Connect with us


Diversity is not Inclusion



Ashleigh Rennie - copywriter and owner of the Story Team

If you’ve been following my contributions to Euronewsweek, you’ll know me as a copywriter. What you might not know is that I’m also a feminist. While I acknowledge that women are in more spaces than ever before, it doesn’t mean that they’re equal. It doesn’t mean that there is equity. As long as we continue to do things the ways we’ve always done, diversity is not inclusion.

Here are three important things to understand before you continue reading:

  1. I adore men
  2. I believe language is the most important thing we have – it’s our superpower
  3. I’m okay with being vulnerable

The 8th March was International Women’s Day, and March is also Women’s History Month. I’ve delivered three speaking engagements about how diversity isn’t inclusion, and how women still have a long way to go in the world, generally, as well as in the workplace when it comes to closing the gender gap. All the gaps. Not just the financial one.

What follows isn’t a remarkable story. It’s just my story. But it speaks to the greater problems that we’re still seeing in the world – even though it’s 2022, and wow, we should have learned a thing or two by now.

It also holds as incredibly precious and vital, our use of language.


Diversity is not Inclusion – The beginning

I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. We weren’t wealthy, but we were very comfortable. Educated. We didn’t want for anything.

As a child, one is supposed to feel safe in the obvious places: home and school. That should be a given. And yet…


The horror of home

I grew up knowing that something was very, very wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it, exactly. It wasn’t an overt danger I was facing. No one hit me. Or punched me. But there was a sense that one step in the wrong direction would lead to catastrophe.

My father wasn’t a fan of women. He’d married one and had three daughters with her, and yet his tolerance of females was wanting, to say the least.

I was routinely told that I was the smart one, and my sister was the pretty one.

He once told me, at the age of eight or nine, that the line from my pubic bone to my belly button was sexy.

He would find his way into my bedroom or the bathroom while I was navigating puberty. He’d simply be there. Observing.

He also regularly told me to smile. “Put a smile on your face. Wipe that look off your face. Give us a smile.”

The deeper, and much more pressing crisis, was that he held all the power. So, while we were a family of predominantly females, and we certainly didn’t lack representation, he ruled the house with an iron fist.

He controlled the money.

He itemised the shopping bills.

If my mother deviated from what was expected he would punish all of us by screaming, withholding affection, not speaking to us, or just not coming home from work.

At night, he’d come home and run his finger over the window ledges and the tables and countertops to make sure my mother had cleaned his house properly.


The other inescapable horror

At the same time as this was happening, I was in a fresh kind of hell – high school.

I didn’t look like the other girls. I didn’t have long legs and long hair. I wasn’t good at sport. My features were too big for my face. I enjoyed the cultural side of things. And because I was so desperate for adult attention, I tended to spend more time with my teachers – so I was known as a suck-up.

This lack of popularity lead to a range of bullying that happened over years. It was mostly meted out by the boys – ridicule. Jibes. Laughing at me. Calling me names – slut. Whore. Not a girl. Cute (which, in my school meant, ugly but f@!kable). I’d never kissed a boy in my life.

These boys were a particular kind of male – physically large. They played rugby. They dated the pretty girls, who were enlisted to do more of the physical bullying. I was slammed into walls and kicked in the back in class.

A very structured social hierarchy was established. If you weren’t part of that, you were in trouble. Boys who didn’t fall into this category of maleness were beaten up. Tipped upside down in dustbins. Hung over the school balcony with knives to their throat. A reminder: this was an affluent school in Johannesburg with a diversity of gender. Equity? Not a chance. Inclusion? Ha.


The Presence and Absence of Language

The effects of my home life and my school life manifested in various ways. My hair fell out. I was underweight. I had no confidence. I had no self-esteem. I was terrified of men and relationships with them until late into my 20s. I had suicidal ideation by the time I was 19. And I had fantasies of killing my father.

I didn’t understand what was going on. For years, I thought I was the problem. I was ugly. I wasn’t good enough. Smart enough. Thin enough. Athletic enough.

Then, after years of therapy, medication, and long conversations with my mother and my girlfriends – I realised that I had experienced a toxic combination of two things: the everyday sexist language that was consistently being used around me; and the absence of language around things that were formative and incredibly important.


What are we saying?

The language that we use when we’re talking to girls?


Your bra straps are showing.

Your skirt is too short.

Cross your legs.

Don’t be a know it all.

Don’t answer all the questions in class.

Don’t be a showoff.

Stop being bossy.

You have a nipple stand.

Cover up.

Don’t distract the boys.

Don’t make the male teachers uncomfortable.

