Are We There Yet? A Look at Progress and Workplace Equity on International Women’s Day

I didn’t expect to land in a profession where I would be surrounded by so many female leaders, mentors and colleagues. My career path was originally pointed in a very different direction — one where being a girl was almost a novelty. In high school and college, I was in engineering, math and physics classes where I was one of a few, or sometimes the only female. My first two “big girl” jobs were in offices where there were exactly two women – the receptionist and me. When I shifted gears to PR where my first boss and almost all of my entry level peers were women, it was definitely a different groove.

The women who joined the very first International Women’s Day gathering in 1911 probably felt they, too, were in a different groove. It was a time when large groups of women didn’t gather often, and they were brought together for the purpose of demanding rights and equality. I think they would be thrilled to know that I have the right to vote and the right to hold public office – two things they fought for. They might be gratified to know that I had the freedom to pursue my interests. I was not discouraged to attend college or to take certain classes, I did just fine in a male-dominated office setting and I was able to support myself independently as I started a new career path – surrounded by female colleagues and leaders.

They would be distressed to hear that another of their goals – to fight discrimination in the workplace – is still a work in progress. I can personally attest to “everyday” discriminatory behaviors that happen in subtle and obvious ways. In one of the less subtle examples, I was told once that a CEO “wouldn’t appreciate my estrogen.”

As we think about creating a culture and environment where we try to raise everyone up, what can we do for ourselves and for each other?

  1. Find an advocate – someone who cares about your success, makes sure you’re heard and recognized, gives you honest feedback and keeps you focused.
  2. Be an advocate – speak others’ praises in front of colleagues and clients and help them see things in themselves that maybe they don’t.
  3. Emulate the best, learn from the worst – it’s easy to learn from the good ones, but you can also learn a lot from bad partners and bosses. Knowing what NOT to do and how NOT to make people feel are some of the valuable lessons you can carry with you.  
  4. Don’t dismiss the moments that make you say – REALLY?? – if you find yourself or see a colleague being disrespected, not acknowledged, dismissed, interrupted or on the receiving end of any discriminatory behavior, address the situation.

When it comes to embracing equity and creating a culture of inclusion, there’s always an opportunity improve. Let’s work together to make it better.  

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