Today is International Women’s Day. I must admit that I had to do some research to discover what that actually meant. It seems as though we sometimes carve out pieces of the calendar for many of the groups that have historically been denied equal rights, opportunities and respect (e.g., International Women’s Day, Gay Pride Week, Black History Month), and then stand back and say, “Hey, look, we just honored you! What more do you want?” But recognition of an injustice is only the beginning of its rectification.
Last year, IWD supported the “Pledge for Parity” campaign, which “committed to help women and girls achieve their ambitions; challenge conscious and unconscious bias; call for gender-balanced leadership; value women and men's contributions equally; and create inclusive flexible cultures.” And all of those are noble, admirable goals. The only problem is that attempting to solve them by a “business as usual” approach will be the work not of years, but generations. According to the World Economic Forum, the gender gap will not be closed until the year 2186. Do all you ladies out there want to wait that long for equal pay for equal work? (I didn’t think so...)
So, this year, IWD is suggesting that we all step up and take bold action; to #BeBoldForChange. Some specific examples include:
- Challenge bias and inequality by querying all-male speaking panels, calling it out when women are excluded, pointing out bias and highlighting alternatives
- Campaign against violence by educating youth about positive relationships, being vigilant and reporting violence, volunteering at a local charity
- Forge women’s advancement by supporting a woman-owned business, appointing a woman to the board, inviting women into situations where they are not already present or contributing
- Celebrate women’s achievement by raising women’s visibility as spokespeople in the media, hailing the success of women leaders, reinforcing and supporting women’s triumphs
- Champion Women’s education by launching or funding a women-focused scholarship, encouraging more girls into STEM education and careers (like my daughters Cheyvonne and Alexandra!), supporting women inventors of new products and services
I encourage us all to be willing to find a way of promoting gender equity in a way that is meaningful to us, and to be prepared to persevere in the face of resistance. I know from experience that when we “challenge conscious and unconscious bias”, people can get their backs up. In fact, I would be willing to wager that there are some people (most likely men) reading this who are at this moment copping at least an unconscious resentment. All I can say is, “Chill, son. I love you, too.” I also know that “creating inclusive, flexible cultures” can take time, and create friction. Don’t give up. The end result will be worth the bumps along the way.
One last thing: I would like to honor all the women in my life for all they do. I would not be the man I am today, and not be pointed in the direction of becoming the man I aspire to be if it weren’t for you. And you being who you are, and doing what you do continues to astound me. You rock!