UnBiased MickeyLee

Central London business group sets out recommendations to unleash women's full potential at work

New reports highlights barriers to women's employment, and recommendations to tackle them.

  • The Central District Alliance, the Business Improvement District for Holborn and Clerkenwell, has identified a series of recommendations that directly respond to the most pressing challenges and barriers women face at work
  • Un_Biased: A blueprint for change has launched after an eight-month research and engagement programme with the local business community
  • The report’s recommendations include creating female support networks, connecting women to good quality jobs, addressing childcare issues and managing safe and inclusive spaces
  • The research programme is part of the Central District Alliance’s wider work of delivering social value through ESG initiatives

The Central District Alliance (CDA) Business Improvement District (BID) has launched a research report outlining key recommendations to unleash the full power of the whole workforce and drive good, sustainable economic growth. Un_Biased: A blueprint for change sets out a total of 47 practical actions that aim to stimulate conversation and drive action amongst businesses operating in the BID footprint and across London, ultimately giving women equal opportunities to thrive in their careers.

After launching on International Women’s Day 2022, the Un_Biased research project has been driven by the recognition that we need to understand the barriers to an inclusive and fair economy for women, to unlock their full potential and enable them to succeed. PRD, a specialist consultancy that designs transformative place and asset strategies, was appointed to lead the research programme and drive forward recommendations for business members in August 2022. The local business community has been involved along every step of the project’s journey, with online surveys, focus groups and coffee shop takeovers, to ensure that the recommendations are locally relevant.

It is estimated that 1.7 million women are prevented from taking on more hours of paid work due to childcare issues, resulting in up to £28.2 billion lost economic output annually. The recommendations put forward by the CDA respond to this productivity gap, as well as a number of priorities demands for change that emerged during the engagement with local employees. Speaking about the launch of the recommendations, Debbie Akehurst, CEO of the CDA, said:

“I’m looking forward to working with the businesses in the CDA footprint going forward as we support them in implementing our key recommendations. Un_Biased has been a useful exercise in identifying examples of gender inequality in business right on our doorstep. The report will be key in changing this and we are ready to prove that our area can be a blueprint for a better, fairer and more inclusive economy – on both a London and national level.”

The six overarching recommendations put forward by the CDA to unleash the potential of work and boost the area’s economic output are:

Pathways to Employment

  • Make sure women know about and can easily access good quality jobs and training opportunities locally – including careers advice, secure work, recognising the broader intersectional biases that can affect women’s access to opportunities. The CDA is starting to run mock interviews in collaboration with local businesses
  • Build support networks for women living and working in the area – through role models, mentoring, confidence building and networks of social support

Progression at work

  • Educate local businesses and encourage them to adopt the most inclusive policies and practices – including flexible working, transparent standards for pay and promotion, health and wellbeing policies, and practices to reduce bias in recruitment
  • Confront and address the barrier caregiving can present for those wanting to join, re-join or progress in the workforce – including parental leave policies, support access to local and affordable childcare, and recognising the burden of invisible caregiving labour. The CDA is now undertaking further research on childcare needs in the area by working closely with businesses to understand their employees’ additional caregiving needs and identify practical solutions. 
  • Enable culture change within businesses – focusing on creating the space for conversation and raising awareness of the barriers and biases faced by women in the workplace

Public space

  • Design and manage spaces that are safe and inclusive – combining safe and inclusive public spaces across the day and night (beyond CCTV and policing) with inclusive working environments and the services and amenities needed for women’s daily lives

The overarching recommendations have been drafted with the understanding that collective responsibility is needed to drive change.

Akehurst continued: “Developing Un_Biased over the past year has shown us that change needs to be driven not just by policy makers, but also by the private sector. We already know that inclusive workforces perform better – an economy that everyone can access means more talent, more creativity and greater diversity of thought – so it is in everyone’s interest to help women unlock their full potential and thrive at work.  

But there will be no one size fits all approach to making this happen. Although the childcare policies set out by the Chancellor earlier this year were heralded as a beacon to enable a return to work for thousands of parents, childcare is just one part of the problem in encouraging people back. Employers have to offer flexible job roles that will allow caregivers to balance their responsibilities. Cities need to be safer and transport infrastructure improved to ensure that women working outside of usual trading hours can travel to and from work safely and reliably. We all have a part to play in this.”

The Un_Biased programme is part of the CDA’s wider ESG initiatives to drive social value in Camden and Islington. The BID is now undertaking an annual review of the actions and priorities set out by the report and will be working with the local business community to report against progress over the coming year.

Notes to editors

About the Central District Alliance:

The Central District Alliance (CDA) is the Business Improvement District (BID) representing and looking after the areas of Holborn, St Giles, Bloomsbury, Farringdon and Clerkenwell. We are the collective voice of over 400 businesses located in this economically and culturally thriving district, promoting it to visitors and businesses from all over the country and the world, while delivering on the priorities of our members and supporting the communities in which we operate. Our businesses work in sectors as diverse as tech, education, legal and professional services, hospitality and leisure, and include organisations such as the British Museum, the Rosewood Hotel, Mishcon de Reya, Google, LinkedIn, TikTok, City University, LSE and the Arts Council England. Our priority is to ensure our neighbourhoods are clean, green, safe and welcoming for all our members and visitors.

Twitter: @CDALDN

Instagram: @CDALondon