Don’t be too loud.

We teach children that girls are powerful and dangerous, and we sexualise their bodies. While there may be diversity in schools, that diversity is not inclusion.

And we teach boys that girls are there to be objectified. We prioritise his education over girls. This is bad news for boys too. Because any boy that is slightly effeminate, or shows emotions, or wears their hair long, or cries, or wears pink is targeted. Why? Because they’re too feminine. And society isn’t a fan of the feminine, unless it’s in a bikini. You run like a girl. You scream like a girl. You hit like a girl. Don’t be such a girl.

We’re not fans of girls.


What are we not saying?

The absence of language is just as devastating to diversity and inclusion.

Growing up, there were things we didn’t talk about. When I was around 13 or 14 we went out for lunch in a restaurant. I started having the worst abdominal cramps I’d ever experienced. It felt like knives were slicing up my insides. I had sharp, shooting pains down my legs. It was only 24-36 hours later that I realised I was having my first period. No one had prepared me for this. No one had told me what would happen to my body.

As I was being bullied at school, there was the implied threat that if I spoke out about it, I would suffer. I knew that these kids carried knives. There was no way I could take a stand and talk about what was happening.

This restriction around language and the policing of women when they try to say no, or they try to speak out, takes many forms as we get older. The threats range from being laughed at, ostracised and jeered at, to not getting the raise or promotion we’re after, to being physically attacked in the street, on public transport, and in other public spaces. Soraya Chemaly explores this in detail in her book Rage Becomes Her.


My theory – you’re not going to like it

If your organisation and your people engage in everyday sexist language, or there’s an unspoken rule that certain things don’t get discussed, then your organisation is my father and the boys at school when I was growing up, and your women are me.

We balk at this idea. It’s worth remembering that we are taught this gendered way of being before we can even speak. It’s possible that you don’t even see it happening around you, because it is so normalised.


What do we do?

All around me, I see women who lack confidence. Who are pushing all the time to move beyond that. Who are fighting the structures in place that support the idea that diversity is not inclusion.

I can only tell you what I’ve done.

  1. I work with women. They are my clients. They are my network. I love men and I find them smart and brilliant, but I feel most comfortable with other women. I want to uplift other women, and I want to be uplifted by them.
  2. I talk about it. I speak about feminism and the need we still have for it in society as often as I can.
  3. I tell little girls that they are clever. I ask them what books they’re reading. I ask them what they like to do at school. I NEVER tell them they’re pretty. And if I like her outfit, I’ll tell her she looks totally fierce and, dressed like that, one day she’ll take on the world.
  4. I make money. As much of it as I can. Because, as Rachel Rogers says in We Should All be Millionaires – we need to make bank. That’s what gives us our autonomy.

If you’re a woman reading this, you can leave. It will be rough. But if you draw on the resilience you have inside you, it will be okay.

To men, the next time you are in a conversation about women being barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen, or you hear the term female author, or female doctor, or you see a man making a woman feel uncomfortable, say something. We need allies. More than anything, we need you to be our allies. As long as everyday sexist language exists, and as long as we aren’t talking about it, diversity is not inclusion.

Ashleigh is a Copyhackers-trained conversion copywriter who helps ambitious business owners attract their ideal clients and generate wealth with words. She's also a speaker, a feminist, and dog mom. She lives in London and works with incredible businesses all over the world.


The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project announces 50 nominees



Kim Rihal, founder of social enterprise Equal Education, is one of the 50 women shortlisted for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project
Kim Rihal, founder of social enterprise Equal Education, is one of the 50 women shortlisted for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project

Earlier this year, on International Women’s Day 2023, Häagen-Dazs launched ‘The Rose Project’, a global initiative with a $100,000 (USD) bursary grant inviting nominations to recognise unsung trailblazing women in honour of the brand’s female co-founder Rose Mattus. Yesterday, 23 November, on what would have been Rose Mattus’ birthday, Häagen-Dazs announced the top 50 #WomenWhoDontHoldBack nominees being shortlisted for their achievements and its five globally accomplished Häagen-Dazs Rose Project judges.

Over 2,500 applications were received for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project putting forward pioneering efforts and societal contributions made by women across the globe. From these, 50 talented and inspirational women have been shortlisted and will be put forward to win one of five monetary grants of $20,000 (USD), which will be announced on International Women’s Day 2024, to continue their exceptional work, unleash their potential or give to a cause they are passionate about. The top 50 shortlist includes women from 17 countries hailing from across Europe, Asia, Africa & Middle East, Australia and the Americas.

