“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”-Gloria Steinem
Every year on March 8th, individuals and organizations around the world observe International Women’s Day (IWD). It’s an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias, and take action for equality.
In 2019, we saw a tide of courageous women and girls standing up for their rights: employee activists at Google organized a massive walkout to protest sexual harassment and lack of transparency, a new wave of student activism has pressed colleges on sexual assault, and youth activism is on the rise, with icons like Malala and Greta, around the globe for issues like gender equality and LGBTQ rights.
As we move into 2020, it’s clear that achieving equality will require collective action and shared ownership to shift the structural and cultural factors standing in the way. Groups like Equal Measures provide country-by-country data (with insightful visuals with the help of Tableau) showing that we still have a long way to go to create a more equal planet. This year’s theme for IWD, #EachforEqual, invites everyone – regardless of gender identity – to actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight biases, and broaden perceptions to make the world a more equal, equitable, and just place.
Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. Together, our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society. Here are six individual actions you can take to be #EachforEqual:
1. Identify and correct your own unconscious biases
According to global nonprofit Catalyst, “Gender bias is so ingrained in society, it’s almost automatic. Even the most progressive among us can be guilty of it. These biases function as an invisible barrier for women in the workplace. To achieve gender equality, we all have to learn how to identify our unconscious bias and start actively working against it.” Its #BiasCorrect campaign provides unique resources to help individuals understand unconscious bias, interrupt it, and correct it. Among the tools offered in the campaign is the first-ever #BiasCorrect Plug-in to tag unconscious bias in real-time conversations on work-based chat platforms, like Slack.
Harvard’s Project Implicit is another great resource to learn more about your own implicit biases by taking self-assessments. But keep in mind that being aware of your biases isn’t enough. In fact, some company cultures actually got worse after diversity and inclusion training. To counter an unconscious bias once you uncover one, try these seven ideas from Fast Company.
2. Learn the vocab
The words we use carry a lot of power, so it’s important to use that power mindfully. Much of our everyday language excludes different backgrounds, genders, and abilities. Take the time to learn the vocabulary of inclusive language so that you can treat all people with respect, dignity, and impartiality. Buffer has a helpful guide to inclusive language for startups and tech companies, and the LGBT Community Center of New Orleans has a list of useful vocabulary for sexual and gender minorities.
3. Support social change movements
The tide of activism we saw in 2019 is only going to continue, and we each have an opportunity to amplify the voices and efforts behind these movements. Small actions like taking the time to learn more about the issue, spreading awareness about the problem, and having constructive conversations with people around you contribute to broader changes in attitudes and beliefs. Remember that if you don’t feel the inequality directly, it doesn’t mean that the underlying problem doesn’t exist – it just means you have the privilege of not experiencing it on a daily basis. Learn more about movements bringing attention to current and historical inequality, like #BanBossy, #STOMPoutBullying, #BlackLivesMatter, or #MeToo. For more meaningful ways to support social justice movements, check out this guide from Mashable.
4. Become a better ally in the workplace
Men also have a role to play in making organizational cultures more inclusive and supportive of women. Forbes suggests a variety of ways that men can be better allies to women in the workplace, including by giving credit, listening without making assumptions, calling out inequality, respecting women’s space, avoiding diminutives, and sharing office “housework.” Remember that small actions add up to big change, and getting started doesn’t have to be daunting… try asking a peer for advice, attending meet-ups organized by affinity groups within your company, or learning how to support activists you already work with.
5. Connect your job to the Global Goals
No matter where you work or what your job is, your work can help contribute to a more equitable and just planet. Whether you’re championing more inclusive hiring policies, a more transparent promotion process, or adding more diversity to the leadership team, you can use the power you have to transform your company from the inside out. In our guide to making your business more responsible, you can learn plenty of ways that you can make changes – big or small – that will create a more sustainable and equitable society.
You don’t necessarily have to start from scratch — chances are your organization and/or community already have existing initiatives that support female-identifying individuals in critical ways. Speak with your CSR lead, HR representative, or philanthropic branch to explore what opportunities are available. Our partners at Kering Foundation, for example, offer a Solidarity Leave Program giving employees time off to volunteer their skills with NGOs advancing women’s rights around the world.
6. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again
Early on in his tenure, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella infamously misspoke at the Grace Hopper conference. He was ridiculed in the news, and by internal employees. But he listened, he learned, and now he frames this gaffe as being something that has helped all of Microsoft build a better corporate culture. Change happens incrementally, so don’t let a fear of making a mistake prevent you from trying at all. Adopt a learning-mindset, and let others know it’s safe to point out missteps in a constructive way so that you can learn and evolve together.
Join us this international women’s day, and for the next 365 days until the next one, in being #EachforEqual with these 6 tips:
- Identify and correct your own unconscious biases
- Learn the vocab
- Support social change movements
- Become a better ally in the workplace
- Connect your job to the Global Goals
- If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again