This Sunday will be International Women's Day, and to celebrate the push for more rights and achievements across the globe, I’m shifting my focus from technology to something more personal, as there is a legacy that we as individuals and as an industry can consider in terms of pay parity, equality and diversity for women.
To foster real change, there are five simple things I suggest for anyone reading this today:
- Embrace the reality of the situation. According to the World Economic Forum’s report “Mind the 100 Year Gap,” a woman would have to be born in the year 2255 to get equal pay at work. While the “role model effect” of political empowerment and the rise of some women to senior roles has had a positive impact on women’s leadership and wages, women’s participation in the wider labor market has stagnated in emerging and developing economies, offsetting gains in OECD countries. North America has made strides in gender parity (currently 72.9 percent), second only to Western Europe’s 76.7 percent. Particularly good is the finding it will take only 12 years to attain gender parity in education, with 40 of the 153 countries ranked in WEF’s report already achieving that goal. I think we can still do better.
- Avoid being part of the problem/status quo. Accept that Awareness is not easy! We are often not cognizant of our own “unconscious bias.” Naturally, most of us are most comfortable with those who are most “like ourselves,” but we need to be self-aware and examine whether we, at times, inadvertently exclude others who are different. As written in a Forbes article on the benefits of diversity, there is more innovation and creativity when people on a team possess different skills, talents and opinions. It takes constant effort to create change until the change takes hold, and all of us will make mistakes on occasion, but if we all strive to create an environment free of conscious and unconscious bias, we can as a collective get to the ideal sooner rather than later.
- Take action every day. Do something every day to make a difference – little things add up. For example, the Harvard Business Review noted that men are more likely to get detailed information on career paths and to have career discussions with a mentor or sponsor than are women. That’s why we all can benefit from putting ourselves in others’ shoes and having conversations that can help bring more pay parity, more representation in executive management and clearer career paths.
- Make everyone’s voice count. Listen. When you are done listening, listen some more. The power of being heard cannot be underestimated. Building a supportive environment is a key step on the way to parity. Open yourself up to questions, and really listen to the answers if you want to help further equality.
- Provide encouragement. Men apply for a job when they meet 60 percent of qualifications, but women only apply when they meet 100 percent.* That means women feel they have to achieve more to be considered equal to male counterparts. Help your colleagues recognize their capabilities and talents in the broader context of the market and encourage them to go after stretch roles. Help illuminate the path to leadership for others.
I hope we can put these five recommendations into practice, and participate in activities and organizations that educate and create networking opportunities. It’s for this reason I’ve become an Executive Sponsor of Oracle Women Lead (OWL), a pioneering organization whose mission it is to develop, engage, and empower current and future generations of female leaders.
Please check out OWL’s Emerging Leader Summit, the most recent of which took place in Singapore.
Also visit: @OracleWomenLead on Twitter and get involved by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. New York, New York: Random House, 2013.