Back in March, I was invited by Cintrifuse, a Cincinnati-based fund of funds, to speak at their International Women’s Day event on a panel alongside some of our region’s most vocal advocates for change. The conversation centered on the theme of this year’s celebration — #PressforProgress.
Despite an abundance of statistics that validate the business case for hiring and promoting women, progress toward achieving greater gender equality continues to move slowly. In some cases, we have actually regressed on issues of economic inclusion and opportunity for women.
To enact the change needed to accelerate gender parity — both in and out of the workplace — the #PressforProgress campaign encourages individuals to commit to the following:
Maintain a gender parity mindset
One of the initial steps in creating an environment that provides equal access and opportunity for all is to address organizational gaps and question any lack of women’s participation. Where there are gaps, identify solutions that are more inclusive and work to better balance male/female participation ratios. Put simply, find ways to always include and support the women in your organization.
Challenge stereotypes and biases
Just as we challenge our racial biases and stereotypes, we must not forget to question assumptions about women’s traits, behaviors and abilities. Many gender stereotypes play on the notion that women are weaker, more passive and less competitive than their male counterparts. To effectively remove barriers to women’s progress, we must actively work to not only point out these negative stereotypes, but speak up and challenge them as well.
Forge positive visibility of women
It’s imperative that women see other women working in careers fields or living lifestyles that they aspire to themselves. As a leader, select women as spokespeople and leaders of your organization and add further support to women who are already in positions of visibility.
Furthermore, look to extend opportunities to women first and never assume that a woman will not want an opportunity until she declines it herself. A recent Working Mother Research Institute study indicates that women of color are most likely to feel that they have been looked over for key assignments and sponsorship, so be intentional about extending these opportunities.
Influence other’s beliefs and actions
One of the most positive and impactful actions you can take in promoting gender equality is to simply lead by example through inclusive actions and behaviors. A strong role model for equality will supportively call out inappropriate conduct, campaign for equality in meaningful ways and actively contribute to changing the status quo.
Celebrate women’s achievements
Gender equality calls for more than a single day or month-long celebration of women’s achievements. We should be striving to recognize the value of women’s individual and collective successes and working to ensure that appropriate credit is given for women’s contributions all year long. I encourage both men and women to commit to concentrating on at least one of the above pillars as you press for progress in your own social circles, workplace and community. ●
Gloria Ware is Director, KeyBank Center for Technology, Innovation and Inclusive Growth