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Meghan Shipp

International Women’s Day 2019: A Day for Celebration, Education, and Action

International Women’s Day (IWD) serves to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of women. On this day, we also acknowledge the inequities and challenges we must overcome if we want to live in a world where women are given the same amount of respect and opportunity as men.

This year’s IWD theme is #BalanceForBetter. To me, this is a call to action – it forces people to ask, how much better would the world be if there were more balance amongst genders?

For starters, it would impact almost every element of society. Let’s examine a few aspects below.

Part 1: The State of the World

Wage Gap: The ratio of women’s and men’s median annual earnings was 80.5% in 2017 in the United States. Broken down by race, the implications are far more telling.[1]

Racial/Ethnic Background

Female Earnings as a % of White Male Earnings

All Races/Ethnicities for Females

80.5%

White

77.0%

Black

60.8%

Asian

85.1%

Hispanic or Latina

53.0%


Economic:
Of the CEOs who make up the 2018 Fortune 500 list, only 24 are women (4.8%). That statistic is down 25% from last year’s record-breaking number of 32 female CEOs.[2] In the S&P 1500, women make up 4.1% of CEOs – for comparison, men named John make up 5.3%, and men named David make up 4.5%.[3] Female founded companies only received 2.2% of all venture capital funding in 2018.[4]

Political: As of 2018, 110 women hold seats in the United States Congress (23 out of 100 in the Senate, and 87 out of 535 in the House of Representatives). Globally, only 24% of all national parliamentarians are women. Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians with 61% of seats in the lower house.[5]

Societal: The United States is the only high-income country that does not mandate paid maternity leave, despite this practice being associated with better job performance and retention among mothers, increased family incomes, and increased economic growth.[6]

Part 2: Motivation to Do More & Do Better

How we treat gender inequities can be frustrating – despite this unsustainable reality, progress is drudgingly slow. Something that helps me stay motivated is thinking about what the world would look like if we brought gender equality to the forefront of our priorities. Statistically speaking, how much better off would we be? Here are a few areas where we would see significant improvement:

  • Reducing female attrition by one-quarter would add 220,000 people to the highly qualified science, engineering, and technology labor pool.[7]
  • Profitable firms with no women in corporate leadership versus firms with 30% women in their C-Suite have seen a one-percentage increase in net margin – this translates to a 15% increase in profitability.[8]
  • The United States would add $2.1 trillion to the GDP by matching the rate of progress of the best-in-class state toward gender at work.[9]
  • Education plays a critical role in reducing high fertility rates, lowering infant, child, and maternal mortality, and increasing labor force participation rates and earnings – exclusion in education slows the productive potential of an economy and its overall development.[10]
  • When women are engaged in public life and politics, the scope of issues they advocate and prioritize investments for have broader social implications concerning family life, health, and education – their involvement increases credibility in institutions and produces far more democratic outcomes.[11]

Part 3: Do Your Part

Absorbing these statistics and constantly educating yourself is one thing – but actually acting on them is another challenge entirely. While positive progress towards gender equality on an institutional level is necessary, you can still act from an individual standpoint to foster a more equitable work environment. Below are five ideas to self-reflect on:

  1. Over time, 52% of highly qualified women working in SET will quit – hostile work environments and isolation at work being two of the largest factors. If you notice there are no women, or just one, in the room, invite more in to be heard. Set the tone and create a space where women feel welcome to share their ideas.
  2. It is a massive loss for companies if talented women are forced to choose between their family and work. Support initiatives like paid maternity and paternity leave, flexible work schedules, and onsite childcare.
  3. Create both formal and informal mentorship and sponsorship programs. Know the difference – a mentor advises you, but a sponsor is a senior level employee who advocates for you. Read more about the programs that companies like NetSuite and PayPal are implementing here.
  4. Look inwards at the team you manage. Do you have equal representation of all genders, races, ethnicities, and ages? Advocating for diversity isn’t just the ethical thing to do – companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, and companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have higher financial returns as well. Check out the McKinsey Study, Why Diversity Matters, here.
  5. Treat every day like it’s International Women’s Day – recognize the women that keep your workplace afloat, call out discrimination and sexism instead of being a bystander, and never stop educating yourself on these issues. Caring about gender equality 1/365th of the time isn’t going to get us very far.

Part 4: How Turbonomic Does It

I am incredibly grateful to work in an environment where I know my voice is heard and my impact is tangible. I’m supported by a manager that acts as my biggest advocate and teacher, and by a team of inspiring women and men who embrace allyship. By prioritizing inclusivity and collaboration as two of our guiding principles, it acts as an accelerating factor to executing projects and paving the way for innovation.

With this kind of work environment, there’s no limit to what people can achieve here. LouLou Healey, Turbonomic’s Senior Director of Channel and Alliances Marketing and Head of Americas Field Marketing, recounts her greatest accomplishment at Turbo below:

The greatest accomplishment I’ve achieved this year is being able to balance my career with being a Mom.  I love what I do and I love being a Mom.  I am lucky and grateful to have a very understanding manager and employed with a company that is supportive of working moms.”

Unfortunately, this is not the case at many other workplaces. For women, our ascent to the top looks a lot different than men – along the journey, we’re often met with unique obstacles. Catherine Kellogg, Turbonomic’s Director of Sales Readiness, recounts one unfortunately familiar challenge:

“An obstacle I’ve faced many times has been being the only woman in a room full of men. Getting your voice heard in these situations can be complicated. Fortunately, in my experience at Turbonomic, a majority of the men I’ve worked with have been incredibly supportive of me, advocating for me, and many of them I consider to be close friends.”

As Catherine mentions, it’s imperative that the burden of fighting for gender equality not always fall on women – frankly, it’s exhausting to constantly defend your right to equal respect and opportunity. Thankfully, I work with men who aren’t afraid to step up and use their influence to enact positive change. Chris Ward, Turbonomic’s Vice President of Customer Experience, shared how he ensures that the workplace remains an inclusive and empowering environment for women:

“It’s important to start with the premise, which is supported by countless studies, that diverse teams outperform homogenous teams. Different race, gender, cultural backgrounds, and experiences all lead to different perspectives and better decision making.  I work to recruit a diverse team and make sure everyone has a voice and feel safe and confident to share their voices.”

I’m proud of the strides we’ve made towards creating a workplace where women’s ideas are valued and our ambitions are supported. In the slides below, I’ve included more of the incredible responses I received from my peers that showcase their accomplishments and offer advice.

There’s always room for growth, but there’s no other team I’d rather work with to build an even more empowering environment.


Sources:

[1] Institute for Women’s Policy Research, view here

[2] CNBC, view here

[3] NYTimes, view here

[4] Fortune, view here

[5] UN Women, view here

[6] Institute for Women’s Policy Research, view here

[7] Harvard Business Review. The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering, and Technology.

[8] Harvard Business Review. Firms with More Women in the C-Suite Are More Profitable.

[9] McKinsey and Company. The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in the United States.

[10] World Economic Forum. The Case For Gender Equality.

[11] World Economic Forum. The Case for Gender Equality.