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International Women's Day: Beyond Awareness, Towards Action



International Women's Day holds a mirror to both the progress achieved towards gender equality and the persistent hurdles women face professionally. While it's vital to spotlight these issues, actual progress lies in solutions organisations can actively implement to build a genuinely equitable workspace. Let's explore ten of these challenges and actionable responses:


1. The Gender Pay Gap

  • Problem: The disparity in earnings between men and women for comparable work persists, further exacerbated for women of colour.

  • Solution: Regularly conduct transparent pay audits to pinpoint and address discrepancies—ground salaries in objective criteria like skills and experience, reducing space for unconscious bias.


2. Unconscious Biases

  • Problem: Deep-rooted biases unconsciously obstruct women's career paths, influencing promotions, performance evaluations, and leadership opportunities.

  • Solution: Provide unconscious bias training for managers and anyone involved in hiring and promotion processes. Cultivate a culture where respectful discussion of biases is encouraged.


3. The 'Maternal Wall'

  • Problem: Assumptions about their commitment and availability can stall or derail women's careers after motherhood.

  • Solution: Provide generous parental leave for all parents, alongside flexible work arrangements, to facilitate work-life balance. Normalise working from home and flexible schedules.


4. Lack of Mentorship & Sponsorship

  • Problem: Women often lack access to mentors and sponsors, hindering their development and networking opportunities.

  • Solution: Institute formal mentorship and sponsorship programs deliberately pair women with senior leaders who can actively champion their advancement.


5. Sexual Harassment

  • Problem: Sexual harassment remains an unfortunate reality across industries.

  • Solution: Institute a zero-tolerance policy, create robust reporting mechanisms, conduct thorough investigations, and provide sensitivity training for all employees. Establish an environment where reporting is taken seriously, and support is guaranteed.


6. The 'Second Shift'

  • Problem: The burden of unpaid domestic labour and childcare disproportionately falls on women, affecting their career progression and well-being.

  • Solution: Encourage flexible work arrangements and promote a culture where men feel empowered to embrace equal sharing of childcare responsibilities. Consider offering on-site childcare or partnering with local providers for backup childcare support.


7. Lack of Representation in Leadership

  • Problem: Women remain underrepresented in senior leadership roles across industries.

  • Solution: Set clear diversity and inclusion targets for executive positions. Actively identify and cultivate female talent through development programs and succession planning.


8. The 'Broken Rung'

  • Problem: Women face more significant obstacles in securing that first managerial promotion than men, leading to a deficit of women in the talent pipeline for higher positions.

  • Solution: Scrutinise promotion processes for gender biases. Provide targeted leadership training and opportunities to women in early-career stages.


9. Microaggressions

  • Problem: Seemingly minor slights and discriminatory comments erode women's confidence and sense of belonging in the workplace.

  • Solution: Implement training on microaggressions. Create a culture of respectful communication where everyone feels empowered to call out such behaviour.


10. Intersectionality

  • Problem: Women of colour, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities face compounded barriers due to intersecting layers of discrimination.

  • Solution: Recognise intersectionality in diversity and inclusion initiatives. Ensure training addresses the unique experiences of marginalised groups and actively creates a safe and supportive environment for all women.


Towards a Truly Inclusive Workplace

International Women's Day calls us to work for change. By implementing these solutions, organisations can transcend awareness and cultivate workplaces where inclusivity, equity, and support become the norm. Only then can we unleash women's full potential, leading to a better workplace.


 

With over 25 years of dedicated leadership in the corporate, feminist, and LGBTQ+ realms, with a profound commitment to LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, I’m thrilled to be recognised by the British Diversity Awards. I stand ready to support, consult, educate, and advise on your next diversity challenge. Your journey towards inclusivity begins with a conversation. Reach out to me at cynthiafortlage@cynthiafortlage.com with any inquiries.


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