How to challenge gender inequality in the workplace

The fight against inequality is an ongoing battle. We speak to three inspirational leaders challenging the status quo in their industries

gender inequality in the workplace

The fight against inequality is an ongoing battle. We speak to three inspirational leaders challenging the status quo in their industries

When thinking about the impact the pandemic has had on female employment and job losses over the last 12 months, the #ChooseToChallenge message this International Women's Day has never been more important. A recent report by McKinsey reveal women account for 54 % of overall Covid-19 job losses, despite females only making up 39% of global employment. The figures are shocking. Clearly, the fight against gender inequality in the workplace is an ongoing battle.

The annual celebration of International Women’s Day is a positive chance for us to highlight the progress made to date, as well as the changes still needed. It is important to draw a line in the sand and acknowledge where we have been, where we are now, and where we are heading. Our Marie Claire Women In Tech week in Feb 2012 highlighted the challenges ahead and actions we need to take. Now we're continuing the conversation and speaking to these truly inspirational women in tech and business, who are challenging gender inequality in the workplace for tips and advice.

Kate Reading, Platform Area Engineering Lead at Asana 

gender inequality in the workplace

“The shift to remote work has impacted the ability to voice concerns and fuelled feelings of self-doubt. Last year alone, 69% of UK workers experienced imposter syndrome and 25% of women acknowledged that they chose not to study STEM subjects because they didn’t think they could cope with them. To combat this creeping sense of self-doubt, we must create an inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable to showcase their skills, ask for help and seek out guidance. We know that the past year has limited how women make valuable connections at work - as a result of being surrounded by distractions at home or perhaps one of few women on a team.

"At Asana, we launched a six-month virtual mentorship pairing program for gender minorities in technical roles. Through matching mentors with mentees based on their goals and interests, we are establishing a sense of belonging while increasing representation across the organisation. There isn’t an overnight solution to achieving gender parity in STEM but by choosing to challenge the established gender bias, we can empower and help foster self-belief in our employees.”

Anna Brailsford, CEO at Code First Girls

gender inequality in the workplace

“We have an opportunity to raise awareness of the gender inequality in the workplace and diversity challenges in tech and mark a call to action for individuals and organisations to enact change. It’s therefore very fitting that this year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge. To realise gender equality in the tech sector, organisations need to create a company culture that encourages conversations between women in the workplace. When establishing this open and inclusive culture it is essential that the whole team supports this approach - rather than an initiative introduced by the leadership team- this will help to empower women within the organisation to discuss and learn from each other’s experiences. At Code First Girls, we have built a community of over 25,000 women who actively help each other to break into and excel in the tech industry—whether remote or in-person, communities are there to support, so don’t hesitate to join!”

Michele Romanow, Co-founder and President, Clearbanc

"This #ChoosetoChallenge is about questioning convention and disrupting the status quo. I received hundreds of 'no’s' in my career. It’s exhausting when people don’t get what you’re building or believe you’re the right person to do it. I call them “elastic stings” - when people say “we’ve decided it’s not a fit right now” of course I’m upset. But now I switch my mindset and say, “I was expecting that. This is the motivation I need to go out and prove them wrong.

"There’s still a lot of work to do but let’s not forget about how far we’ve come. Just looking back to my parents’ generation, my choices would’ve been limited to roles like being someone’s assistant - something I would have been very bad at. That’s why I’m so motivated by what we’re doing at Clearbanc. We’ve helped eight times more female founders get funding. Every day, we help more people build their dream no matter who they are or where they’re from. Whether you’re just starting out in your career or at the pinnacle, we should always look to the other women around us who have succeeded for advice."

Maria Coole

Maria Coole is a contributing editor on Marie Claire.

Hello Marie Claire readers – you have reached your daily destination. I really hope you’re enjoying our reads and I'm very interested to know what you shared, liked and didn’t like (gah, it happens) by emailing me at:

But if you fancy finding out who you’re venting to then let me tell you I’m the one on the team that remembers the Spice Girls the first time round. I confidently predicted they’d be a one-hit wonder in the pages of Bliss magazine where I was deputy editor through the second half of the 90s. Having soundly killed any career ambitions in music journalism I’ve managed to keep myself in glow-boosting moisturisers and theatre tickets with a centuries-spanning career in journalism.

Yes, predating t’internet, when 'I’ll fax you' was grunted down a phone with a cord attached to it; when Glastonbury was still accessible by casually going under or over a flimsy fence; when gatecrashing a Foo Fighters aftershow party was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy and tapping Dave Grohl on the shoulder was... oh sorry I like to ramble.

Originally born and bred in that there Welsh seaside town kindly given a new lease of life by Gavin & Stacey, I started out as a junior writer for the Girl Guides and eventually earned enough Brownie points to move on and have a blast as deputy editor of Bliss, New Woman and editor of People newspaper magazine. I was on the launch team of Look in 2007 - where I stuck around as deputy editor and acting editor for almost ten years - shaping a magazine and website at the forefront of body positivity, mental wellbeing and empowering features. More recently, I’ve been Closer executive editor, assistant editor at the Financial Times’s How To Spend It (yes thanks, no probs with that life skill) and now I’m making my inner fangirl’s dream come true by working on this agenda-setting brand, the one that inspired me to become a journalist when Marie Claire launched back in 1988.

I’m a theatre addict, lover of Marvel franchises, most hard cheeses, all types of trees, half-price Itsu, cats, Dr Who, cherry tomatoes, Curly-Wurly, cats, blueberries, cats, boiled eggs, cats, maxi dresses, cats, Adidas shelltops, cats and their kittens. I’ve never knowingly operated any household white goods and once served Ripples as a main course. And finally, always remember what the late great Nora Ephron said, ‘Everything is copy.’