Tackling Sexism through Cultural Transformation 
October 5, 2023

“Get back into the kitchen!”  


Now there’s an inflammatory phrase many of you may have heard in the past. Unless you’re a chef being asked to return to your duties, it’s considered a sexist, antiquated phrase directed at women from men. One that you don’t expect to hear in modern times. Society has changed and many workplaces have embraced cultural transformation, in order to stamp such attitudes out. 


Social Experiment 

So why, in 2023, has this statement been publicly directed at a woman in the media spotlight? Enter two former England international footballers, and would-be super sleuths, Jill Scott and Gary Neville. In April this year, they secretly swapped Twitter accounts for five days. This idea was part of a campaign by Heineken, partnered with Arwen, an AI-powered online moderation tool, allowing users to filter negativity from their social media feeds. Scott and Neville continued to share content as they normally would, under the guise of one another’s profiles. The results were disappointingly predictable.  



While Neville had a fairly pleasant experience with responses to Jill’s usual tweets under his account as positive, he was horrified by many of the responses coming into Jill’s account, as a result of his usual tweets. “Get back in the kitchen”, and “stick to the game you know, love”, were the type of condescending, ignorant tweets she received. Culturally, there is still a gulf, and women who have an opinion on men’s football essentially get told to get back in their box. Female pundits and commentators who have worked hard and know their stuff, have to put up with it too. 


Neville feels strongly about the issue. His two teenage daughters are avid football fans with a fantastic knowledge of the sport. In addition, his mother made the local newspaper back in the seventies because the FA banned her from playing football for the boys’ team. 



The negative tweets didn’t come as a shock to Jill, who despite all her triumphs and successes with the England women’s football team, faces sexism regularly in some form. Being in the male-dominated world of football is a constant reminder there is still much work to do for true equality. Worryingly, in addition to the keyboard warriors, there is a silent majority of people who don’t tweet but hold the same outdated beliefs towards women. The problem exists across society, albeit on a more subtle or unconscious level.   


How do leaders ensure this does not carry over into the workplace? Despite robust legislative frameworks and organisational commitments, sexism still exists below the radar. It can be found in nuanced behaviours and practices, that are more challenging to detect and rectify. Examples include; 

  • Offhand comments 
  • Unequal opportunities 
  • Disparities in remuneration 

Cultural transformation is pivotal in addressing these issues by fostering an organisational culture that is reflexive, inclusive, and equitable. Values, and behaviours must be addressed, coupled with a commitment to reshape these elements to endorse equality. It is about reshaping values, beliefs, and norms. This involves a collective commitment to challenge and alter ingrained sexist beliefs.  


Here are some practical suggestions for how a workplace can deal with sexism through cultural transformation; 


Organisational Culture & Leadership 

  • A leadership commitment to demonstrate commitment to gender equality.  
  • Clear, public, consistent messaging from leaders against sexism. 


Policy and Procedure Implementation 

  • Regular policy review and development to ensure gender neutrality and inclusivity. 
  • Implement and strictly enforce anti-sexism policies. 
  • Clear reporting mechanisms and channels to report sexist behaviour
  • Ensure non-retaliation policies are in place to protect those who report. 


    Training and Development 

    • Focus on awareness and education. Conduct regular training on gender sensitivity, unconscious bias, and inclusivity. 
    • Tailor programmes to address the subtleties of sexism, and empower employees to challenge sexist behaviours. 


    Communication and Engagement 

    • Encourage open dialogue, providing platforms for people to discuss and share experiences and insights on sexism. 
    • Implement regular surveys regarding sexism, and pay attention to feedback, acting upon it when necessary, and communicating action taken to employees. 


    Inclusivity and Diversity 

    • Inclusive recruitment, actively promoting diversity in all areas and levels of the business.  
    • Equal opportunities to be implemented and promoted for all genders. 
    • Regular reviews to ensure pay equity, and address any identified disparities. 


    Monitoring and Accountability 

    • Develop and monitor performance metrics and KPI’s related to gender equality. 
    • Hold leaders responsible for progress and improvement in gender equality within their teams. 


    Work Environment 

    • Foster a positive work environment where respect, inclusion, and equality are paramount. 
    • Recognise and reward inclusive behaviour. 


    Strategic Alignment 

    • Integrate gender equality into your strategy by aligning organisational strategy with gender equality goals. 
    • Ensure that organsational values explicitly include gender equality and non-discrimination. 


    The hope is that as sexism is continually challenged, it may eventually be eradicated through cultural transformation, paving the way for true equality in the workplace, and beyond.  

    If you’d like to discover more about cultural transformation, check out our website, Culture Transformation – Masters in Minds Ltd.

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