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Celebrating Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day 2022

Sameera Simjee

Berkeley has long supported International Women’s Day but this year’s theme, ‘Break the Bias’, aligned with the Women@Berkeley Network’s objectives in a particularly powerful way. We are working to challenge bias and stereotypes by championing our women, fostering allyship, and creating a truly inclusive culture.

The Women@Berkeley Network took the opportunity to host a series of events and activities throughout March 2022, not only to mark Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, but to achieve real outcomes for women.

Committing to #BreakTheBias

As my colleagues Anne-Lise Antolinos and Jenna Goldstein, the network’s co-leaders, discuss in the video below, we recognise that tackling bias involves empowering both our women and our men to take meaningful action and support women in the workplace.

The Women@Berkeley Network
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The Women@Berkeley Network

Hi, I'm Anne-Lise. And this is Jenna. We are consultants at The Berkeley Partnership. And together, we run the Women@Berkeley Network. To mark this International Women's Day, we thought it would be good if we could share a little bit about what our network does. And maybe, Jenna, you can give a little bit of an intro.


So, the Women@Berkeley Network is open to everybody in the firm. And we're a group of people really focused on making our workplace truly inclusive and accessible for everybody here. Of course, one of our big ambitions and goals is to really support the women at Berkeley and make sure that they've got everything they need to succeed here at The Berkeley Partnership, but also in their future careers too.


It's been so good to do this with you, Jenna, and to develop the network. I've really had a really great time, and I think what's been really great as well is to see how much enthusiasm and support we've had from everybody in the firm.


It feels like the time is right now. And for me, particularly being a woman in lockdown over the last couple of years, living by myself, one of the things I've really missed, or I've felt, is that isolation aspect of being in lockdown. And there were times, actually, where I'd been three or four days on Zoom calls continually, and I was the only woman on those calls and I hadn't spoken to anybody else outside of work. I really got that urge that wanted to get back into the office and back with our colleagues and particularly the women at Berkeley.


I think you're right when you say it's the right time. There's been so much that's happened in the last 10 years already. It's really important to realise that only 30% of senior leadership roles are held by women. It's great we've moved so much and we've had so much success. But equally, there's a lot to be done to make sure that we don't stay at representation level, but actually that we work together to create an impact.


It's so true. And The Berkeley Partnership has been supporting International Women's Day for many years. But this year's theme is breaking the bias, which I think is really powerful. Interesting to see how the network is going to support that pledge.


There's so much stereotype about women who to be successful need to be strong, opinionated, assertive, less feminine, less emotional. I don't think that's true.


But you know what, sometimes it's we women who hold some of that bias and that stereotype. Actually what we would like to do as part of this network is break that actually. And part of that is about sharing awareness and experiences internally with our women, but also with our male colleagues as well so they can understand certain behaviors and how actually they can be more supportive of us.


I think that's what makes our network special, is it's open to women and men, because we understand how important it is for men to support us and to be with us. Alone, we can't do that change, we can't make the change. So it's really good for us to be able to have men as our allies. And I think they'll learn so much along the way.


So we've talked a lot about the aims and what we want to achieve as part of the Women@Berkeley Network. And this year's all about turning into action. So what's on the plan ahead?


I'm really excited about some of the projects we have. One that's really dear and close to my heart is building communities. For example, supporting each other as working moms and working parents, but also developing our careers. How do we build that influence and that impact when we're out with clients? And what's also important is sharing those stories and sharing our experience together, particularly when we're able to bring external speakers who are going to really share those interesting stories.


I'm really looking forward to that, I really am. The other piece I'm really looking forward to is exploring some of the leadership development opportunities specifically for women, actually. So, whether that's in Berkeley or outside in the industry, that would be really powerful, so I'm looking forward to it a lot. And of course, feeding back into The Berkeley Partnership as a firm, for what we need and require as women to be working in a truly inclusive, supportive, and empowering workplace.


Having a voice.


Yeah, absolutely.


And really not forget having fun along the way too. I think it's really nice for us. We can socialise as women together and having a lot of fun. And it's so true to who we are at Berkeley.


