This year’s International Women’s Day falls on the 8th of March and the theme is #BeBoldforChange, with the hope and aim for a more gender inclusive world. Did you know that the current gender pay gap is not estimated to close until 2186?
Recently in America, a GOP official sent a letter to two newspapers titled “Equal Pay for Women Has Consequences.” In this letter, he said:
“Traditionally men have earned more than women in the workplace because they are considered the primary breadwinners for families. They need to make enough to support their families and allow the Mother to remain in the home to raise and nurture the children.”
Really? In 2017?
I must admit that in the early days of my career, I perhaps hadn’t been the biggest advocate for gender equality only because it had never seemingly affected me so it took some time to see the scale of the issue. In both my personal life and my career, I’ve always felt I have been equal to men; however, through the years I’ve experienced situations where others have not had the same opinion and learnt quite quickly that there is a very good reason why we need to be bold and help accelerate gender parity.
If you are career minded like me, then money is a motivator. It shocks me that where I live and work in the UK (south-east) men are paid 30% more than women! Does that allow me to put in 30% less effort in my job? Crazy talk! Businesses with a strong gender diversity strategy have been shown time and time again to outperform their peers. In the United Kingdom alone, senior executive teams proved that a mere 10% increase in gender diversity results in a 3.5% increase in earnings before interest and taxes.
As employers increase to fight over top talent it might also be worth noting that according to recent PwC research which involved over 40,000 Millennials, representing 18 countries, 82% of female Millennials identified an employers’ policy on diversity, inclusion and gender equality as an important factor when deciding whether or not to work for an organisation.
It’s clear that change is needed, in some instances it almost seems as if we are going backwards. In 2015, 22% of senior roles were held by women, compared to 21% in 2016.
But making this happen isn’t without challenges.
Do we sit around complaining about how unfair the disparity between pay and the lack of females in leadership roles? Or do we be bold?
While there is still a lot to be done, International Women’s Day is a vehicle for change so here are some real #BeBoldForChange, positive, pragmatic examples as food for thought:
- The Intel Women in Technology scholarship programme has been running for more than 10 years and a total of almost €1,000,000 has been invested in the initiative to date. The scholarships are applicable to a wide variety of courses offered at third level institutions across Ireland. The programme offers a monetary grant valued at €3,000 per annum as well as opportunities for work placements at one of Intel’s Ireland locations in Leixlip, Shannon and Cork. Each scholar is also assigned a mentor who is an Intel employee to assist and provide advice on managing their academic career.
- Some companies are urging their suppliers to adopt gender-specific policies. British designer, Tamara Mellon, said she would ensure all of her suppliers had senior women within the business.
- Salesforce implemented their version of the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy that requires league teams to at least interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. They also recently assessed the compensation of more than 17,000 employees and spent $3 million to equalise the pay between female and male employees of similar tenure, levels, and performance.
- Quotas for women on boards is a topic that tends to cause fierce debate. In 2003 Norway passed a law that requires companies to have at least 40% of company board members to be women. As a result, today Norway has the highest proportion of women on boards globally (36%).
- Make leadership attractive – to women and men. In some European Intel offices, they offer a bigger referral bonus to employees if candidate is female.
- Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee – a North American Coffee company, initiated CHICA Comunidad de Hermanas Inteligentes con Corazones Abiertos (Community of Intelligent Sisters with Open Hearts), a community based program in Guatemala. The program aims to raise self-esteem, gender awareness, and create educational and economic opportunities for indigenous teenaged girls in rural Guatemalan coffee villages.
- Pax World Investments is a leading sustainable investment firm based in the U.S., which votes against all-male slates of directors at company annual meetings and against male nominees on slates with only one woman. They also file shareholder proposals asking companies to make diversity part of every director search. Pax World launched the Pax Global Women’s Leadership Index and Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund based on the Index, investing in companies that invest in women. In 2016 they expanded their gender engagement to include pay equity initiatives.
- Symantec implemented the Gender Equity Image Project to promote gender equality within the company. The goal is to work toward the ongoing improvement of gender representation and the reduction of the use of stereotyping imagery wherever possible.
Change can be driven by yourself as an individual or by organisations but it starts by being aware of the need and being bold. Challenge conscious or unconscious bias, encourage gender-balanced leadership and ensure women and men’s contributions are valued equally.