Gender Equality is Not a Women’s Issue

International Women’s Day, 2017

I’ve spent my career at Golin. 33 years. And if I had the opportunity to talk to my twenty-something self at the start of her career, I would say this: Be bold. Face your challenges, head on. Find and embrace your own path. Attract and grab onto the people who are going to help you forge that path as much as you possibly can. You can’t do it all. And you can’t do it alone.

Today, on International Women’s Day, I can’t help but think about all of the women who have inspired me and who have impacted my life and career. I can’t help but think about how far we, as women, have come. And how far we still have to go to truly achieve gender equality.

It’s going to take work. But it’s important work that is vital to the success of our companies, our industry and our society.

We are a workplace of women – in an industry dominated by women – that must continue to create progressive policies and programs that build women leaders. Seventy-five percent of Golin’s employees are women, more than half of our global offices are led by women, seventy-five percent of our major accounts are run by women, and forty percent of our executive board is women. We need to use the collective power of women – and men – to prioritize this issue on more than just one day a year.

So, in the spirit of planning for the continued work that’s needed to achieve gender parity, here are five things to think about as we celebrate International Women’s Day:

  1. Gender equality is not just a women’s issue.
    Businesses can’t function, and certainly can’t thrive, without the full participation of women.  It is vital that men and women work together to create an environment that is equally supportive of women, in every context.
  2. We have to acknowledge and close the gender gap in our industry. 
    The gender pay gap is  real
    , addressable and solvable, period.  But the issue extends beyond just equity in pay. Gender parity includes equity in opportunity, in career pathing, in flexibility. We need to look at the gender gap as a whole and make sure we address all issues around differences in gender.
  3. Bias plays a big role in the advancement of women.
    Unconscious bias is an underappreciated barrier to women’s advancement.  Men–and women—can have these biases.  Expectations, stereotypes,  leadership styles and behaviors that are considered appropriate or not, all impact how women are perceived and accepted as they climb the career ladder.  We need to accept the reality of bias and defeat it.
  4.  Mentorship and sponsorship are not created equal.
    They are two very different things. Mentorship involves guidance and the sharing of experience to help another progress and grow. What we need more of is active sponsorship of talented women with potential – to
    ensure they achieve it, and to settle for nothing less.
  5. No single path is right for every woman.
    I’ve always believed that in order to achieve what you want to achieve in life, you have to recognize the life part and the work part – and you have to figure out how those two things fit together. It is important for women to find
    the right equilibrium for them. And appreciate and accept that it might be very different from the woman sitting next to them.

Sometimes, it takes an official day marked on the calendar to recognize the people who impact your life and make you better. So, I hope you’ll join me in taking a moment to honor and celebrate the women in your lives today – at work, at home, in life. It is up to all of us to create the kind of environment where equal opportunity is treasured, supported and achieved.

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