The all-female judging panel from across the world has been handpicked for the final selection stage of The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project includes. UK-based author, broadcaster and philanthropist Katie Piper, fashion entrepreneur and advocate for women’s fertility issues, Velda Tan from Singapore and Spanish entrepreneur and creative director Inés Arroyo, are amongst the judges.

“International Women’s Day 2023 marked the launch of The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project to honour the legacy of our co-founder, Rose Mattus, and create a fund platform to provide opportunities to women across all fields around the world who are truly deserving of support and recognition. We were thrilled to receive thousands of nominations across countries and our #WomenWhoDontHoldBack Top 50 shortlist is a compelling and diverse mosaic of trailblazing female narratives that moved us and serve as an inspiration to women everywhere”, says Aurélie Lory, Häagen-Dazs spokesperson.

To find out more about the story of each entrepreneur shortlisted for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project, visit:

Continue Reading


47% of women feel their workplace is not combatting inequality



Katherine Maher, CEO, Web Summit, on Centre Stage during day one of Web Summit 2023 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal
Katherine Maher, CEO, Web Summit, on Centre Stage during day one of Web Summit 2023 | Photo: Eóin Noonan/Web Summit

The proportion of women who feel that their workplace is not taking appropriate measures to combat gender inequality has nearly doubled in a year, a new survey has revealed.

Web Summit, the world’s largest technology event taking place in Lisbon this week, has released its third annual State of Gender Equity in Tech report, which is based on a survey distributed among its women in tech community.

76.1 percent of respondents feel empowered to pursue and/or hold a leadership position; fewer respondents (41.8 %) feel the need to choose between family and career when compared to 2022 (50.4 %); and there is at least one woman in a senior management position in 80.4 percent of respondents’ companies, a similar proportion to last year (81.3%).

The survey found that 70.5 percent of respondents feel pressure to prove their worth compared to male counterparts, while 77.2 percent feel they need to work harder to prove themselves because of their gender.

Over three quarters of respondents (76.1 %) feel empowered to pursue and/or hold a leadership position. And almost half of respondents think that their workplace is not taking appropriate measures to combat gender inequality, increasing from 26 percent in 2022 to 47
percent in 2023.

“While it is encouraging to see progress in some areas, such as those feeling the need to choose between their family and career, there are also some deeply concerning trends within this report. Seeing an increase in those who report having experienced sexism in the workplace in the last year is disheartening in 2023. We hope that this kind of research can breed some positives, and that it will push workplaces – and women within these workplaces – to broach these topics and make progress in these areas,” said Carolyn Quinlan, VP of community at Web Summit.

Last year, 42 percent of attendees at Web Summit were women and 33 percent of speakers were women. In 2023 these numbers have slightly improved with 43 percent of attendees and 38 percent of speakers on stage being women this year.

The women in tech programme at this year’s Web Summit is at capacity, and the women in tech programme at Web Summit Rio 2023 reached capacity in record time.

The WebSummit 2023 is running from November 13th to 16th in Lisbon, Portugal.

Continue Reading


Krispy Kreme to give away free donuts on World Kindness Day



A box of Krispy Kreme donuts opened and with donuts inside
The company, founded in 1937, is giving away 60,000 free doughnuts around the world today | Photo: Clément Proust

American multinational doughnut company and coffeehouse chain, Krispy Kreme, is celebrating “World Kindness Day” today by distributing free donuts in the US and the UK.

The chain is giving away a box of a dozen glazed donuts for free with no purchase necessary. But only the first 500 guests that visit each participating Krispy Kreme US stores on “World Kindness Day”, Monday November 13th, will be able to get a free box of donuts.

Krispy Kreme often gives away free or discounted donuts to generate buzz on special occasions. The company, founded in 1937, traditionally gives out free donuts to customers on National Donut Day, celebrated on the first Friday of June of each year. And in July, a dozen of glazed donuts were sold for 86 cents to celebrate its 86th birthday.

Thousands of free donuts are also expected to be given away today across Krispy Kreme stores in the United Kingdom, with customers being encouraged to ask for the World Kindness Day offer. No purchase necessary.

The company, which operates in over 30 countries around the world, said it wants the brand associated with World Kindness Day to make “meaningful connections” with customers.

“World Kindness Day is an opportunity to make a positive difference by being generous,” Dave Skena, Krispy Kreme’s global chief brand officer, said in a release. “Simple gestures of caring and thanks, including sharing a sweet treat, is a great way to do that.”

Krispy Kreme said that it’s considering expanding a limited partnership it has with McDonald’s to sell more of its donuts at the latter’s location.

Continue Reading