37. The future of work and diversity | Laura Stebbing, Co CEO of AccelerateHER


Laura Stebbing | Co CEO of AccelerateHer


This week we catch up with Laura Stebbing, Laura is Co-CEO of accelerateHER, an organisation focused on addressing the under-representation of women in technology.


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Laura Stebbing is Co-CEO of accelerateHER, an organisation focused on addressing the under-representation of women in technology. Laura has spent her career building global partnerships that drive impact for purpose-driven organisations, on issues from technology and gender to entrepreneurship and human rights. She was previously Partnerships Director for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and before that worked at human rights organisation, Reprieve. She has a background in social impact and has held positions at the British Home Office as well as in fundraising for a number of ventures focused on women’s rights in Botswana and Mozambique. Laura holds an undergraduate degree from the London School of Economics as well as a Graduate Diploma in Law.


[00:00:00] - Laura Stebbing
For every dollar of funding, women led start ups generated 78 cents, whereas male led start-ups generated just 31 cents.

So there's a there's a real blind spot here on what we could be doing for the world if we really focussed on diversity.

[00:00:23] - Doug Foulkes
Welcome to The Future of Work, the podcast that looks at, you guessed it, the future of work. It's brought to you by WNDYR, for their blog, Chaos & RocketFuel. WNDYR are productivity and human behaviour specialists who use technology to help us humans on our digital journey from disruption to transformation. Check them out at WNDYR dot com, that's WNDYR dot com. I'm Doug Foulkes. And along with WNDYR CEO Claire Haidar, we regularly meet up with industry experts and mavericks to get their take on work in the future.

This week we catch up with Laura Stebbing. Laura is co-CEO of AccelerateHer, an organisation focussed on addressing the underrepresentation of women in technology. She also builds global partnerships that drive impactful, purpose driven organisations on issues from technology and gender to entrepreneurship and human rights. Laura was partnerships director of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and works extensively in the field of human rights. In the next 45 minutes, we find out about growing up in an unstable Zimbabwe.

The important difference between mentorship and sponsorship. How Laura's work at AccelerateHer is changing gender equality and how gender roles have been set back due to the pandemic. But first, Laura explains why diversity is so important.

[00:01:48] - Laura Stebbing
I think on a macro level, you know a lack of diversity just kind of makes me furious. I think that we'd be living in such a better, safer world without the extent of the climate change issues and global poverty and war, if we had a mix of people making the decisions. I think you can just look at the pandemic and seeing that countries led by women have generally taken a very different approach and in often cases been more successful.

I think. Why is it important, looking at George Floyd anniversary coming up, just so unacceptable that people are treated differently and killed for the colour of their skin. I don't know if you've read the book Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez, who talks about the gender data gap. And talks about how our whole society, all of our society, you know, is based with white men in mind. They're the kind of standard, whereas everyone else is the other. And so whether it's the fact that drug trials are done on men so they can kind of get a clearer picture without women's hormonal biases or crash test dummies built on men's dimensions or public toilets that are designed with the same square footage for men and women, despite the fact that women take three times longer or more than three times longer, because at any one time they're either pregnant or bring in a dependent or have their period or UTI or whatever it is. Or cities that are designed where the transport goes in and out of the centre rather than around the circumference, which is what you need if you're dropping off children at the nursery.

And I think looking at society in the way that it's structured, it's just so frustrating. And with toilets, you can laugh at the cues, but with other things it's fatal. And I think for me, that's what's so frustrating. And the reason I'm particularly interested in tech, which is obviously where AccelerateHer is working, is that the future is technology. And yet, you know, at the moment, the future's not looking very equitable. And there's, you know, whether you're looking at the investment side of things, there's an organisation called Project DIANE that did some research between 2009 and 2017, where they found that of the 424 billion dollars that went into tech venture capital, only 0.006 percent of it went to start-ups, led by black women.

In Europe just 90 percent of venture capital money went to all male Start-Up teams.

