Updated: Mar 6, 2021
Exploring the topic of gender equity in honor of International Women's Day
To me, International Women’s Day has always been about honoring the amazing women who have made contributions to the world, in both small and big ways. While I also know that the purpose of International Women’s Day is to highlight and advocate for the equity of women, for some of my adult life, I admittedly was somewhat blinded to the vast gender-based inequities that still exist in our world. This is because I was raised by parents who, for lack of a better analogy, treated my three sisters and me the same as if they were raising four, rough and tumble boys. We tagged along with Dad to work, were his side-kicks at the hunting club, learned how to thread worms on fishing hooks, and were pulled out of bed at 6 am on sub-zero mornings on garbage days when we forgot to drag the trash bins to the road. We mowed the lawn, learned how to maneuver canoes through white-water rapids, skied moguls, and spent one summer for what seemed like an eternity, hand scraping our house preparing it for a new paint job. And then there was the jackhammer episode. I’ll save that one for another time!
It’s safe to say, despite my futile attempts to be one, there were no princesses in our house. As a kid and especially as a teen, my disdain for household manual labor has been replaced as an adult with pride in knowing that as much I can be a card-carrying “girlie-girl” when you get down to it, I am a pretty tough gal. My parents, for better or for worse, always expected that we work hard, and as such, treated us like there were no limits to what we could achieve. Likewise, they supported us wholeheartedly throughout our educational years, careers, and life endeavors; both secure and traditional, and some that might be considered risky.
The downside of that upbringing? Naively thinking that everyone is raised with the belief that men and women are created equal and therefore are treated equally.
Our Dad drilled into our heads that we must advocate for ourselves, give a strong handshake while maintaining eye contact, and work harder than the next guy. And with that advice, we set out in our careers with the confidence to achieve our goals with complete disregard for the gender bias that may have existed in our midst. As a daughter, sister and mother, I have always appreciated that “blindness” and in many ways, it has served me well. In my career, if I wanted a seat at the table, I wanted it for my own merits, and my own merits only. But, as a business leader, understanding the truths of our current reality is a necessity; not only for my own company but for the organizations in which we serve. And if I am truly honest, over the decades I have spent in the HR space, I have definitely heard my share of gender-biased comments, and seen gender-biased practices.
A recent article in Inc. Magazine cited that according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, it will take us another 100 years to reach true equity at the current rate of progress. Could that really be? That statistic struck me so deeply, I dug into the report fully expecting to see the United States leading the pack in progress. The data in this report, unfortunately, states otherwise and deflated my patriotic heart.
“In the United States, progress towards gender parity is stalling and the country registers a similar overall score to last year. The US has only closed 69.9% of its wage gap, and 65.6% of its income gap so far. Due to this lack of progress, the US lost two positions in the rankings and is now ranked 53rd in the world. Despite being well represented in middle and high management roles, American women struggle to enter the very top business positions: only 21.7% of corporate managing board members are women.”
Ranked 53rd? That just hurts. If gender equity were an Olympic sport, I can say with absolute certainty that we wouldn't be ranked anywhere near 53rd. We can do so, so much better. On the other end of the spectrum, our Nordic friends, Iceland and Norway rank one and two respectively, with Iceland having closed 88% of its gender gap. Improvement, as is shown with these progressive countries, is certainly possible, what I surely thought would be more of a reality in our country.
Clearly, there is a lot of work to do in our world, as well as in our backyard here in the United States, and as business leaders, in our own boardrooms. Work that includes both behavioral changes and mindsets, changing institutional structures, and building leadership commitment to do better, especially after a pandemic that saw over 3 million women leave the workforce. There are very intentional and tangible ways that organizations can accelerate change to support individuals in being their best selves, which will ultimately drive the performance necessary to delight customers, beat financial targets, and drive innovation. As an HR and business leader, my commitment is to continue to advocate for healthy dialogue that accelerates progress. Through our company’s proactive HR support, we can help organizations find tangible ways to disrupt structures that don’t work. When there is a presence of strong, exemplary performance, and innovation driven by diversity, everyone wins. If you’d like to explore moving the needle together, whether it be around your talent and leadership strategies, compensation, diversity, mentoring, or onboarding practices….we’d love to talk. www.earlyhrsolutions.com/contact
Footnote: Our wedding days? Full-on princess treatment from both Mom, and especially our tough as nails, but adoring Dad.