On this day last year, I posted a piece on my LinkedIn page on why Merit, not Manhood should be our only guiding principle when it comes to gender pay. I recently read a Newsweek exposé on the rampant gender discrimination in the Silicon Valley and was troubled to see just how deep the roots of inequality could run. Despite the heightened level of awareness this topic has gained, as I reflect back on the past year, it’s hard to determine if the pendulum has swung in a more positive direction. Cases like Uber, set us one step back. At the same time, there are countless companies that have made great progress in ensuring pay equality. A new LinkedIn study revealed that women leaders are on the rise globally, more women are entering technology jobs, and there was a 35-percent increase in global hires being made with diversity titles. Two steps forward. While we are certainly not where we need to be as a global workforce, these are steps in a positive direction. As leaders and managers, it is our duty to be thinking how we can bring about this kind of change in our own organizations. Here are four places you can start:
- Listen to your data: Gone are the days where we can “assume” anything. As leaders, we need to be willing to ask the hard and uncomfortable questions. Look for ways to uncover data that could reveal inequities.
- Make diversity everyone’s issue: HR alone cannot be the shepherd of diversity and inclusion in an organization. While good principles and examples must start from the top, everyone should be empowered to make their workplace the kind of environment they can be proud to work in. Encourage open forums to discuss hard issues, offer a safe mechanism to report questionable behavior and regularly making diversity training a part of your learning curriculum.
- Offer inclusive parental leave: So often we hear about maternity leave as the mechanism that knocks women off their career paths. That should never be the case. At the same time, companies need to offer similar leave to partners and spouses, which will allow new mothers to more easily transition back into the workforce.
- Rethink hiring: Early in my career, I was tasked with hiring eight new people in my department. After the first four, my manager rightly pointed out that I had just hired four people just like me. It wasn’t an intentional bias – but had he never pointed it out, I wouldn’t have even noticed. Encourage anyone who interviews candidates, from receptionists to sales people, to think outside themselves and look for people who will truly bring a fresh and diverse perspective to the job.
As I have said before, it only takes one company to start a movement. And each movement starts with that first step. No matter how big or small, it gets us closer to where we need to be as a society and as a global workforce based on a foundation of equality. So today, on International Women’s Day, let’s start thinking about what steps we need to take in order to keep moving in the right direction. #beboldforchange