Vernā Myers spent five years as VP of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix after training as a lawyer at Harvard. In one of her talks, she told her audience that when Harvard Law School admitted its first female students in 1953, the women quickly discovered that the Ivy League school hadn’t provided any bathrooms for them.  “So, what’s the message?” Myers asked. “Don’t stay long,” came the answer from someone in the crowd to much laughter. And the outcome? Harvard Law School eventually installed a bathroom – a single toilet in a janitor’s closet in the basement of the building, that all the female students had to share. 

Her story about the Harvard bathroom was more than seventy years ago… and yet the world is still not on track to achieve gender equality by the target date of 2030. Try 2322.  

That’s because in many countries there are still gaps in the  laws covering gender equality and prohibit discrimination against women – and according to a report published by UN Women in 2022, at the current rate of progress it could take close to 300 years to secure these legal frameworks and achieve full gender equality. 

This is all part of a bigger picture. 

Women have had to work harder for longer to make themselves seen, heard and recognised. IWD is an opportunity to take stock of where we are and what we need to do to progress – as individuals, collectively in society and in our work communities. 

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” – Vernā Myers 

I’ve always loved her iconic diversity quote,  but I wonder if we can extend the metaphor… to feel fully included and present, YOU might be the one asking your colleague to dance. And if you can’t dance, then you can sway, shimmy, clap your hands or tap your feet. Isn’t that the real test of inclusion in a community, whether it’s social or organisational? Do what you can to the best of your ability alongside others who encourage, support, champion and motivate you, lifting you up to watch you shine and appreciating the value that you bring.   

Belonging and being valued are fundamental human needs. In the world of business, while research shows that teams with more diversity in them are more innovative and productive, it’s inclusion that underpins belonging. 

People should feel they belong in their organisation and their community when they show up as their authentic selves.  That’s the context that makes us all capable of delivering our best – knowing that we have an equal voice, equal opportunities and are respected for the talent we bring to the organisation – and to the wider community. 

The female touch 

McKinsey data reveals that as many as two million women are considering leaving the workforce. That means fewer women in leadership positions today – and fewer women on track to become leaders in the future. 

I work with individuals and organisations on a daily basis who want to push the agenda for an inclusive workplace, retain talented women and propel them to the top. Why? Because the benefits and rewards of doing so are tried and tested. 

Building a more inclusive environment will not only help develop a pipeline of talented women leaders for the future, it will also give businesses a sustainable competitive advantage. 

“We will all profit from a more diverse, inclusive society, understanding, accommodating, even celebrating our differences, while pulling together for the common good.”  – Ruth Bader Ginsburg 


Where we’ve seen progress 

Recent wins for women have included a greater awareness of women’s health in the workplace – menopause is much less of a taboo topic  with support from celebrities, politicians and even royalty in raising awareness and campaigning for change. This spring, the government is rolling out the Menopause Workplace Pledge so that employers can prove they are a menopause-friendly workplace.  When 1 in 10 women are leaving their jobs due to their symptoms, and these talented and experienced women feel they have no option but to stop working, it’s clearly time for wholesale and sustained change.  

What’s still left to do 

Question assumptions. If you’re a leader, there are ways to promote diversity, equity and inclusion that will position your organisation as empathetic – one which openly embraces diversity of race, age, ability, faith, and how people identify.  

  • Be aware of unconscious bias  
  • Promote pay equity – have a transparent pay structure in place 
  • Acknowledge holidays of all cultures 
  • Mix up your teams 
  • Facilitate feedback – make it easy for people to feel listened to and heard 

Quick wins for right now 

Revisit your policies  

Take a closer look at your policies and practices including family-friendly, equal pay and flexible working hours – they’ll allow you to attract and retain more women which will benefit your business in the longer term.  

Look at potential, not just experience 

If your job descriptions are loaded towards current competencies and prior experience, you could easily be missing out on a vast pool of talented women who haven’t been able to take the first step up to manager due to the ‘broken rung’. 

Invest in developing an inclusive, learning-driven culture 

To attract, engage, develop and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce, you first need to have honest and upfront conversations about bias.   Myers calls biases the stories we make up about people before we learn who they are – they’re especially apparently when things are high risk, or you have to make quick decisions. 

Remain committed to providing learning, mentorship and other opportunities to develop the women in your teams and help them become inclusive, collaborative leaders themselves. Advocate for female leadership while focusing on authenticity and creating psychological safety for everyone, at every level.  

Women today are the harbingers of change – I love working with them at all stages of their career. Whether it’s transitioning to a board role, refining their personal brand to reflect their seniority and authority, resetting post-career break, or dealing with confidence issues, driving diversity and inclusion to support and empower women in their careers is something that I feel passionately about – and it’s a theme that runs through the events, workshops and webinars that we run at City CV to cover tips and strategies for confident, courageous leadership that steps outside gender and tradition.  


Find out more about our Hear Me Roar workshop. Perfect for International Women’s Day and updated to align with this year’s #InspireInclusion theme. It’s a one-hour session, delivered online directly to your workplace. 
Find out more about our Workshops & Webinars. Our tailored sessions are an extremely effective way of reaching and helping a large number of your people at once.