More Than Just One Day: Keeping Up The Momentum Of International Women’s Day

By Katica Roy, CEO and founder, Pipeline

Last month, people around the world celebrated the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women for International Women’s Day. While March 8 serves as a meaningful moment in time for highlighting women’s contributions, it’s critical that we carry this passion and enthusiasm into continuing gender equity progress the remaining 364 days of the year. As we assess how to keep the momentum of International Women’s Day going in our day-to-day lives, we must consider how to leverage today’s workplace trends to accelerate the future of gender equity.

Employees Trust Their Employers, But There’s Still A General Trust Gap Along Gender Lines

This year on International Women’s Day, I joined a conversation convened by global communications firm Edelman to discuss the Edelman Trust Barometer, its annual trust and credibility survey, and the gender divide in trust.

The 2019 report found that women show distrust in 15 out of 27 markets, four more markets than men, including in the U.S., Germany, Australia, Japan, France and Canada. Globally, the trust gap stands at five points. Business has the largest gender gap in trust at seven points globally and 15 points in the U.S., plus there are eight markets where the gap exceeds seven points. On the other hand, the 2019 report showed that 75 percent of individuals surveyed trust their employers to do what’s right, significantly outranking their trust in NGOs (57 percent), businesses (56 percent), government (48 percent) and the media (47 percent).

As our corporate and personal identities become more blended, employees trust and expect that their employers’ values will reflect their own. The result when there is a gap between expectations and actions? As evidenced by the Me Too movement, the Google walkout and the gender discrimination lawsuit against Nike, employees will demand their leaders shift their actions to make gender parity a reality. The takeaway for employers: It is imperative that companies take the initiative to drive equity in the workplace before it is demanded of them.  

And They Expect Leaders To Take A Stand

This year, Equal Pay Day fell on April 2, 2019. The day falls on a different calendar date each year, but it always symbolizes the extra days into the year that women must work to earn the same amount as their male counterparts earned the year prior. On average, Equal Pay Day is worse for women of color. Black women have to work until August to achieve equal pay, Native women until September and Latinas almost an entire extra year — until November.

On the issue of equal pay, some companies have demonstrated progress, while others have faced backlash (including Google, Nike and Disney). The government has even stepped in to require transparency regarding equitable pay, largely due to the glacial pace of progress. Despite increased conversations on the topic, the rate of progress has actually slowed according to the World Economic Forum’s annual gender gap report, and employees expect their leaders to take action.

Edelman’s Trust Barometer found that 76 percent of respondents believe that CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it (an 11 point rise year over year) and the No. 1 issue is equal pay. Leaders at the highest levels addressing equal pay must be cognizant that equity doesn’t start at the paycheck. Instead, executives striving to make a real impact on workplace equity should change their decisions much earlier in the talent pipeline — when deciding who has potential, who performs well and who receives promotions.

Profit And Purpose Go Hand In Hand

Despite the stagnation of progress toward gender equity, there’s hope for change. The data shows that turning talk into action is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do. From Pipeline’s original research across 4,161 companies in 29 countries, for every 10 percent increase in gender equity, there is a 1 to 2 percent increase in revenue. While employees expect their leaders to stand forward on social issues, realizing the economic benefits of gender equity further catalyzes decision-makers toward this opportunity.

Equity Requires A Joint Effort

Despite the fact that women are 57 percent of all college graduates and 47 percent of the U.S. labor force, men hold approximately 68 percent of leadership positions in the Fortune 500, and 95 percent of the CEO roles.  

When it comes to the gender equity conversation, women are 50 percent, men are the other 50 percent. Creating progress in the workplace requires shifting our “zero-sum game” perceptions of gender equity and creating an open forum to discuss what gender equity means, and how we, as employees and employers, can achieve it. That means having both men and women at the table, engaged and ready to act.

International Women’s Day may have passed, but our work is far from over. In addition to policy solutions that will increase gender equality, a critical step is to lift the burden off employees and place it where it squarely belongs: on employers. Leaders from companies across industries must work to prioritize equitable workplaces for the benefit of all their employees and their financial performances. Their employees expect it.