IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge

Roxane Heaton
3 min readMar 8, 2021

International Woman’s Day 2021 theme: Choose to Challenge.

“You cannot be who you cannot see” and “ speak out for others who may not have a voice”

As senior champion of the Women’s Network at the Government Digital Service I am exceptionally proud of all work done so far by individuals and the collective to address gender equality: to enable all to be the best they can be. I also know there is more to do across the inclusion and equality agenda. In a traditionally technical employment field and never more so than now for any sector-supporting diversity in skills to enable the most creative, most innovative, most normalised multi-disciplinary teams who are most like our users is critical.

I also #ChooseToChallenge. I am authentic. I am myself. I have not changed who I am in different roles or at different levels of organisations. I am lucky to be who I am and be able to speak, share and be open about my views. I am aware others are not so. I #ChooseToChallenge.

Today: pay gap and pensions. Based on evidence, on data, this is why there continues to be an IWD, a theme this year of#ChooseToChallenge. Check out all your favourite companies in the UK in the Gender Pay Gap annual reporting. Really interesting data.

Why is there a Gender Pay Gap?

  1. There are more men in senior roles than woman
  2. Caring responsibilities and part-time roles are shared unequally
  3. Women choose to work in low-paid roles and sectors
  4. Women are paid less than men for the same role

So what can we do?

Overall, Design and support roles that work for everyone. Create quality flexible jobs that allow women and men to balance ambition with caring responsibilities.

For the last one though, the law has been clear that men and women should be paid equally since the Equal Pay Act of 1970. However, as can be seen from the gender pay gap data above, and research by many, women are less likely to negotiate a higher salary on entry to a role, less likely to ask for a raise and possibly most disappointingly, if they do ask for a raise… less likely to get it.. due (research based-much out there) to themes in reasons 1–3 above. Researcg found anxiety about appearing “rude” or “ungrateful” was stopping women from requesting more money — with around a quarter of women saying they were fearful that contesting pay could endanger benefits like maternity leave or flexible working.

There is a growing Show the Pay movement to challenge employers who don’t show salaries on job adverts to normalise this practice and remove one of the barriers to this gender pay gap.

All this adds up to pension gaps. “On average, women in their twenties today are on course to retire with £100,000* less in their pension pot than a man the same age. To make up the difference they’d have to start work much younger. Of course we don’t think girls should literally have to start work from a young age to close the pension gap so let’s take a look at what can actually be done.” * Scottish Widows Women & Retirement Report 2020

This is why I support and cheer male role models, mentors and male agents of change, they have been my personal champions and supporters to be my very best, with the skills I have, and to have a voice. Of my peers who role model great practices, of companies who may not be perfect but are openly working to correct this imbalance.

This is why I #ChooseToChallenge. Will you? (Flash is helping too of course… or wants breakfast!)



Roxane Heaton

Curious, pooch loving fan of: digital, data & technology, digital confidence & inclusion, nature, duathlon and cake (in equal measures).. sharing and teamwork