McDonald's flipped its Golden Arches to celebrate women; Spain saw its first feminist strike on International Women’s Day; Google did a Google Doodle; Uber showcased its women drivers in a video; Barbie launched its “inspiring women” series; Hyundai India, among many other companies offered special benefits for its women customers; and Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to talk about a 106-year-old woman who inspired him, and encouraged others to "write about some women who inspire you."
That’s just one day out of 365 days in a year!
A symbolic gesture! It’s like an “International Pressure Day” where organizations are almost mandated to do something for women. If you don’t do something special on Women’s Day, your image will be tarnished and you’ll be termed as sexist.
But should we not celebrate women every day? Or for that matter celebrate ordinary people (men/women) who do extraordinary things for their families, organizations, others and even themselves?
What more do women want? They already got 6 months maternity leave! A crèche facility for their kids, and even flexibility to work from home.
That’s a question most employers would be asking, well, at least in their own minds. Many men/women claim that women got more than they deserved. The list of such comments is endless. But they all signify inherent socio-economic and cultural biases.
Do you think issues get solved or challenges get resolved just by representation, telling real-life anecdotes, or my mere leaning in?
The real deal is ACTION. That’s what will bring true change!
What are organizations doing beyond mere representing women?
What are organizations doing beyond providing benefits mandated by law?
How are organizations sensitizing men and women equally to the issues other women/men face?
What about paternity leaves? What about support women need when they are trying to make a difference to their own lives?
These are the questions that we need to ask ourselves, our partners, our employers and our employees.
And here is what organizations can start doing to bring about an axiological change.
Gender diversity/inclusion is a fluid concept
Diversity cannot be a business goal. It should be a core business value. Unconscious gender biases and sexism is inherent in our socio-cultural set up and this is what organizations need to address. Being different from men doesn’t mean women become secondary. Employers and organizations need to instill awareness by talking about implicit prejudices so as to channelize strategies and policies that eliminate innate chauvinism present in men as well as women.
Show Intent & be transparent
The real intent comes from within. And the most important stakeholder in this is the company’s leadership. If a woman leader goes for a maternity leave and is seamlessly included at the workplace after she returns from her leave, it will set an example and will also show the level of adaptability of the organization. Every individual, whether at the leadership level or at the grass-root level should clearly exhibit an intent that prioritizes the need of inclusion.
Organizations should come out with metrics/reports that showcase their efforts in gender inclusion whether hiring a certain number of women by a certain year or setting targets for diversity.
Support is not only confined to policies. Support needs to be at all levels — from creating a culture that understands the daily real-life challenges faced by women, to the anticipated challenges that can come from a job — from understanding the needs of children, aging parents and extended family, work and home responsibilities, healthcare, personal happiness, fulfillment and even striking a work-life balance; the need to sensitize managers and employees to issues is the most practical way to extend support.
Moms & Dads are equal
For family-oriented employees, parental leave is the most attractive of all policies. From paid maternity leaves for women to paid paternity leaves for men including adoptive parents, the range of benefits should be equally provided to both women and men. Generate awareness about the criticality of men supporting women through the challenges they face while raising a family or returning to work. If men can take paternity leaves without the fear of facing challenges when returning to work, it will automatically make women resilient.
It’s not about celebrating women’s day or men’s day. It’s about celebrating humans, celebrating people, celebrating ‘us’.
Yes, it will start with realizing and representing and telling stories and leaning in, but this alone will not bring about change. The real change is at the grass-root level. That’s where it truly matters!