International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated annually on March 8, is an opportunity for the global community to celebrate how far we’ve come for the rights of women – and to recognize how far we have to go.
On IWD, we step back and take stock. Are we doing all we can to change the world for women?
IWD’s 2020 theme was #EachforEqual, and that represents a powerful message. Each of us can choose to fight for gender equality, but we must start with ourselves.
It’s Time to Act
Many of us expect change to come from the top, as if bettering workplaces for women can only happen at the highest levels of leadership. We expect our CEO to announce that paid leave policies are being expanded. We expect that pay equity will be achieved as if by magic, or that executives will demand an equal presence of men and women at the highest levels of leadership without any work from us.
Top-down solutions may come, but they rarely come without hard work. And women can’t afford to wait for those at the top to get with the program.
Acting on the things we can change creates the ripples that bring the flood. We can sometimes feel as if we lack the power to make changes ourselves, but that simply isn’t true. Individual bravery and boldness of action are what push us toward a world where #EachforEqual isn’t a rallying cry, but a fact that is taken for granted.
Doing Your Bit
Think about how you can bring change within your role at your organization. Do you work in HR? Push for equitable hiring practices that strip the potential for employee bias out of the hiring process.
Is your role in purchasing? Patronize woman-owned businesses to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs. Members of leadership may be able to enact more sweeping policies, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the team can’t make change.
Change can start with something as small and radical as talking openly about pay equity and workplace bias. Men who speak openly about how they balance work and family are taking action – work-life balance should be, but often isn’t, seen as a gender-neutral issue. Calling attention to someone who ignores or downplays their female coworkers in meetings is powerful – and anyone can do it.
Don’t let yourself imagine that change only trickles down from the top. Change starts with you.
How You Can Take Action
This year, in honor of IWD, the Network of Executive Women is launching our own campaign for action. Maybe you’ll support that woman-owned business or join a diversity ERG (employee resource group).
NEW has laid out 15 ways you can support women and #EachforEqual, all based on our proprietary learning programs. Take a look at our action list at NEWOnline.org/IWD and spread the word on social media when you take a positive step for gender equity in your workplace.
Honor International Women’s Day by taking action in your day-to-day life to champion #EachforEqual.
NOTE: Sarah Alter is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, a learning and leadership community representing 12,400 members in 22 regional groups in the United States and Canada. Learn more at newonline.org.