And on top of that, women make up just 12 percent of senior leadership positions in technology and just a third of the overall workforce. And that's a real issue for many reasons. But for one, women and under percentage groups aren't getting into the jobs of the future. Where the money is, where the excitement is, for two, they're not the makers. And so the products that we're building aren't designed with those people in mind. Take the kind of cohesive iPhone out, the health app that didn't include menstruation or the fact that when you are building products that are built by one kind of person, they're deeply biased.

And, you know, for example, Amazon, when they did that recruitment tool, that activity deprioritized women's applications and had to be quickly taken down. And then I think there's also a financial value that we're kind of missing out on here in that, you know, they've shown that the Boston Consulting Group and Mass Challenge did a report in 2019 that showed for every dollar of funding, women led start-ups generated 78 cents, whereas male led start-ups generated just 31 cents.

So there's a there's a real blind spot here on what we could be doing for the world if we were really focussed on diversity. And and it's just a crying shame that we're not.

[00:05:21] - Claire Haidar
Laura it is just so good to have you on the show with us today. Thank you so much for making the time.

[00:05:28] - Laura Stebbing
Thank you for having me. It's so lovely to be here.

[00:05:31] - Claire Haidar
Laura, you have the heart of a philanthropist but the savvy of a very astute businesswoman. I'd love for you to share with our listeners your incredible story. So starting with things that inspired you as a child in Zimbabwe and how you've pretty much woven all of that into your passions and your career in Europe.

[00:05:53] - Laura Stebbing
I actually grew up in Botswana until I was 11 and then moved to Zimbabwe and lived there until I was 19.

And I guess living in Zimbabwe in the late 90s was a really interesting place to be in that it was a kind of political melting pot. The economy was in a sort of freefall, given Mugabe was unleashing his, you know, the war vets, there was a massive land redistribution program, he was trying to gain absolute power. You would be marching for a different kind of civil rights every weekend.

And at school, you were kind of going in every day and everyone was pouring over the newspapers and, you know, desperately looking at what was happening there. You know, that was there was horrendous poverty and really kind of crazy things going on every day. You'd go to the shops and suddenly there'd just be nothing in there, or you would go for coffee and one day it was, you know, two Zimbabwe dollars. The next it was 20, the next it was 40.

And, you know, was running around and carrying their money in wheelbarrows. And it was quite an extraordinary place to be. And I think after a while, I was pretty desperate to get out and and had a bit of a sliding doors moment in that. I came to the UK, which we used to call Harare North.

I was always like, look into the wider world what was going on. And I had a place at university in Germany because I spoke German because I had done an exchange year on the way.

And I had a place in Cape Town for the kind of following year. But I really wanted to go to university in the UK and had applied for a scholarship at the London School of Economics because my parents couldn't afford to to pay the full kind of foreign fees. And the chances were about one percent that I would get it. But so I was kind of looking at what would happen and ended up getting it and getting full scholarship and ended up being able to study in the UK.

I would have been here for 20 years in June actually now, which is a bit bonkers and it's quite yeah, it's quite crazy to think of the different routes that my life could have taken if I'd gone to Germany or stayed in Africa at Cape Town.

But I think in terms of, you know, what led me down the route of the kind of career that I've taken was the passions that I got out of living in Africa in this kind of quite crazy time and really seeing the incredible sort of resilience and independence and courage of people around me.

[00:08:27] - Doug Foulkes
I'm just interested just to hear about going back to Zimbabwe, some of the legal work that you've done on death row. Could you share a little bit about that with us?

[00:08:36] - Laura Stebbing
Straight after uni I was working for the British Home Office and Criminal Justice Policy, and it was it was looking at the Stephen Lawrence murder and a lot of the fact that the police, the Metropolitan Police, was being institutionally racist and there were a lot of five year plans and looking at what could be done to change that. And that was really interesting. But I felt for me very far away from the actual people on the ground who were in some of the worst situations on Earth.

