March 8 is International Women’s Day, an international day to celebrate and recognize the social, political, economic and cultural achievements of women. This year’s theme is #PressForProgress, as the United Nations calculates we’re about 200 years away from achieving gender parity worldwide.
200 years? (Our heads are shaking as well.)
But what can one organization, especially small one, do to make a difference? It can feel overwhelming.
Collectively we can all play a part. On the International Women’s Day Website, they write, “Collective action and shared responsibility for driving gender parity is what makes International Women's Day successful.”
If everyone, every organization, acts now, we can press toward gender parity in less than 200 years. Moreover, creating an environment that is inclusive, safe, and supports women is a great way to improve employee engagement.
Be an organization that models gender parity.
1. Address, and assess, any gender pay gaps in the organization. Create a strategy to close those gaps.
2. Create a clear code of conduct regarding harassment. Have employees read it. Make a sexual harassment workshop mandatory for all employees. Make it clear there’s no such thing as a “good ol’ boys” club.
3. Challenge bias – conscious and unconscious.
- a. Look at the last names of the people who work in your organization? How often do you call back interviewees with names that don’t sound “typical.”
- b. Do you practice “benevolent sexism.,” reserving harder, high-profile projects for men because you want to ‘look after’ the women in your organization?
- c. Consider your workplace demographic. Chart it. What is your man-to-woman ratio? Now, is that ratio reflected in leadership in the organization?
- d. Pay attention to language in the organization. How are women addressed?
- e. What is the organization’s dress code? Are women still shoved into high heels and nylons?
4. Pregnancy and motherhood aren’t diseases. In fact, in the latest statistics available from 2015, American Progress reports that 42% of women in the United States were sole or primary breadwinners. Giving women opportunities to further their education and advance in the organization are critical to cut cycles of poverty. This betters their lives, their families, their communities … and your workplace and bottom line.
5. Raise awareness. Have conferences, events, discussions, and panels at the workplace to educate staff and leaders in the company about women’s issues.
6. Analyze your employee engagement survey results, comparing the women’s results to men’s. What issues stand out? Pay attention and take action to remedy these problems.
7. Many organizations have a CSR program. Make sure yours includes organizations that support women, whether locally or nationally.
8. Have a company policy to support women’s health: birth control, annual health exams and more.
International Women’s Day falls flat if it becomes about giving your women employees a rose and chocolate. By becoming an organization that models gender parity, you’re modeling human rights, inclusion, and decency. As Gloria Steinem said, “"The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."