I’ve been reading Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road and am at the part in her life story where she’s describing the 1977 National Women’s Conference. This was a remarkable gathering in Houston, Texas which was attended by 2,000 elected delegates and 20,000 observers including men. It was a momentous event because it successfully developed a strong coalition of diverse groups of women and it was (and is) the only such group subsidized by the Federal government (the Ford administration).
Its purpose was to “draw attention to diversity, ingenuity, and determination of participants who dared to dream up concrete policy goals of ‘what women want.’” The conference successfully consolidated divergent perspectives into a platform of 26 planks that could easily be called the Women’s Bill of Rights. The sad thing is these issues are still being debating – 40 years later. What do women really want in the workplace 2.0? The same thing as 1.0 which is the same as their male counterparts: respect, opportunity, recognition, fair compensation, a voice, as well as physical and emotional well-being. If women want the same as men, why is it so difficult for organizations to create work environments that gives them what they want? The dirty little secret is no financial investment is needed only a change in mindset. When this shift happens, everyone prospers. Here are seven easy steps we, individually, can take towards successfully achieving and sustaining a change in mindset. #1: Disrupt the status quo It requires courage to acknowledge a gender imbalance. It takes wisdom to understand the positive impact diversity and inclusion has on innovation and the success of a company. On the surface, this is a no-brainer. In reality, many companies still have a culture in which there is an imbalance of “power” and privilege. You can easily disrupted the status quo by simply recognizing that a gender imbalance does exist in your group or team, respectfully calling people’s attention to the disparity, and making a conscious effort to close the gap. If the influential leaders in your company have any doubt about the positive revenue impact of diversity and inclusion, refer them to the CEO Pledge taken by 175 of the Fortune 500 companies. #2: Respect Respect is simple: “proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment”. Think “golden rule”. Simple expressions of respect in the workplace include: listening attentively (regardless of gender) allowing women complete their sentences acknowledging women’s contribution including women in a conversation recognizing their accomplishments. If nothing else, ask yourself how would you want your wife, daughter, sister, aunt, or girlfriend treated. #3: Opportunity Women, for the most part, don’t expect or even want preferential treatment. We just want an equal voice and opportunities. For example, if you’re in a leadership position, be mindful of equally distributing stretch assignments or special projects. In meetings, be sure, as the leader or team mate, to solicit ideas, comments, and/or suggestions from everyone at the table. When considering promotions, evaluate women based on their accomplishments and contribution to the success of the team. Use women’s performance as the basis for advancement vs. face time in the office or their communication abilities. Again, think about how do you want to be evaluated? …To Be Continued in the Part 2. In the meantime, here’s my challenge to you: begin to observe how you and others contribute OR detract from creating an environment in which women want to work. You may be a maven in the above. That’s great…inspire others to do the same! Conversely, there may be some areas in which you can improve. Jot them down, make a concerted effort to grow beyond these limitations, and notice what happens. Be sure to share your thoughts, ideas, successes and challenges you’ve encountered along the way to changing your mindset. Everyone will gain from your experiences.