And I ended up going to a lecture by Clive Stafford Smith, who founded an organisation called Repreve in the US, actually in New Orleans. He is an extraordinary death row lawyer. And I was pretty soon on a plane out to New Orleans, Louisiana, to try to support as an intern. It was really focused on research investigation that I could do looking into mitigation for the guys that were on death row and a lot of visiting as well.

So that was the kind of key part was trying to, I guess, keep their spirits going, because these were men that had been on death row for, you know, often tens of years with very little kind of hope in sight.

And, yeah, visiting them was the best bit of it. Albeit pretty scary in that, not from seeing them, but more in terms of the kind of the set up of I suppose, power and what that looks like. Demonising the West, well there is no people that have thought of the worst of the West, so you would kind of prutal along with your little briefcase and go down long corridors and have clanging doors all the way until you ended up getting to the guys and realising that.

Once you saw them and spent time with them and talked about their story, you know, a lot of the time these are not the worst of the worst at all. They're just the people that couldn't afford decent representation that ended up getting caught up in a gang murder or a crime of passion or something that went wrong, that if they weren't poor and if they weren't overwhelmingly black, they wouldn't have ended up in that situation, most of the time.

So that was a really kind of extraordinary period in my life, actually working there and working with some amazing people. And later on that year, I went and did some work with Zimbabwe lawyers for human rights in Zimbabwe, again, with some pretty incredible people. They were risking their lives every day to be documenting and supporting people that were, yeah, people across Zimbabwe. I remember Arnold Tsonga who was the founder there and some of the other lawyers.

We interviewed me and sat around a table and one was saying, so last week I was in prison for a couple of days, tortured. Next one was said, I got picked up over the weekend and they looked at me and said, how do you feel about that? And I said, well, I really care about my country and this is really important. But could I possibly work from home or not be in the scenario where I'm going to be picked up in that way. So I ended up writing a report on Operation Murambatsvina, which at the time was happening.

And it was an awful initiative by the government to sweep up townships that were supporting the opposition.

[00:11:49] - Doug Foulkes

[00:11:50] - Claire Haidar
It's so clear how your background and what you've done has led you to where you are today, there is very few people where it is as crystal clear as it is with you. And I just love how everything that you've touched has this very clear element of human rights to it. And in terms of gender parity, it's also a human rights issue that we're dealing with. You know, and I just, it really is, it's a beautiful golden thread that runs through your career.

So let's turn a little bit to the work that you did with the Cherie Blair Foundation. You've raised a lot of funds within partnerships there at your role there. Through the work that you did there at the Cherie Blair Foundation. You would have definitely had and gained insight into a lot of data and a lot of information that is very relevant to the future of work. Can you open us up to that a little bit? Can you share some of the insights that you learnt there?

[00:12:57] - Laura Stebbing
Sure, yeah. It was a really fascinating place to work in that, founded by Cherie Blair, who, as you know, was the first kind of full time working partner of a serving prime minister. And she said the only reason she was able to do that was the power of technology and the fact that she could be kind of writing. She was a barrister, writing her briefs downstairs, popping up to say hello to the visiting dignitaries and then kind of carrying on.

And she was a huge techie. I remember going to Mobile World Congress with her and having to kind of drag her out of the scrum because she was there looking at what what was happening next.

And I think for me, that's what really turned me on to the sort of power of technology and the power of it to, well, to empower women. And I think for us in terms of the future of work, it was all around, and the organisation is all around driving entrepreneurship for women and in developing and emerging economies, but really getting corporate backing and support for that. So early on, we did a study with the US State Department that was trying to show the financial value of of closing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership, found a three hundred million person gender gap that had an 11 billion dollar opportunity.