Oh, that's true. So we've got a fun packed year ahead and I'm really looking forward to it.


Me too.

Both men and women, representative of our whole firm, featured in our #BreakTheBias pledge video to share our commitments.

International Women's Day #BreakTheBias
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International Women's Day #BreakTheBias

Sameera: We will have the courage to be authentic

Kofi: We will value our differences  

Kat: We will support each other 

Will: We will create a culture where everyone feels they belong  

Pankaj: We will recognise the benefits of our diversity  

Kali: We will celebrate our women’s achievements and contributions – both big and small  

Mark: We will all play our part  

Dave: We will be allies and champions  

Jenna: We will be mentors and role models  

Murray: We will work together 

Richard: We will challenge the gender stereotypes, discrimination and bias in our industry  

Anne-Lise: We will move from representation to making an impact 

Mike: We will break the bias  

Sandy: We will break the bias 

Taking real action to challenge bias, discrimination, and harassment

We wanted to ensure that we were making a real impact, not just paying lip-service to the idea. Our monthly firm-wide meeting in March featured an all-female line-up of speakers, and we hosted a special session to discuss our own women’s experiences of discrimination, bias and harassment. 

Some of our colleagues chose to share their personal stories with the firm and we’re very grateful to them for their openness and bravery. These stories were very powerful and moving, and a stark reminder of the daily difficulties that women can face. 

As well as giving our women the space to come together and reflect on common experiences, we wanted to help our men to gain a better understanding and to become better allies. 

Building on this work, we invited Vercida Consulting, who are supporting our DE&I journey, to join our Women@Berkeley Network quarterly event. They helped facilitate further discussion of bias and discrimination, and identify concrete steps we can take as peers, leaders and allies to combat these experiences.

When faced with society-wide bias, it can sometimes be difficult for individuals to feel empowered and recognise where they can take action. Several colleagues – both men and women – have shared that they are grateful for the support that the Women@Berkeley Network has been providing. I’m very proud that we are taking collective and individual responsibility towards building a fairer, safer and more equitable community.

Supporting women who inspire us

Our events programme also featured more light-hearted activities, with our social calendar reflecting the International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month theme.

The firm hosted a special brunch for all our women on International Women’s Day itself, giving them the opportunity to connect and celebrate in both the UK and the US. 

We invited friends and family to join us at the Chelsea v Man City FA Women’s League Cup Final. It was truly inspiring to see such incredible female athletes in action – highlighting the importance of supporting women to reach their full potential.

For those who preferred literature to sport, we also organised a night out to hear multi-award-winning writer Margaret Atwood speak live in London, answering some of the Burning Questions from her same-titled book.

But the most impactful women in our lives aren’t necessarily ones you’ll see on the football pitch or on stage – they are the mothers, mentors, carers, teachers and colleagues who have influenced us and helped us to become the people we are today. The Women@Berkeley Network coordinated a thank you note initiative to allow our people to express their gratitude and show a measure of the recognition these women deserve.

Supporting women in the communities around us

It was important to us to help women to succeed in the wider workplace too. Having committed to support and empower our own women to reach their full potential, we also want to make an impact for the communities around us.

Throughout March, we collected women’s workwear donations in our London office for Smart Works, a charity that is helping women in need to prepare for interviews and secure employment. 

Clothing rack, filled with womenswear, with a row of shoes below

We also held a fundraising initiative for Young Women’s Trust, a charity which is campaigning to bridge the gender pay gap and supporting women aged 16-30-years-old who are living on low or no pay.

Achieving better outcomes for women in the long term

Our firm’s enthusiastic engagement with the Women@Berkeley Network events programme demonstrated our will to make a real difference for women. International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month may be over now, but our commitment to action is continuing. 

Berkeley’s core values have always emphasised warmth, respect and an open culture of belonging so of course, our people believe strongly in doing the right thing. Every woman should be able to reach their full potential – playing to their strengths and not to biases.

We will build on the successes of the past month and continue to celebrate our women’s achievements, and support their success – through networking opportunities, learning and development programmes, and focused communities of support in both the UK and US. Together, we will achieve better outcomes for women in the workplace – within our firm, our industry, and wider society.