Image: Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin in the movie "9 to 5"—Photo Credit People.com
March 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global celebration of the social, economic, and political achievements of women. The first IWD was held in 1911, and it serves as a call to action for accelerating gender parity. This year’s IWD theme is ‘Choose To Challenge.’
From IWD’s website: “A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”
The ultimate challengers that come to my mind are the women above in “9 to 5”. The movie ends with showing their office as an ideal workplace created by women. Now 40 years after the movie was released, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like we’ve reached that level of support and inclusion for women. Now as a result of the global pandemic, instead of moving forward, women in the workplace are disappearing.
Women are leaving the workforce at four times the rate as men due to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on working women. According to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), women are spending 15 more hours a week on domestic labor than men—equivalent to a day and a half. This crisis and resulting ‘shecession’ has in one month wiped out all of the job gains that women had made in the past decade.
This International Women’s Day, I choose to challenge all of us to support women in the workplace—today and every day. It’s not enough for business to post pictures on social media with the hashtag #ChooseToChallenge. Companies must support all of their employees with a flexible way of working, equal pay, and benefits.
I challenge companies to reassess workplace norms.
I challenge companies to embrace job sharing and part-time work.
I challenge companies to provide full benefits to those working part-time.
I challenge companies to take action and make bold moves.
Here at Oracle, I’m encouraged to see that a woman on my team was able to reduce her full-time role down to 10 hours a week while she homeschools her two children as a result of their school closing. As a working mother myself, I appreciate flexible work and am encouraged to have work/life balance by my manager. I can tell that I’m a happier and more productive employee with his support.
Besides reducing hours, another way to provide flexible work to employees is with internal gigs, short-term opportunities, and job sharing. Dolly, Jane, and Lily would be proud. By offering employees flexible ways of working, along with equal pay, and benefits, you are also helping improve your workforce diversity and inclusion by hiring and keeping employees you might have previously missed out on with a rigid 9 to 5 schedule in an office.
We are not out of this pandemic yet. While hope is on the horizon, we must reimagine in order to rebuild for what’s next. I challenge YOU to challenge the status quo, spark a workforce revolution, and support women to return and stay in the workplace.
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