I think what was exciting there was the opportunity for companies then to get involved, whether that was Vodafone or various other companies that wanted to jump in and do projects that were working with these women. And I think from the women's perspective, the drive of what we were doing was global connections. So the ability to be running a small project in Rwanda, but working with a mentor who was working at Bank of America on strategy, and spending an hour a month with a women in Rwanda to help her build a business and kind of making those global connections across the world was so exciting and kind of, I think you know future leading really.

And I think it was obvious from that moment. That's where I wanted to spend my attention and ended up meeting Brent Hoberman and Poppy Gay, who had just started AccelerateHer. And were kind of wanting to do that on a macro scale. So that was how I got into that.

[00:15:08] - Claire Haidar
So am I hearing you correct in that Cherie's vision was very much that the best way to empower, in her case it was women, because she had this personal passion for working women, but you can extrapolate that more broadly and say, do you believe that the heart of empowerment to underrepresented groups lies in entrepreneurship?

[00:15:36] - Laura Stebbing
Yeah, absolutely. I think it was very much Cherie's view and the view of the organisation, the foundation that entrepreneurship was the driver for the ability to be empowered and to actually empower your community as well. And we saw that time and time again, in all the different places that we worked, how, you know, it's the whole thing. And I think having grown up in Africa, you can get quite jaded about the concept of aid and just handing things out, whereas actually the excitement of trade and the ability to support women, to build their businesses and to do that across borders where you're making critical connections and where you're utilising technology.

That was definitely the Holy Grail and the really exciting bit about what we were doing.

[00:16:28] - Claire Haidar
Love it. I personally share a very similar view, which is why naturally I gravitated towards a project like AccelerateHer of course, and things like that, which we will talk a little bit later in the conversation as well.

[00:16:45] - Doug Foulkes
As you know, the podcast is about the future of work and we're going to stay with the future of work and with gender parity. And I'm going to sort of lead into that. Something I read in a recent interview you spoke about, the sponsoring of women in business rather than the mentoring of them. Can you elaborate on that and just then lead that into gender parity in the future of work?

[00:17:07] - Laura Stebbing
Women tend to be over mentored and under sponsored. So, you know, with I think the stat is that women have three times more mentors than men. And mentoring obviously has a place and it's really important for being able to get the advice and reach out to people that have done things, you know, ahead of you differently from you have that kind of belief. But actually what we see is so critical and what happens with men is sponsoring.

And that's the idea that when you're not in the room, you have someone speaking on your behalf. You have someone that will say come to this meeting or that will give you a piece of work that widens your skills in an area that's going to be critical for your future success. So we have one of the top CEOs, I won't name them, but in the UK said that he started cycling to work and then suddenly realised that actually when he got to work in the locker room, there were all these men that were kind of hanging out and that's where they got to know each other.

And then that's where sort of deals happen.

And actually, he realised that and went, I'm going to make sure that I'm carving out opportunities to have similar type of relationships and touch points with women because they just wouldn't be getting that kind of informal exposure. So for me, sponsorship is one of the critical pieces to getting to gender parity. And I think we should be ensuring that that's one of the cornerstones that you put in place alongside things like shared care, which is absolutely essential as well.

And then flexible work. For me the future of work with gender parity looks like, on the one hand, real innovation in products and services. So I love products like Elvie, for example, the pelvic floor app designed by Tania Boler, or some really exciting femtech products, products that are like ThirdLove. Just things that have come up that are designed by women with women's bodies in mind. And I think if we really kind of harness everybody, we are going to come up with so much more innovation.

So in that side, that is where that could get to. But also, obviously, in terms of ways of working, you know, I think I'm an operator enough with the Network for January Ventures and Just Love, which is a small fund that supports women's and under percentage founders. And it's so exciting to see some of the products and services and ways of working that they come up with. I think looking at ways of working which enable success for women and underrepresented groups across the board is also where we see that parity.

