Her fight is our fight: honoring Women's Equality Day

August 26, 2019 Sarah Bloznalis

5-minute read

Women’s Equality Day commemorates the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in the United States. Since then, women have been elected into Congress, fought for equal pay, and increased reproductive rights, but the fight is far from over. Corporations on the right side of history are realizing that much more needs to be done before the fight for equality is won.

This past March at the Workhuman® Live Conference, we had the chance to speak with Addie Swartz, CEO of reacHIRE, an organization that helps women return to work, along with Workhuman’s Chief Legal Officer, Lauren Zajac, about ways to achieve equality in the workplace. Addie and Lauren have been fighting the battle for equality their entire careers. In fact, Catalyst, a company that researches women’s roles in the workplace, states that in 2018 women held under a quarter (24%) of senior roles in management.

(Click here to listen to the interview.)

As Addie revealed: “Men get promoted 21% more [than women] from individual contributor to manager.” Even if women are being hired for entry-level positions at the same rate as men, from the very beginning of their career they are being held back. This statistic works double time for women of color, according to Addie.

In a world where women make up more than half of the population, we are vastly underrepresented in senior management positions – a fact that needs to change. The first step in creating change is to listen; the next is to act.

Mind the gap

The fight for equal pay has been going on since the late 1800s. The Equal Pay Act was signed into law by John F. Kennedy in 1963, yet women are still making 77 cents to every man’s dollar. According to Addie, “jobs need to be done. Why is it gender-specific how much you get paid?” This seems like an obvious question, but for those who have never had to deal with the pay gap, they might not be aware of the significance of the issue.

There are several different techniques that can be introduced into your corporation to close the gap. One of these is promoting more women into the C-suite. By having more women in power, women are empowered and more apt to fight for gender equality. Another effective way to close the gender pay gap is through pay audits.

According to SHRM, “through a pay audit, employers can determine whether any vulnerabilities exist in their compensation structure and, more importantly, use it as a guide to address any issues.” Though it’s often seen as taboo to discuss pay in the workplace, the only way to end unequal pay is to normalize these conversations.

In order to make change, it is necessary to bring awareness to this issue by creating complete transparency between employees and their employer. This mutual trust is essential to make gender equality possible.

Mentorship

To achieve trust in the workplace, men and women at all levels need to have open communication. Both Lauren and Addie stress the importance of mentors in the workplace. “Certain folks are shocked by [the pay gap] because it hasn’t come into their experience … or they haven’t had the situation to experience some of the discrimination that sometimes women or other minorities go through on a daily basis,” says Lauren. Mentor-mentee relationships create cognizance and promote change for both men and women in the workplace.

Advocacy groups

One of the fastest-growing efforts to increase equality in the workplace is through advocacy groups. Lauren describes the Workhuman Women’s Network as her “biggest area of pride.” “I am just blown away by the amount of participation we’ve had … and we have more and more volunteers and more folks wanting to be involved … both men and women,” she said.

Advocacy groups can stretch far beyond gender – to minority groups, sexual orientation, and more. For a resource group to succeed, everyone needs to be committed. Both women and men are needed for these groups to accomplish the goal of equality. Just because the group is a “Women’s Network” does not mean men cannot be involved. It’s about getting men and the women in the group focused on one goal – bringing gender equality to the workplace.

As my summer internship ends, I feel extremely lucky to have taken part in Workhuman’s Women’s Network. It was an amazing experience to sit around a board room, with both men and women, and discuss different ways to support women’s equality in the workplace.

Social media

Open communication, awareness, acceptance, and action are the keys to promoting change in the workplace. Other tactics, such as social media, can also promote gender equality. Social media and technology can help to inspire companies everywhere to make a difference and continue the fight for equality. Examples of this include the U.S. women’s soccer team – using their FIFA World Cup success to promote change in their own workspace.

Addie has spent many years on this initiative, “developing a new virtual platform to help younger women thrive and rise, and to … marry up the initiatives that the big companies are focusing on.” Sharing stories – both adversities and victories – helps other women facing inequality realize they are not alone.

On a day as important as today, remember the fight for equality is far from over, and we need everyone’s commitment to win this battle.

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About the Author

Sarah Bloznalis

Sarah Bloznalis is a customer success intern at Workhuman from Upton, Mass. She is a rising junior at University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she is studying management and political science.

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