• Emi Kamezaki

International Women’s Day: How Your Company Can Choose to Challenge Inequality

For over one hundred years, people around the world have come together to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women on March 8, International Women’s Day. If the past year taught us anything, it’s that challenge drives change. Inequality is all around us, but without someone to step up and challenge the norm, we remain stagnant. This International Women’s Day, we’re reflecting on how women today and throughout history have stepped up to challenge unfair practices, and how we can continue to press for progress.

The quintessential example comes from the 2020 vice presidential debate—a moment that resonated with women everywhere. Our current Vice President Kamala Harris sat across from former Vice President Mike Pence and endured what so many women experience in the workplace every day: being interrupted, brushed off and disrespected. Yet throughout the contentious debate, Harris refused to let society’s expectations of women prevent her from speaking her mind. With professionalism and composure, Harris stood her ground. “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking,” she stated.

Those words have stuck with me, and perhaps always will. In a single moment, Harris showed us what empowerment looks like and affirmed the belief that we don’t have to be silent. As CNN wrote, “She was, to borrow part of Shirley Chisholm's widely known campaign slogan, ‘unbossed’ in a country that always finds ways to punish powerful women.” Vice President Harris chose to challenge, reigniting hope for the countless women who don’t feel their voices are being heard.

We’re optimistic about the progress we’re seeing, but we still have a long way to go. That’s why at Cheer Partners, we #ChooseToChallenge gender inequality every day, but especially on International Women’s Day.

Choose to Challenge: The Opportunity Gap

Women face a distinct set of barriers in the workplace, one of the most notorious being the opportunity gap. In other words, there are arbitrary factors that influence an individual’s opportunities in life. For women, these factors—such as gender and cultural bias, unfair recruiting practices, lack of mentorship and outright discrimination—remain a significant barrier to career advancement.

McKinsey reports that last year, for every 100 men promoted to the manager level, only 85 women were promoted. This isn’t a coincidence, it’s a reflection of deep-seated societal issues and an indication that women need equal opportunity to grow and showcase their talent.

To address this gap across the board, it’s important to do a full audit of your company’s communications, recruiting protocols, training materials and other programming. Ask the women in your company what they’re experiencing and commit to providing them with the support they need to shine.

Choose to Challenge: Racial Disparities Amongst Women

Women must support other women, regardless of their ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or gender identity. We can’t claim gender equality until women of all backgrounds are uplifted. This is especially important because the opportunity gap is even larger for minority women. Research shows that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 58 Black women and 71 Latina women were promoted.

Beyond opportunities for career advancement, the employee experience is often starkly different for BIPOC women. For example, Black women are almost twice as likely to say that they can’t bring their whole selves to work and more than 1.5 times as likely to say they don’t have strong allies, compared to women overall. Additionally, the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic has been heavier on Latina and Black mothers, compared to white mothers. They’re more likely to be their family’s sole breadwinner or to have partners working outside of the home during COVID-19, which leads to burnout.

While discussions about gender equality have entered the mainstream, companies must dive deeper to examine diversity thoughtfully and holistically. Use research to uncover gaps and opportunities to bring in diverse perspectives.

Choose to Challenge: Underrepresentation in Leadership

As the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” We can’t achieve equality without female voices in leadership. Yet, women run only 7.4% of businesses on the Fortune 500 and only seven women lead Fortune 100 companies, according to 2020 data.

How do we help more talented women get their foot in the door? It’s important to support female entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses. Again, invest in training and mentorship opportunities, prioritize sponsorship, reassess your recruitment and orientation processes and ask yourself if your company’s leadership team is reflective of the employees you serve.

Beyond these three issues, there are countless other steps we need to take to further women’s equality. Concerns like pay parity, parental leave and more continue to affect women’s experiences in the workplace. International Women’s Day isn’t just a day of recognition; it’s also a day to reflect on the many disparities still experienced by women and find solutions to accelerate progress. So, join us in #ChoosingtoChallenge gender inequality.