So, for example, Channel Four, led by Alex Mann, I think one of the first companies I've seen to put in place a menopause policy, which a lot of organisations wouldn't be thinking about, that actually is crucial and just makes life better for so many women. So my view with the pandemic is that there's been a real shake up, hopefully, and we need to be thinking about how we can build back feminist and so really building back in a way that we're building the future of the office and that the ways of working with women and underrepresented people in mind.

[00:20:30] - Claire Haidar
I just want to comment specifically there on one of the products that you've actually highlighted, Laura. That's Elvie. So I used Elvie's breast pump post pregnancy. And I still to this day, I'm flabbergasted that a device that is so critical to not only woman, but to all of humanity, because it's men who get fed from her breast as well. Is so backward, just so completely backward and so painful and so not User-Friendly. And I've never been blind to female issues, but I've never, ever been a strong feminist.

And I'll go so far as if I know this is an extremely controversial thing that I'm going to say now. And I've had many a heated debate, but there have been times in my life where I have gone so far as to say that I'm not a feminist, because I genuinely think that very often the conversation about equal rights actually shifts the focus away from considering that females and males actually need different things like the locker room example that you've just raised here is that women aren't naturally going to cluster around in the locker room all sweaty and get a deal done.

And we shouldn't be trying to get them into the locker room. We should be as that CEO made a mission for himself to do, is recreate a locker room type scenario where women naturally find themselves, yes, equal rights are important, but at the same time there are significant differences. And like the Alvie breast pump issue is one of those topics, men are not breastfeeding in the office, period, you know. And so I think when I became a mom, my thinking has definitely become more nuanced in this area because I so directly experience the pain of it and absolute frustration of it.

But I do still stand by that point of it's not only about equal rights, it's about what is actually right for each of the different genders. And in today's world, it's even beyond just male and female. It's actually the full LGBTQ spectrum, you know, that we talking about and that we have to address. And so what needs to change? Like what are the actual physical things that I need to be doing differently in work today to make my workplace better?

Whether it is truly gender parity.

[00:23:04] - Laura Stebbing
You need to see the differences. I always get so frustrated by people that say, you know, I don't see colour or whatever. And because actually that's not the approach. What we need to do is, is see the fact that people are different and have different needs and therefore recognize that and put them into and put them into place. So if you're talking about what senior people at companies should be doing and to be thinking about on this front, for me, I think an awareness of your unconscious biases is an important first step.

But there's an intention action gap a lot of the time on what you're going to do. And an unconscious bias training just doesn't work a lot of the time. I think there's a wonderful woman called Iris Bohnet, who's a professor at Harvard and who wrote a book called What Works, and she talks about a 30 year study of midsize companies in the US, which showed that the huge investment that they've done in unconscious bias training, hadn't necessarily resulted in greater levels of diversity.

And her point was that actually what we need to do is make it easier for people to make those changes by setting the system up differently. And you can't change people, but you can change the system a lot of the time. What we suggested AccelerateHer is thinking about, you know, using behavioural design tools to remove gender to make sure that your job descriptions are open to all redesigning performance reviews. You know, there's so much of the time. Performance reviews are based on an idea that you would go in and you write what your thoughts about yourself are, and then your manager goes and looks at that and writes their thoughts.

And actually, if they've already seen your thoughts and you tend to be, which often can be the case women, you know, Sheryl Sandberg did a lot around this, that you're more likely to often have imposter syndrome as a woman and put yourself down, then your results are going to be so much lower. And so the performance reviews will kind of keep you down versus a system where we change that or again, looking at kind of equalising parental leave and making sure that both men and women can take it equally.

I think that's where we've got to look at as leaders of companies and basically change the structure and change the system so that everyone within there is recognised as being different, as seeing what they need.

[00:25:22] - Doug Foulkes
Laura, I know that Claire wants to talk to you about AccelerateHer. But just before we get there, you said something, you actually just mentioned covid-19 for the first time. I just want to ask you, around the year of 2020, I know that you believe that covid-19 has had a bigger or more adverse effect for women. Could you maybe just elaborate on that?

