Break the bias! Marking International Women’s Day at an all-boys school

Break the bias! Marking International Women’s Day at an all-boys school

Businesswoman, author and coach Gifty Enright explained to sixth-formers how ‘gender bias traps’ blight the world of work – and set out ways in which men can act as allies and support women in escaping them.

Her virtual talk was one of a number of activities held at the School during the week of International Women’s Day (IWD), which this year had the theme of #BreakTheBias.

Several discussion societies run by pupils held IWD-inspired sessions, while tutors also covered IWD topics during boys’ Personal Development Time lessons.

Headmaster Neil Enright (no relation) said: “My huge thanks go to Gifty for her insightful and informative talk that highlighted exactly why International Women’s Day is both relevant and important in an all-boys’ school such as ours. Not only did she raise awareness of the issues that women continue to face routinely in society and the workplace, but she also had some very practical suggestions for how young men could make a positive contribution in challenging conscious and unconscious bias in a range of situations.

“Her talk and the other activities during the week complement the work we have been doing to encourage boys to adopt the stance of ‘active bystander’ and thus to oppose injustice and prejudice across society. Hearing from external expert speakers, with their different perspectives and experiences, is a very useful way for our boys to gain a deeper understanding, provoking both reflection and discussion.”

Born in Kumasi, the ancient capital of the Ashanti people in Ghana, Gifty Enright has lived in Hertfordshire for the past 35 years. Having trained as an accountant, she later moved into Information Technology and is today the managing director of a sports events company, and also provides IT consulting services on major transformation programmes to multi-national companies. She is married with two children.

In her Zoom lecture to Years 12 and 13, she outlined six gender bias traps that women face. In each case, she gave a scenario to explain how the trap might play out and then challenged the sixth-formers with a suggestion on what they could do to ameliorate the situation.

Under the topic of ‘attribution’, for example, she gave this scenario: “A female colleague says something in a meeting and is ignored but a male colleague says the same thing and everyone jumps on the idea.” The challenge she passed on was this: “Remind everyone that the idea originated from the female colleague.”

For ‘maternal’, the scenario imagined someone in a business setting discussing whether a particular woman should be entrusted with a major project in these words: “Do you think it is a good idea to burden her with such a big project straight out of maternity leave?” The challenge she gave was to respond in this way: “She still has the same skillset she did before her leave. How can we best support her?”

In a question-and-answer session afterwards, boys asked for advice on practical things such as their approach to what they read, what music they listen to and how that can impact upon their understanding of the issues facing women. Gifty replied that people should read and watch what they enjoy, but try to engage with material from a wide range of artists, including those of different genders, races and backgrounds.

Boys also asked about what she thought the impact of the war in Ukraine may have on women and on gender inequality. She responded that in such situations, gender inequality is usually exacerbated, whilst noting how dreadful the current situation is for everyone there.