Achieving Gender Parity: 6 Things You Can Do Today

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This year's theme for International Women’s Day is gender parity, a fitting topic at a time when the advancement of women has slowed to the point where it could take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Although women contribute to achievement in all arenas, their contributions are devalued as evidenced by the gender wage gap which will close by 2059 if current trends continue. More interesting is the increasing recognition that gender parity is not a one-sided equation: we cannot change perceptions about women without also changing perceptions about men. So what can you do to advance gender parity in your circle of influence? Well, there is a lot, but here are 6 things to start:

Evaluate potential: When considering women for leadership positions, consider their potential, not just past performance: Research shows that men are advanced on the basis of potential even when they do not have direct experience for a given role - not the same for women.
Forget salary history: A woman’s salary may be diminished over the years due to the same biases that contribute to the wage gap. Instead of exacerbating the problem, make salary offers based on expectations of the role and other proven criteria including work sample testing which entails giving candidates a sample piece of work, similar to that which they would do in the job, and assessing their performance on it.

Mitigate gender-based expectations: We expect men to be assertive, strong and direct, and women to be less direct and softer in their approach. Be aware when judging women and men based on these stereotypes. Instead, be open to a broad range of behaviors from both genders.
Question gender roles: Women tend to have less support at home, and this can get in the way of their careers. In fact, many women feel they need to step back when having children or getting married. Be open to the idea that men are fully capable of being the primary caregivers at home – this can enable women to focus on their careers, and at the same time, the choice to work or stay at home opens up more for men. Perceptions and biases about women cannot change unless we simultaneously address stereotypes and biases about men. 

Expect negotiation: When women negotiate, people can become uncomfortable for a variety of reasons, many of them rooted in unconscious bias where we don’t really like it when women ask on their own behalf. Become conscious of how you respond to negotiation when it comes from a woman v. a man – and then do something about it.

Know your bias: Take the free, online Implicit Association Test from Harvard. This can shed light on your own unconscious biases and behaviors you may not even be aware of such as: unequal evaluations of female-male employees, expectations that women are more suited to home and men to career and many more. Once you take the test, recognize that bias is normal, but it takes courage and commitment to face our own biases and consciously begin to address them.


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