The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘choose to challenge’ and, for me, that really struck a chord. Choosing to challenge is not always an easy or simple choice. And, as a woman, choosing to challenge can run the risk of conforming to the many female stereotypes that have been put upon us – being difficult, bossy or emotional. To choose to challenge requires bravery, and support from those around you.

I was very lucky when I chose to challenge some issues around sexism at BACP that I had the support of some strong, bright women. There definitely wasn’t a sense of rampant sexism, but there were a few microaggressions and subtleties in how we worked and were structured. These were things that could make the working environment a more difficult place for women to thrive. I was also fortunate that many other colleagues, male and female, and from a range of diverse backgrounds, also felt we could do better as an organisation and were prepared to come together to form our internal EDI group.

Opportunities for progression

We wanted to ensure our senior teams were more representative, that all staff saw opportunities for progression, and that all voices were heard and equally valued. The issues we’d identified were not uncommon, but we were determined to do better.

The passion for equality came from all areas of the association and was never limited to gender issues. Equality at BACP means equality regardless of your gender, age, religion, race, sexual orientation or background. Our equality for women is intersectional – we can only be equal if we are ALL equal.

Empowers voices

Creating a BACP staff group that empowers voices from all backgrounds can only benefit members. It’s important to me that the teams working on behalf of members understand who our members are, and the challenges they face. This is not limited to an understanding of therapy and the issues faced in practice, but the wider challenges brought about by society. I’m talking about issues such as racism, transphobia, homophobia and discrimination due to ability, background or age. Learning about, understanding or having lived experienced of these issues makes for a more aware and anti-oppressive space. It’s crucial that those making decisions, campaigning and pushing forward member initiatives are as diverse as the members we represent.

In the two years since our internal work started, we’ve done a huge amount to raise awareness of issues and celebrate diversity and difference within BACP. I always speak with such passion, and emotion, about the EDI group. This is because I’m so proud of colleagues on this group and their drive and determination to improve our working environment for the benefit of all.

Big plans

We have big plans and a long way to go, but by choosing to challenge, I found that I wasn’t on my own. I am fortunate to work in an organisation full of people who are also choosing to challenge, and know they can do so safely and will be heard.

International Women’s Day is about celebrating all women and the important contributions they make. As our internal work spreads outwards, I hope our members also feel empowered to challenge and to change and know they are heard too.