[00:25:41] - Laura Stebbing
Yeah, it's such a tricky one. I think in some ways the last year has been useful from a gender parity perspective in that, you know, one of the cornerstones that we've been kind of talking about as being critical for gender parity is flexible work. And finally, 2020 has shown that that's possible. Presenteeism isn't necessary to get things done. And you can do your job from wherever. And as long as you've got kind of clear objectives set, I believe that's something that you guys do a lot, you can work remotely.

And I think a lot of bosses would never have thought that before. And that's one huge step forward. But in many ways, it's been an absolute disaster for feminism because of the fact of the burden of childcare and household chores, which has really fallen overwhelmingly globally on women and meant that they've, in a lot of cases had to step back from their careers. In the US there is this term she-session which has been going around. And I think it is really obvious that women have lost their jobs in much higher numbers.

And Sheryl Sandberg talks about the triple shift, the fact that there are just so many things landing on women. And so I think hopefully there is some kind of massive reckoning that will happen this year that will force governments and leaders to finally realize that women are picking up the slack in the system by having free care and not just for children, but for other dependents, and that actually that needs to be recognised and that that can't really carry on.

And we need to be looking at childcare solutions that make sure that men and women can both work to the degree that they need to and that it becomes everyone's responsibility rather than lending with women in this way. And I think that's, what 2020 has I think really shown and I hope. We did a survey recently with AccelerateHer on women in tech and people found that their gender roles have been set back and often by some 10 to 20 years.

So there's a lot that we need to do to get ourselves out of this.

[00:27:45] - Claire Haidar
Laura, let's turn our attention to AccelerateHer, which is where you are today, what you're heading up. Both you and I share a very big passion for this. Tell us about AcceleratHer. And tell us why you chose to lead this organisation.

[00:28:01] - Laura Stebbing
Thanks, Claire. And thank you so much for your amazing, passionate support and for being a wonderful advisory board member. So AccelerateHer is a global network and event series for women in tech and particularly senior women and extraordinary women founders all over the world. It's been running for six years, founded by Brent Hoberman and Poppy Gay my co-CEO who is currently on maternity leave. And I joined four years ago. And over that time, we've built this pretty extraordinary community of men and women who sort of support each other through events all around the world.

And some of the stuff that's been the most exciting recently was actually when the pandemic hit last year. And we normally host events in person. And our whole kind of USP is about creating catalytic connections and bringing people together to make change happen for them and for their businesses and their lives. At that point, we obviously had to completely pivot to virtual and to bring people together in a very different way that we were so lucky in that we've got a really exceptional community.

So we were able to bring together folks like Martha Lane Fox talking about resilience or Beth Comstock from the former CEO of GE talking about marketing in crisis or Sonali Derica on fundraising. And we found that people said that, that was some of the most useful content and connections that they had over that kind of early part of the pandemic. We went much bigger than that and actually started last year. We started to be the gender arm of some of the world's global tech festivals.

So London Tech Week, Africa Tech Week, and Asia Tech Week, which were really exciting and again tapped into some of the world's, I guess, biggest thinkers. So we had Hillary Clinton join, which was one of the massivest career highlights for me. And we had the executive director of UN Women join our Africa event. Yeah, really kind of wonderful thought leaders bringing to our community their vision of the state of the world for women and how we can drive change together.

And this year we're actually launching a community hub. So from being in a place where we were bringing our network together around these kind of global moments and events, we're now building a hub to have people connect 24/7. Should be launching in the next couple of months. And we're really excited about making those catalytic connections happen all the time versus just in these kind of irregular events.

[00:30:31] - Claire Haidar
Can you share with us a little bit of the actual impact? Can you give us a few numbers in terms of what AccelerateHer has achieved to date?

