Why diversity makes us stronger

The Virgin Way Belonging Session - The role everyone can play in tacking gender equality
The Virgin Way
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 28 March 2021

March celebrates both International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, meaning that gender equality has been at the top of many agendas in the last few weeks.  

At Virgin we have always believed that the best way to challenge the unacceptable is to have brave, open and transparent dialogue at every level of the business. We don't shy away from difficult conversations and we’ve found that our amazing people from across the globe want to share their experiences – both good and bad – at work and at home. This is the wonderful thing about the Choose to Challenge theme. It acknoweldges that simply starting the conversations is something we can all do and it is the first step we need to take. As business leaders, it's so important to lead the way and encourage open communication through creating an environment of trust.

In light of this, it was amazing to join Virgin people from all over the world and discuss how to break down barriers that stop people feeling they can be 100% themselves at work. The focus was on the ways we can challenge gender equality at work and beyond. We also explored how diversity of thought is so vital, and the role that everyone – including men – can play in making equality happen.  

I was joined by an incredible panel of experts that included: 

• Ben Hurst, head of facilitation and training at The Good Lad Initiative and Beyond Equality. 

• Dr Joy Cox, body justice advocate and author of Fat Girls in Black Bodies. 

• Kazuha Okuda, brand strategy lead for Google (APAC). 

• Daniele Fiandaca, co-founder of Utopia and Token Man.

We covered a lot of ground and discussed a variety of issues such as: the biggest barriers to gender equality, intersectionality, the need to involve men in the solution, the negative impact of gender inequality on business and society, unconsciously sexist behaviour at work, the heightened impacts of COVID-19, the benefits of diversity of thought, and the need to speed up the pace of change.

Here were my top three take-aways from the session:

  1. We need diversity of thought: Lifting the voices of women (and all minorities) helps us to see things in a new light and develop richer ideas. 

The Virgin Way: diversity of thought

2. Men need to be a much bigger part of the solution: We need men to be more curious, engaged, and empowered to join the conversation.

The Virgin Way: Brining men into the gender equality conversation

3. We need to address the ‘second shift’: Women often work two shifts in a day, as they are expected to be the primary caretaker of families while also running the household.

The Virgin Way: how women work a second shift

This session really showed how gender inequality impacts everyone. We all have a responsibility to create gender equal workplaces and societies, and we will all be better off for it. Thank you to the panellists and to everyone in the Virgin Family who joined the session! I hope it encouraged everyone to embrace diversity, and to build workplaces where everyone feels like they belong.