I am a big believer in empowering and championing women. International Women’s Day is a fantastic example of one day, where we celebrate the achievements of women, whether we know them or we don’t. On this day, we are quick to recognise the incredible women in our lives, that have an impact on us personally and professionally.
But this is just one day. I want to see this all the time. But we also need to move past championing and empowering, and we need to take action to better the balance of women in various industries, not just technology.
To focus on the tech industry for now, here are five things that you and your organisation can do to level out the playing field. Put the action and money where your mouth is. Don’t just talk the talk, but lead by example.
1) The 50:50 Panel Pledge
If you’re a man in any industry (or woman - this is for everyone), build the list of experts that you know within your field, and actively look to have a list of experts that are of the other gender. When you’re asked to speak at an event, whether that is to keynote or to be on a panel, only accept taking part if it will be balanced. If an organiser comes unstuck because of your (really not very difficult) demand, hand them a list of people they can turn to.
Women need allies, and men who are willing to push women forward are those allies. You’re not just making a statement to event organisers everywhere, but you’re also leading by example for other men. Women can do this too - we should also be helping to better balance panels. But not just with regards to gender!
2) Addressing the Pay Gap
Simple. If you are a decision maker, make the decision to remove the pay gap in your company if there is one. I know, I know, it’s not as easy as just paying us more money - you need to find that money from elsewhere. But find a way and make it happen. If you’re a startup, it’s simple. Make this a policy for your business - put it on your website. Own it in your recruitment process. It will attract more people towards you, as you stand for something that a lot of large companies are still ‘hoping’ to address.
3) Flexible Working and Paternity Leave
One of the biggest reasons that women can fall behind in their careers comes down to the fact that if we choose to have children, we will undoubtedly have to take time off to focus on them. Whether that’s for maternity leave or even going part-time. It is hard to do it all, so make it easier to help keep and retain talented women within your company by enabling flexible working.
Equally, for the men in your team. Offer a paternity leave scheme that matches a maternity one. If we can remove the stigma that men should keep working and can’t take 3-6 months off to also be with their child and family, we’re leaning further into gender stereotypes that don’t help men or women.
Who wouldn’t want to take six months off and spend it with their newborn?! It doesn’t just need to be the mum folks!
4) Reverse Mentoring
Want to improve your workplace culture? Would you love to not only attract women to your company but also retain them? You know who the best person to ask would be? A woman on your team. Or associated with your business. Reverse mentoring, where men in leadership positions, are mentored by women (junior or higher) from their company, is a great way of better understanding what cultural and organisational changes need to take place for your business to improve. If you want to know what women want, talk to a woman.
5) Roll out your role models
Everybody has a responsibility to be a role model. I would love to see more women putting themselves forward to support girls and other women, whether it's getting involved in Code Club or Founders4Schools as a volunteer, or on stage for any of the incredible female-led meetups like GeekGirl Meetup UK, DevelopHer, Women of Wearables or Blooming Founders. It’s not only important for other women but for men to see these women too.
There is a growing list of initiatives out there, and everyone can be a role model to someone else. If you can see someone like you with a role in technology, it becomes easier to imagine yourself in that role.
The best champion for more women in your team are the women in your team. Push for them to get out there and get involved, AND make it easier for them to do so. Give them training on how to speak. Allow a set number of hours in the month or year for them to be a volunteer. Open up the doors of your company for young girls and boys to come and visit. Don’t just make them visible in reality, but echo this visibility in your content, your social media and provide as much support and endorsement from the team as you can.
These are just a handful of the ways that you can take action today. Make International Women’s Day not just a day of celebration and awareness, but the day you, your company and your colleagues take action to champion and celebrate women every day.
BY CATHY WHITE, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF CEW COMMUNICATIONS.