[00:30:40] - Laura Stebbing
We tend to be, I suppose, more qualitative in what we're doing. And so we've had folks come, we have things like rising stars, so we have women who pitch at our events and overwhelmingly have found that when they've pitched, they've often gone away with their start ups fully funded by the end of it. We've had people come and say that they've met their co-founder or they've met someone who took their business to the next level by being able to connect them to new exciting opportunities, market opportunities.

So we are actually are overdue a kind of report where we can show you those numbers and do a bit more of the kind of analysis. But at this stage, what we've done today has been a little more tailored and kind of curated. And as I said, the kind of qualitative connections which has been extraordinary to see. Inspiring Fifty was actually founded by a woman called Janneke Niessen in the Netherlands. And it's now in nine different locations.

And it's basically about showcasing extraordinary role models, women that you might not know about that are absolutely redefining the future of technology. We get asked at AccelerateHer all the time. Can you tell us a woman in AI or it has just become a pannel of to do this and constantly being told there aren't any women in this particular sector and actually we wanted to showcase there really are. And so Inspiring fifty is an awards ceremony for in nine different regions.

So we do the U.K., but we're also now taken on all the different regions from Canada to South Africa to Europe. And that's really exciting. And I should also highlight another element that we do AccelerateHer, which we're really, really thrilled about, which is called Male Champions of Change. And that was something that we built three years ago alongside Elizabeth Broderick, who's the UN special rapporteur for gender. And she built Male Champions of Change initiative in Australia and has been running it for the last 10 years with the idea that actually a lot of the time men are the ones that are in the positions of power and actually women is where a lot of the responsibility lies to make change, but they're not the ones that hold that power. So we love the principle of that. And especially working in tech. We have so many incredible men coming to us all the time saying, I want to help, I want to do more, and what can we do to change our business? And so we brought together the Male Champions of Change and Global Technology Group, which has around 10 leading male CEOs from Bob Van Dyke from Naspers to Mark Reid from WPP.

And they come together on a regular basis to drive changes in their businesses, to listen and learn within their organisations and work with women that are driving change within. But then to make those changes themselves at that kind of top level, which means that they can move so much faster and also can showcase what leadership, what agenda and leadership looks like. So that's another thing that we do with part of AccelerateHer.

[00:33:49] - Claire Haidar
Laura. We are coming to the end of our time together.

We started macro at the beginning of the conversation, and then we went really micro in certain areas. And I'd like us to pull up to a more macro view again. You genuinely prefer working on changing systems rather than people when it comes to very hard systemic issues. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

[00:34:12] - Laura Stebbing
It goes back to my view that we need to be changing systems rather than individuals, because that's how real change happens. And I think we know that to change individuals, it starts at a much younger age. You know, that's kind of working in the home and working with children and making sure that they have the role models and the equal parenting that they need. Whereas where we can really affect change on a kind of company level is on that systemic front.

And again, that's looking at the design tools and making it easy for businesses and people to do the right thing versus trying to kind of rely on individual change. Which allows individuals to make changes, which doesn't necessarily happen as much as we'd like because of that kind of intention action gap.

[00:35:04] - Doug Foulkes
My last question, Laura. And it's also around changing systems. You spoke about how businesses can affect it. What can individuals do? I mean, is there any action that an individual can be taking right now?

[00:35:18] - Laura Stebbing

So I think for one, it's about educating yourself on your own privilege. I love June Sarpong, who has done a fair bit with AccelerateHer, is at the BBC, but also an extraordinary presenter. She talks about checking your circle. And I think that's really key. So does everyone in your circle, your work circle or your friendship circle look like you, how do you make sure that you make that different and that you bring in diverse points of view?

Obviously also as an individual, think about how you can be promoting diversity in the workplace, whether that's using your privilege to give other people a voice in meetings, recognising where people are talking over people. We did a study across our whole workplace, an everyday sexism survey where we actually looked at where people were feeling that they were facing everyday sexism and is actually the kind of what feels small. But the mansplaining or the or the saying, hey, would you mind just going to get a glass of water for this guest while I kick off the meeting and the talking over and meeting in workplaces.

