International Women’s Day 2022: Break the Bias

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This year the International Women’s Day (IWD) theme is #BreakTheBias.

“Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.”

International Women’s Day theme 2022

To celebrate IWD, we spoke to some of our amazing researchers who are helping to Break the Bias:

The Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) programme is investing in the future of digital engineering for our region. Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, Associate Professor Engineering in Society, and DETI Inspire lead talks about how the project is helping to break the bias below:

“DETI Inspire has been an incredible programme of activity, aimed at breaking stereotypes and celebrating diverse engineers making a difference in our region. So far we have directly engaged with over 6800 children, and many more digitally, which just highlights the appetite for children to see inspirational role models.

We do this through a variety of activities – from a mentoring programme to support women in engineering, to a network of diverse STEM Ambassadors and role models for outreach activities, and delivery of our five curriculum-linked sustainability focussed outreach programmes for schools. We aim to bust the bias to show that all sorts of people can become engineers and make a difference in our community!”

Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) initiative – Women Like Me mentoring project

Associate Professor of Social Psychology Helen Malson has talked below about how her research on eating disorders has helped to Break the Bias.

Helen works with Bristol Health Partners and recently collaborated with Expert Self Care on an Eating Disorder Support app:

As a critical feminist psychologist, my research on eating disorders has explored the damage done by mainstream cultural norms and values, including heteropatriarchal gender stereotypes, in mobilising eating disordered experiences and practices, particularly in girls and women.

Equally importantly, it’s also about challenging derogatory and sexist  stereotypes of girls and young women with eating disorders and its about countering the idea that its only white, middle class young women who experience eating disorders.

As I have argued in an article on the importance of feminist approaches to eating disorders that I recently co-authored with colleagues in New Zealand, North America and the UK,  its vital that we challenge heteronormativity and white privilege to make eating disorders research and support services inclusive of people of all genders, ethnicities and sexualities.

As a co-director of the Eating Disorders Health Integration Team, working with experts by experience as well as with clinicians and with other academics, we have sought to amplify the voices of those with lived experience and to take a more inclusive anti-racist, feminist and LGBTQ+ approach in our research, service development and public engagement.

Eating Disorder Support App

Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management Dr Vanda Papafilippou has previously written this blog on exploring networks as a source of career development and identity for female engineers. In the blog, she identifies that Women comprise just 12% of the UK engineering workforce (EngineeringUK, 2018), and despite the efforts of both the state and the industry, it remains one of the most male-dominated occupations.

Women appear to be at a disadvantage in terms of visibility, the ability to form alliances and gaining critical organisational knowledge that can lead to career progression. Her research project aimed to establish the contribution of formal internal and external women’s networks to gender equality in engineering and understand the role of human resources practitioners in their operation, and in turn Break the Bias around female engineers. Vanda discusses the findings of the project:

The main contribution of internal women’s networks was the invaluable social and psychological support that they provided to the women involved. These networks contributed towards a sense of solidarity and empowerment of the women. Other important benefits of the participation in internal networks included: the development of skills through mentoring and tailored training but also help with career progression.

External women’s networks on the other hand, helped women to (re)build their confidence and (re)establish their sense of belonging to the profession. This was especially so for those returning from maternity leave where women felt overwhelmed. External networks seemed also to play an important role in individual career progression as they helped women to enhance crucial skills, such as networking and public speaking.

By sharing experiences and working together, the women started challenging the dominant gendered discourses and practices. Instead of adapting in order to fit in, they chose to reframe what an ‘engineer’, and especially a female engineer and a leader in engineering, can be.

Read the full blog post here.

Female engineers

This is a tiny selection of our researchers that are helping to Break the Bias. To find out more about our research please visit our website.

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