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5 ways you can #Choosetochallenge

5 ways you can #choosetochallenge

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Why do we need to care about International Women's Day in 2021?

Just in case you’re questioning why we still need to raise awareness of International Women’s Day, UN research last year highlighted that 90% of us (note men and women) still hold some sort of bias against women.

If you’re still not fully convinced it’s worth all the effort, the research on diversity and productivity can’t be ignored - according to a 2017 McKinsey study, ‘companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. The results are even more pronounced for ethnic and cultural diversity: companies with ethnically diverse management are 33% more likely to outperform.’

So what can we do to challenge ourselves and others? Here are just a few practical ways we can all make a difference:

1. Question your own bias

Although conscious bias still exists (intentional decisions based on prejudice, preferences and beliefs), according to Catalyst, there are at least 11 forms of unconscious bias. These are even harder to recognise or challenge in ourselves and others as they’re based on social factors and experiences growing up, experiences that form to ‘assist’ us in decision making. Just because we don’t recognise it, doesn’t mean it has less impact.

#Choosetochallenge: Learn about the different types of unconscious bias and commit to self-awareness and enquiry – be honest with yourself and find ways to explore and question what you think and hear.

2. Watch your language

The words we use every day are a powerful way that we continue to perpetuate inequality. An example of this is thinking about how we do this when describing particular jobs or professions to children -as ‘He’ rather than ‘They’ or ‘men ‘ rather than ‘person’ e.g. “When you go to the doctor, he will…” If you want to be a Postman or Policeman…” etc

This is particularly relevant in recruitment. Harvard research into the effect of typically masculine or feminine language in job advertisements concluded that ‘subtle language differences in how jobs are advertised may help explain the on-going gender gap in historically male-dominated fields’. This is because ads with masculine wording, ‘ led women to 1) think more men worked there, 2) believe they would not belong in that position, and 3) find the job less appealing. However, this wording did not affect their assessment of their abilities to do the job'.

#Choosetochallenge: Be curious, challenge yourself and others and check out this example of a language decoder by Totaljobs.

3. Be ok with vulnerability

Here at Cobalt, the pandemic has been a catalyst for our ongoing focus on authenticity. Megan Bond, Cobalt Operations Manager, has been leading the way. ‘For us this starts with acknowledging everyone’s wellbeing is different and that it can take many forms. We want to do all we can so that our staff are able to maximise their potential every single day – not distracted by stresses, worries, feeling vulnerable or overwhelmed by the daily pressures we all face.’

#Choosetochallenge: At Cobalt, we have established a well-being team, supported by a dedicated well-being fund, to organise activities that focus on our the mental, emotional, physical and social health. This starts with the conversation being opened up between us all, sharing guidance and leading by example. Other ideas we’re introducing include offering unlimited annual leave, flexible working, down-time days to all staff, weekly yoga classes, mindfulness workshops and monthly social activities like virtual supper clubs, art classes and wine tastings.

4. Know where you are now

A crucial place to start on any journey is to find out where you are now – Look at the mix of your organisation, think about how your personal and organisational approaches to recruitment and management affects this and consider running a periodic survey across your colleagues and customers. Think of it like an organisational 360 appraisal. Start with a benchmark and use the results to inform what your prioritise.

#Choosetochallenge: Marcus Davies Bateman, Cobalt UK MD is prioritising the DE&I agenda here at Cobalt, he explains ‘We’re are working hard to ensure we keep pace with the changing world and the challenges we all face. How we approach diversity and inclusion is important not just in our workplace, but being better able to advise our clients when they seek our support. We run a regular a Diversity, Equality & Inclusion survey and have created a task-force to understand better how we can provide a more inclusive, reflective and responsible culture and workplace for everyone’s benefit. It’s an ongoing journey, but now that we have started these conversations, we hope to see people challenging each other in a positive and productive way making Cobalt a safe place to feel vulnerable.

5. Listen and learn

One of the best ways to encourage diversity and inclusion is to take responsibility for our own learning and share what we learn with those around us. It takes courage to be curious, connect and ask for help, but it’s crucial to understanding the world from other perspectives so we can make better decisions every day.

#Choosetochallenge: Here are just a few of the great resources, upcoming events and articles:

What's next?

As part of our Cobalt Cares initiative our commitment is to explore well-being and how our network are working to understand and improve this in their roles and organisations. This year our focus is ‘prioritising the health of the Real Estate and Construction industry together’ and we’ll be sharing more on this throughout the coming months.

The entire Cobalt team are united in our continued commitment to staying connected with you and working together in any way that we can to improve diversity and inclusion in the world of Real Estate and Construction.

Please do not hesitate to reach out. Whether that is simply sharing our experiences and insight or talking through practical solutions to remote working, managing changes in capacity requirements, business continuity, recruiting and on-boarding.  We would also love to hear how you’re choosing to challenge both individually and organisationally, so please do get in touch!


Our role, as specialist recruiters in the world of Real Estate & Construction, is to understand and authentically represent the needs of our clients and candidates.

Our pledge is to help make a positive difference to the working lives of professionals and businesses in the world of Real Estate & Construction by sharing new ways of thinking, being and working.