And those are the bits that actually make people feel left out and stuck behind. And so if you were a senior person, you go get the water or you make sure that people's voices are heard. I think in the workplace that's critical. And then I say also buying from and using your buying power and to buy from diverse own businesses as individuals. That's really key. You know, we talk about that obviously from a scaled perspective with large businesses, the supplier multiplier effect.

And a lot of organisations do that already. So whether that's Walmart or Microsoft. Or Diageo, a lot of them have targets in place where they either buy from a certain percentage of women in businesses or they make sure that its clients or people that are pitching to them have to be diverse or that they're thinking, they're making sure that it's not just their own organisation that they're working on, but across the organisations that they touch.

[00:37:18] - Doug Foulkes
Very interesting. There is certainly a lot that can be done, which is obviously encouraging and important.

[00:37:25] - Laura Stebbing
There is. And I think if you're a leader, there's an awful lot that can be done. And I talked a bit about Male Champions of Change and they have a really amazing approach, which is all about listening and learning. I think we know that one of the key elements of change is around leadership, recognising the challenge and making it critical and making it key to their brand and everything they do. So if you are a leader, you should be talking about diversity inclusion in almost every presentation that you give, whether that's internal or external, making it so critical to everything that you do.

And employees will see that and customers will see that. That's what people really start to drive change. And we have a program where we get those leaders to do a listen and learn where they'll talk to women across the business and understand kind of first hand what's going on for them and what that feels, whether they're junior women or senior women and putting that into place. And then if you think about it from the pyramid perspective, so we say start with that leadership and embed that into the policies, you know, the structural change.

So whether that's around recruitment or sponsoring that we talked about or setting targets, which is essential that you do for every other part of your business. So, you know, it's so critical that you do that for diversity inclusion too, or shared care, or flexible work, really kind of that embed piece. And then we talk about looking at scaling and how do you make the face of your organisation, show your values on that front.

So looking at your website it is extraordinary. How many websites will just have a kind of sea of white men on there and that needs to change. How do you support others within the community, especially if you're wanting to integrate more and get and recruit from different areas, then how are you, what kind of partnerships are you building and who are you supporting? And then that supplier multiplier piece. But a lot of that starts with the leadership piece.

And so as an individual thinking about it across that three way pyramid is a really key place to start.

[00:39:24] - Doug Foulkes
Laura, we have come to the end of our time together. I'm going to say a very quick thank you and goodbye. And I'm sure that Claire would like to finish off. But it's been fantastic chatting to you. And I've certainly had my eyes opened and learnt a lot. Thank you very much for your time.

[00:39:39] - Laura Stebbing
Thank you so much for having me.

[00:39:41] - Claire Haidar
Laura, thank you so much. I think the most valuable piece of this conversation is actually just been this last snippet, along with a few snippets from early on in the conversation where you really have made this practical. You know, I think there definitely is a general sense in the market that the whole gender parity issue is something that big corporates need to tackle and that it's not something that can incrementally be done in the smallest of organisations. And I think this conversation definitely highlights that that is the case and that change can happen in very small, but yet still very powerful forms.

So thank you for coming to share some of the data with us. Thank you for bringing your whole self to this, despite not feeling the best today. We really do appreciate that. And looking forward to sharing this with our audience.

[00:40:27] - Laura Stebbing
Thanks so much Claire and thank you both it's been really, really lovely speaking to you both and I appreciate you having me on.

[00:40:34] - Doug Foulkes
Laura Stebbing, a passionate, driven individual, using her life experiences to help further gender equality. We hope you've enjoyed this podcast. If you have, we look forward to inviting you back sometime soon. Just a reminder, for more information about WNDYR and the integration services that they supply, you can visit their website. That's WNDYR dot com. And so from the Doug Foulkes and Chaos & Rocketfuel. Stay safe and we'll see you soon.

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