Here’s what we could do differently this year to ensure we don’t perpetuate the inequities of past years.
I’m optimistic that 2017 will be remembered as the year we took a step forward for women’s rights. From the Women’s March to the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment and assault, it was hard to ignore the worldwide movement against misogyny and inequities. But the scales haven’t quite tipped yet.
To do so, it’s incumbent upon more organization leaders to step up for gender diversity and inclusion. Reflecting upon the lessons from last year, I created a short list of how we can ensure workplaces are more equitable for all this year.
Measure how many women work at your company. Some companies have only recently started revealing employee gender and race data. Amazon, for example, just started making this data publicly available three years ago. Still, most organizations shy away from measuring or publicly revealing this data at all. As New Year’s resolutions prove time and again: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. It’s equally crucial to learn the barriers women face to entering and advancing within your organization. Addressing these issues may be challenging, but I’ve learned that the extent to which these roadblocks exist can often be unique to a company. For example, I’ve spoken to some women who say their organization is equitable for women at the entry level, but a lack of comprehensive paid parental leave holds back women from progressing higher. Others cite that while their company might offer paid maternity leave, a male-dominated culture persists. Measure it so you can manage it.
Change what leadership looks like. From politics to boardrooms, it’s no secret that women are underrepresented in every industry. To move the needle, more women must be propelled into leadership positions. Chief among the changes we need to make: accepting that unconscious biases exist, then learning how to disrupt them. Women are judged harshly for exhibiting “leadership traits” that are favored in male executives such as strong negotiation, advocating for themselves or not appearing overly likable. But when they are collaborative, they’re considered to lack leadership qualities. Let’s enlarge our narrow definition to include different styles of leadership. And let’s work toward judging leadership by actions, rather than likability or outdated notions of what constitutes feminine behavior.
Have a strong policy against sexual misconduct at work. I’d like to see the end of rewarding bad behavior at work. When companies don’t take immediate and vocal action against reports of harassment or misconduct, everyone gets a clear signal that this behavior is tolerated. Leaders must be consistent and vocal in speaking up against any type of misconduct in the workplace. Studies show harassment not only impacts women, it also has a high cost for organizations, including causing women to leave.
Engage more men allies for gender parity. Men often don’t participate in gender-equity initiatives because they don’t consider it to be their issue, according to Harvard Business Review. This year, I’d like to see more companies emphasize the importance of men getting involved in initiatives to create equity for all. Men and women were equally likely to be engaged in parity initiatives after seeing their CEO’s message that both genders had valuable input to inform that company’s gender equity program. I’ve seen the impact of this firsthand among some of my male friends, who were motivated to join their organization’s gender equity task force after believing that gender equity impacted them, not just their female peers. This year, let us not continue to relegate gender equity to a “women’s issue.”