Elevating Equality: Accelerating Forward Momentum on Women’s Equality Day and Beyond
August is one of my favorite months of the year. The warmth of summer lingers, and the allure of autumn is in the air. We’re not only rounding out my favorite season (can anything beat the sunshiny days of a Minnesota summer?), but also anticipating what’s to come – a crisp Fall with trips to orchards, a new school year ahead brimming with possibilities and opportunities for growth, a string of holidays that are celebrated with loved ones, a strong finish to an excellent year, and all the planning that takes place for the year ahead. And if that doesn’t make August reason enough to appreciate, we also have the honor of celebrating Women’s Equality Day on August 26th. It’s a day commemorated in the United States to honor the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, which granted women the right to vote. Much like the month of August, it’s a time to both celebrate and reflect and also to look ahead with hope, optimism, and determination.
It’s truly awe-inspiring to see how far we’ve come. From the suffragettes who fought tirelessly for women’s right to vote to the countless trailblazers who shattered glass ceilings in the corporate world, there is no denying that this journey towards equality has been marked by fortitude, courage, and resilience.
And despite the remarkable strides we’ve taken, there are still disparities that persist today. The gender pay gap, underrepresentation in leadership positions, and the challenges of balancing work and family responsibilities continue to hinder progress for women. These barriers not only affect women but also limit the potential of our organizations and societies as a whole.
We have a saying at The Bailey Group: “Leadership Matters”. Leadership matters because it shapes futures. It fuels progress, empowers potential, and steers collective aspirations towards an inspired reality. Leadership encourages action and it fosters innovation, and you aren’t required to have a fancy title or be a specific age or look a certain way to be a leader. Every individual possesses the capacity to lead through their choices, actions, influence, and commitment to positive change. We all can be a leader, and as leaders – in our families, in our communities, in our workplaces – we each have a unique platform from which we can effect change.
The Power of Action
Gender equality isn’t just a lofty ideal; it’s a tangible reality we can actively shape, especially within the confines of our own workplaces. Each action we take sends ripples of change that contribute to a more inclusive and equitable environment.
Here are a few ways you – regardless of your title, age, identified gender, race, identity – can promote gender equality at work:
- Be an Advocate for Inclusion: We all play a role in creating and reinforcing our workplace culture. Raise awareness about the importance of gender equity by engaging in conversations with your colleagues. Share information, articles, and resources that highlight the benefits of diverse and inclusive workplaces. Intentionally foster an inclusive culture where diverse voices are valued, and everyone feels empowered to contribute their ideas.
- Use Inclusive Language: Be intentional with your use of the language in your communications, both written and spoken. Encourage the use of gender-neutral language to ensure everyone feels respected and valued.
- Participate in Diversity Initiatives: Advocate for and take advantage of opportunities for workshops, training, and discussions to unveil hidden biases. Participate in discussions, events, and activities that focus on promoting equality and inclusivity.
- Examine your own Biases: Increase your self-awareness around any unconscious biases and stereotypes that might actively affect your decision-making so that you may interrupt those neural pathways or habitual responses. HBR’s Project Implicit is a research initiative that investigates implicit biases and attitudes through online tests and assessments.
- Challenge Stereotypes and Biases: If you witness biased behavior or comments, address them respectfully. Gently point out how you perceived the behavior and share how it could undermine a culture of inclusion where all people, regardless of gender are valued.
- Amplify Voices: During meetings and discussions, ensure that diverse perspectives are heard. If you notice someone’s contribution being overlooked, kindly encourage them to share their thoughts. Celebrate, acknowledge and champion the accomplishments of your female colleagues.
- Be Open to Learning: Educate yourself about gender equality issues, intersectionality, and the experiences of women in the workplace. Stay informed and continue to expand your understanding of these topics.
And for those of us in formal leadership positions, there is even more opportunity – and therefore responsibility – to promote women’s equality:
- Promote Equal Opportunities: Ensure that job opportunities, promotions, and pay are based on skills, qualifications, and performance rather than gender. Encourage equal access to opportunities for growth, advancement, and leadership positions, regardless of gender.
- Equal Pay: Conduct regular pay audits to identify and address any gender pay gaps. Ensure that women are paid equally for equal work and responsibilities.
- Unapologetically Eliminate Bias – Implement blind hiring practices to reduce unconscious bias in recruitment and promotion processes. Provide opportunities, formal and informal, for team members to increase their own awareness around bias. Review policies, practices and procedures to identify areas where bias might be unintentionally reinforced. Create diverse teams for decision-making for more well-rounded and unbiased decisions.
- Flexible Work Arrangements and Family-Friendly Policies: Provide flexible work options like remote work, flexible hours, and job-sharing to accommodate the diverse needs of employees. Implement family-friendly policies like parental leave, on-site childcare, and lactation facilities to support working parents. Manage your team by outcomes rather than inputs.
- Leadership Development: Offer mentorship and leadership programs specifically targeted for women to increase your leadership pipeline of female leaders, enabling women to advance to leadership roles within the organization and the organization to benefit from the power of a more diversified leadership team.
Promoting gender equity is an ongoing effort that requires collective commitment. Each action, no matter how small, contributes to a larger shift towards a more inclusive future. By harnessing the power of daily decisions, we can transform workplaces into spaces where every individual can flourish, regardless of gender.
In honor of Women’s Equality Day, challenge yourself and your organization to implement one or more new practices immediately to continue the transformation of the workplace and society for which so many have been fighting for so long.