Embrace equity is this year’s theme for International Women’s Day (IWD).
Embracing equity is taking intentional action to create an environment where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, recognizing that people have different needs and circumstances. Embracing equity is about providing what individuals need in order to thrive.
If you're wondering what it means to embrace equity, you're not alone.
Even if some of the people I interact with have an understanding of equity at the conceptual level, what it means practically speaking is not often well understood.
Let's clear this up - check out the video and review the content here to better understand what it means to embrace equity and how you can take practical action in your organization.
Let’s just take a very simple example – a medical mask. Does one size fit all faces? Clearly not - you'd put a child sized mask on a child. If the mask doesn't fit properly, it won't be effective at keeping you safe. Different people have different needs.
Check out this video for some global examples of how to embrace equity in your organization.
Practical ways you can embrace equity:
Recognize that different people have different needs.
This is just the first step, but it is a critical one because if we deny that people have different starting points and believe everyone has an equal shot at the life they want – it denies the very real barriers individuals face –
both at the individual level but also at the systemic level.
Check out this cartoon from The New Yorker by Victor Varnado which illustrates this in the context of racism in America.
2a. Get curious about yourself:
Ask yourself, do I have what I need in order to contribute my best work?
What’s getting in the way?
Are there ways I have to work twice as hard as others?
I’ve heard things like elite school backgrounds, accents, English levels in non-native English speaking countries in multinational companies – these things can have an unnecessary weight and propel certain people ahead, while holding others back.
I'm sure you've also heard examples such as women carrying extra tasks around the office – taking notes in a meeting, organizing an outing, being expected to play a caretaker role to ensure people are cared for and taking care of themselves.
Yes to caring for one another and being thoughtful enough to notice how others are doing.
No to unconsciously assigning this role to women. Share the load - build a culture where it's encouraged for everyone to collaborate and look out for one another.
2b. Get curious about others:
What do they need in order to do their best work in their best way?
What’s getting in their way?
Are there ways they have to work twice as hard as others?
As a leader, don't fall into the trap of making assumptions about what people need. Ask them, proactively and consistently.
How do you embrace inequities? You notice them, you get curious about them, and you take action.
3. Take action.
I had a US based client once that said that their Korean team needed virtual meeting skills training. Upon further investigation, it turned out the calls the Korean team members were on were often taking place between 2-4am. The Korean team didn’t need virtual meeting skills training, they needed an equitable meeting schedule! It was about calling this out and coming together to consciously map out across time zones the most thoughtful time to meet. Share the load.
Other ways to take action in your organization:
Work to close the gender pay gap - do people in your organization who do the same job get compensated fairly?
I love this video by ANZ that shows kids doing basic jobs and then receiving different rewards based on their gender. "If you do the same work, you should get paid the same money." One girl remarked.
In reality, it is surely more complex, there are qualifications, experience, tenure, etc that impact a person's wage or salary. But gender? In the US for 2023 for example, March 14 is marked as Equal Pay Day. This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year for the same work. You can check out this calendar too for other days that explore other dimensions of diversity and their intersection.
In China, for example, research shows that the gender pay gap is worse in rural areas than urban, and that private companies are worse at this than public ones.
I see in Australia, statistics from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency that just over 50% of organizations analyze their pay data for gaps and take action to close them, with 29% reporting pay metrics.
Check out this 2021 OECD paper, Pay Transparency Tools to Close the Gender Wage Gap
where you can find 10 specific actions to take around closing the gender wage gap in your organization.
I invite you to get curious about what it looks like in your own country and in your organization. That is one way you can embrace equity.
Work to close the gender health gaps through menstrual equity
Luuna Naturals out of Hong Kong has great initiatives to make healthy products available to women in the workplace and partners with companies to do this. According to their research, 25% of women they surveyed "feel their career advancement has been hindered by missing work due to menstrual symptoms."
A few years ago, on International Women’s Day, I was invited to a factory in China. They had made strides to have more women represented on the factory floor and shared about some of the innovations that occurred. We were talking about some of the needs that women had in their factory context. They had identified one specific need for women was around menstrual periods – women on the factory floor standing for long periods of time on the first day of their period was difficult. So they looked at setting their schedules more flexibly around menstrual periods so that wouldn’t happen.
DEI – your company's diversity, equity, inclusion strategy - it’s not some far off conceptual thing – only relevant to people somewhere else.
Embracing equity is about giving people what they need to succeed. Your people. You.
So what are you going to do now?
How are you going to embrace equity?
Welcome to share the above video and this blog post with your colleagues and friends.
Please share it with those who will be organizing International Women’s Day events too!
If you need help landing your DEI strategy message in different contexts, let me know!
If you'd like support around how you can best thrive and how you can equip those around you to contribute their best, I invite you to consider coaching.
Take steps toward making our workplaces equitable and inclusive for everyone.
Together, we can bring about lasting change.