural diversity. From Dublin, I grew up in Tallaght where I went to St. Marks Community School, but I now live in the city centre. Finally, true to my interest in culture, I speak fluent Italian and Spanish, am married to an Italian, and have a 14-year-old daughter.
I believe IWD is a day in which women are celebrated. It provides an opportunity to highlight challenges facing our gender and show-cases the progress that has been made. As such, it shines a light on women, on the one hand helping celebrate women’s role in society and on the other, seeking to lobby for increased representation of women in the workplace on an equal basis and at an equal standing – in terms of income and seniority - to men, such that balance and equity is ultimately achieved.
Equity, in the context of DE&I, implies fairness and balance across all aspects of a person’s career. By way of example, too often, people fundamentally believe that they do not discriminate based on gender and ethnicity. Hence, to embrace equity, I believe you should always, ALWAYS, start by making the assumption that you are biased. Because you are. You have categories in your head about the people you meet that help you understand the world, but equally, lead you to snap judgements and first impressions.
Once you embrace that you are biased based on your own life experience, you begin to understand how far you need to go outside your comfort zone to embrace difference and ultimately equity. Acting in a way that embraces equity is not easy.
As above, it’s tough. The easiest way for those of us in leadership roles, whatever our gender, is to recognise that we need to change first to embrace equity. We need to stop thinking that we need to find a ‘fit’ for a role, as our idea of ‘fit’ is biased. We need to focus relentlessly on an individual’s competencies and experience relying less on subjective judgement. This, in my opinion, is far more challenging to achieve when recruiting for the C-suite as that is where it needs to be embraced most. We also need to recognise that to be equitable, we need to embrace people’s individual need for balance in their lives.
On more than one occasion, I have been the most senior person at an external meeting with a junior male colleague where the counterpart has assumed I was the secretary/assistant. I have had to be assertive to establish my role in the meeting once this occurs. What has surprised me is that when this has happened, my junior male colleague is usually almost oblivious to it! You just soldier on and accept that your counterparts are biased as they are so used to men being senior.
By accepting that I have had to step back and understand my own privilege and how that positions me in others’ eyes, and equally accepting that in some situations I may be judged in a way that is reflective of the other person’s default belief system rather than anything that I have said or done.
At Standard Chartered Bank they worked hard to address issues of inequity – I felt they were very keen to ensure I was part of their leadership succession plan so yes, they supported me.
I am currently in a fund-raise process so not in a regular work environment. At a basic level, you need to measure equity in an organisation, include targets, and ensure your hiring is always competency and experience based.
Start by listening without judgement. That’s harder than you think. Many times, the equity the person needs will not come out immediately in a conversation. Engage in active listening – that's my top tip, and I’m still learning how to do it.
Cultural diversity – and culture in general, having travelled half the world.
Travelling and understanding different cultures and societies, finding out what makes them ‘tick’. From Rome to Riyadh to Russia – I've done business in all of those places.
Belief systems that the country I am going to is not ‘safe’. So sometimes I have been held back (like going to Saudi Arabia) but ultimately, I have sought to understand the rules of that society and know how to play by their rule book.
By finding a way – there's always a way...
They say to think outside the box, why not just ‘go’ outside the box? People need to be more adventurous.
Portobello Institute is delighted to celebrate International Women's Day 2023 and support this year's theme of #EmbraceEquity
The webinar, led by Dr Danielle Prescott, took place on Wednesday, 8th March '23 from 7 pm - 8.30 pm. You can rewatch it on YouTube here.
Read More: International Women's Day 2023 Will #EmbraceEquity For A Better World
Read More: Dr Judith Butler on how to #EmbraceEquity in Early Years and Follow Your Passion
Read More: Mary Kate Murphy on Embracing Equity for Women in Facilities and Workplace Management
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