This year on International Women’s Day, the call was clear. If we want to continue making progress towards an equal world, we need to keep standing up and making our voices heard. We need to challenge the status quo and not get complacent. We all need to #ChooseTo Challenge.
International Women’s Day has been recognised and celebrated for over 100 years now. Huge strides have been made in that time to close the gender gap. However, it is still disheartening that many of the issues raised in the early years are the same issues that still need work now.
We’ve been reflecting on some of the conversations that came up on International Women’s Day, and in this article, we’re exploring some of the areas that still need improvement and challenging.
Pay remains an area where women are significantly below men. Women of colour are even further behind. Yes, we have made huge strides towards paying women based on the work they do, but there remains a 31.4% average global gender pay gap.
Fully closing the pay gap is a complicated issue. There are so many factors that contribute to lower lifetime earnings for women. However, the first step needs to be paying women the same amount as men in the same positions.
“I #ChooseToChallenge all employers to pay equal, and all women to ask for higher pay or a pay rise.”
This incredible challenge highlights that there are two factors here. Firstly employers need to step up and pay their employees fairly. But, women also need to make a change. Women are less likely to ask for a pay rise or negotiate for their pay. This is a factor in the discrepancy. If you don’t challenge it, many companies will pay you less.
So if you haven’t asked for a pay rise in a long time, perhaps that is a place for you to start your challenge.
Supporting And Empowering Women
Women have long been underrepresented in senior positions. At present, on a global scale, 36% of senior private sector managers and public sector officials are women. This number represents a significant improvement over the last year. However, most of that improvement comes from a small number of countries taking significant steps, while others have made no progress at all.
One of the barriers to advancement is that most childcare and family caring responsibilities still fall on women. This means that to support women to advance, we need to allow them to be more flexible. This means creating work environments where there is no need to hide their familial duties. Instead, they are trusted to get done what needs to be.
“I #ChooseToChallenge by pushing for an increasingly flexible work environment where women feel safer and bolder”
Another feature of many workplaces is that the lack of women in senior positions can create a competitive atmosphere. If women feel like they’re always competing against each other, it can be hard to be supportive. Emma Whittle, Partner Horton International UK, answers this with:
“I will #ChooseToChallenge by celebrating other women’s success.”
Dealing With Stereotypes
One of the biggest obstacles to women in a male-dominated environment is dealing with the stereotypes and biases that exist. Often these are born out of ignorance, but that doesn’t stop them from being harmful. Unfortunately, it seems that the only way to change these sorts of entrenched opinions is to keep showing up and doing good work.
A fundamental problem lies in the fact that many women can internalise the ideas that others hold about them based on their gender. When this happens, women can begin to limit their own choices and actions. Nina Ariluoma, Managing Partner Hoton International Finland, wants to challenge this.
“I #ChooseToChallenge women’s own biases so they have fewer boundaries when making choices.”
What #ChooseToChallege Can Look Like
“Challenge is a strong word – for me it’s more than a question. The distance between the two words isn’t far and yet it can make all the difference. A difference which can be both constructive and difficult.
#Choosetochallenge for me means:
- I’ve decided to think harder before I speak
- Check my bias and assumptions
- Clarify what I want the outcome of my challenge to be and the impact I want to have.
Women are often labelled aggressive or bossy when being challenging. Undoubtedly there are times when this is accurate. Achieving an appropriate tone, language and approach depends on what we say, how we say it and to whom. Our professional context and company culture also influence how we communicate.
- Choosing to challenge may be a higher stretch – it will create a more visible and confident place
- Choosing to challenge will reframe assumptions about our strength and our influence.
- Choosing to challenge will keep us in the conversation and ensure we are heard”
There are many voices in this conversation, and there are some who may choose to remain silent. There are understandable reasons for this but choosing not to speak up is a decision that has an impact. Dr Monika Becker, Business Unit Director & Sector Head IT – Digitalisation Horton International Germany, puts it like this:
“We are responsible for our non-actions. If we don’t raise our voice against inequality, we silently accept it. So let’s be brave and challenging.”
Why We Should All #ChooseToChallege in 2021
If we keep going at the pace we are, the gender gap will take at least 100 years to close, although some projections suggest it may be as long as 250 years. So unless we are all willing to wait another quarter millennia for things to get better, we need to keep pushing improvements and looking for new tactics and tools to achieve gender parity.
So let’s all keep moving forward and challenging each other together. That way, we can all improve the world, not only for ourselves and the people around us but also for those who will follow in our footsteps.
So, how will you #choosetochallenge?