As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8th, we have many reasons to celebrate: more women were elected to Congress during the recent elections cycle than ever before, women are outpacing men in obtaining advanced degrees, female activism is on the rise worldwide, and women own 36% of all businesses, contributing more than $3 trillion to the economy. Despite the strides made, we still have a lot of work to do. When we look at the overall statistics of women in the workplace, the numbers tell a sobering truth:
- 57% of women age 16 and older participate in the labor force
- Women are underrepresented at every level in corporate America – and it’s not changing
- More than 39% of women work in occupations where women make up at least three-quarters of the workforce
- Women represent fewer than 50% of leaders in every industry
- 64% of women report experiencing micro-aggressions in the workplace
- Women-founded startups receive 2% of venture money
- Women are paid 20% less than men in the U.S. The gap is even wider for Latina and Black women
The good news is there are many organizations fighting for women’s rights and equality worldwide and they are encouraging us all to get involved and make a difference. According to the International Women’s Day website, this year’s theme is “Balance for Better”. While they encourage us to celebrate women’s achievement, they also challenge us to raise awareness against bias and to take action for equality. The United Nations Women initiative’s 2019 theme, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change,” notes that innovation by women and girls, for women and girls, is at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality.
They often say that charity begins at home. Changes for gender equality also begin at home. We went to Lean In to identify actionable items that we, as leaders in our businesses and communities, can work on in our immediate circles to support the fight towards gender equality. LeanIn.Org is an initiative of the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, which also runs Lean In Europe and OptionB.Org. They fulfill their mission of helping women achieve their ambitions and creating an equal world by advocating for better public policies and a more equitable workforce, spearheading Equal Pay Day Campaigns and completing the annual Women in the Workplace study. Here are some ways that we can work towards gender equality in the workplace:
- Complete the 50 Ways to Fight Bias Card Activity: this interactive activity is meant to help you combat gender bias at work by pairing a card-based activity with a short video series to give people the tools to understand and address their biases. A presentation is also available for large group settings. Access the cards here.
- Review Your Pay Policies: Studies show that women are paid 20% less than men, with the gap for Latinas (47%) and Black women (38%) being even higher. Are you paying your staff equally based on skillsets and job roles? Work to remove the gender pay gap in your organization.
- Commit to #MentorHer: Studies show that women receive less support from managers in navigating organizational policies and career development. Mentoring is an important factor in most employees’ success; it is even more critical for women. Having a sponsor and someone to show women the ropes can help move them into key leadership roles that are often not accessible to them.
- Make Work/Life Balance A Priority: Women are most often the ones who miss work when caring for an ailing child or family member. In most of these cases, their pay and advancement opportunities suffer. By implementing policies that allow for flexibility in work hours, locations, time off, maternity leave, paternity leave, etc., you can keep the playing field level for opportunities.
- Zero Tolerance on Harassment: Women are often the targets of harassment at work. Hold all employees accountable for a fair and harassment-free workplace by implementing policies to identify and address issues. If an issue arises, address it in a transparent manner so that the victims feel that they have management support.
As we can see, women alone cannot make workplace gender equality and diversity a priority; men also play a part in ensuring that women have an equal and fair seat at the table. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it was also good for business. Having a gender balance workforce allows for more viewpoints with varied experiences and skillsets to help tackle projects and issues, increased communications, foster a positive work environment as employees see management reflective of their workforce and it can improve your reputation in the industry and beyond.