Last week Melinda Gates pledged 1 billion dollars to fund efforts for gender equality. Her motivation came as the World Economic Forum stated that we are still 208 years away from gender equality in the US. The UK’s timeline for gender equality is a little easier to stomach at 74 years but it’s still too long.
Despite a surge in women’s movements in recent times, we still aren’t earning as much, rising as high, or having an equal voice in decision-making as we should be. Although women are earning more than ever before, there is still a 20% gap between us and our male counterparts. And when it comes to positions of power, we possibly all know the fact that on last year’s Fortune 500 List of CEOs there were more men named James than there were women!
So business leaders are under increased pressure to highlight the work being done to improve gender equality and show their commitment to being part of the solution (and rightly so). But it’s such a vast topic that it’s hard to grapple with where to start and what you can do as a leader. Even if you’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated Diversity & Inclusion team leading the way in your organisation, it’s still on every leader to drive this agenda and make changes to the way they do things.
Here are some hard-hitting questions that you can bring up in your next leadership meeting to start getting the right answers:
What bold and ambitious goals have we set around gender equality within our workplace for 2020?
What is the pay gap within our organisation? What are we doing to address this?
How do we ensure we’re avoiding gender bias when we’re recruiting for new roles?
What percentage of our promotions each year are women?
What are we doing to proactively support women’s career advancements?
What do our mentorship programmes look like (if you have one at all)?
How do we help employees manage their work / life priorities? How flexible is our working environment?
We might not all have 1 billion dollars to fund programmes, policies or groups to close the gap, but it costs nothing to ask these questions and be an advocate for gender equality.
The simple act of asking these questions (and challenging your leadership team on others too) can lead to the creation of small actions to support the cause: even if that’s simply setting one new goal in terms of what your organisation will do to support women’s equality next year.
Although we’ve only scratched the surface of an immense topic, it’s important to remember that change happens not just at the macro level with corporate schemes and targets, but with small, everyday changes that we commit to making ourselves. The more we can actively support and promote women in their endeavours across every industry and at every level, the closer we’ll get to a more level playing field.
We might not have 1 billion dollars, but we do have 1 billion voices!