Do you ‘care about gender equity’? Do you ‘care about women’? Are you invested in doing something because you have daughters or a wife?
My next question: how much time do you actually spend thinking, researching, reflecting, and acting to achieve gender equity?
Throughout my years of being a gender equity champion (and being a young woman in engineering), I have realised that not everyone eats, sleeps, and breaths gender equity (or inequity, as it currently stands in our society). However, with every organisation spruiking their gender and diversity & inclusion greatness, I think it’s about time that gender equity appears on people’s radars a little more often than once a year on International Women’s Day (funnily enough, you don’t need cupcakes to make a difference).
It might seem like a big ask, but could you set aside 1-2 hours a week to think, research, reflect and act on gender equity? What if we all did? Perhaps we would see gender parity be achieved quicker than in 170 years’ time. Buy yourself a coffee, and maybe one for your colleague, and chat about gender equity, which is not only about women, but all genders (toxic masculinity, gender unicorn, or the difference between equality and equity, anyone?). Trust me, it’s all related. The more we talk, read, reflect, and do, the bigger the difference we will have.
I say this, because this week I had the pleasure of being a facilitator for the first industry event hosted by the Swinburne Engineering Practice Academy: “Shift – creating a gender inclusive workplace”. Along with Valeria Ignatieva (CEO, WORK180) and Felicity Furey (Power of Engineering, Machinam), we facilitated a discussion with engineering and HR professionals on flexibility, merit, and inclusive environments – key issues in the retention of women in the workforce.
This event highlighted the importance and significant value of setting aside a couple of hours to explore serious issues like gender equity: people had a chance to ask those unasked questions (do we even need diversity? can we really make every job flexible? how do I just get the best person for the job?), they learnt a few new concepts (survivour bias, designing bias out of selection processes), and made some new connections that will hopefully turn into collaborations.
But, I know we all get event fatigue. And I know the reality of competing priorities while you’re at work. So, for those of you in decision making roles, I dare you to be bold. Be bold, brave, and commit to change: I propose that organisations that are serious about gender equity will actually carve out time for their employees to spend working on the issue. This is not something only CEOs should do, and it is not something that only women should worry about. Committing to change means providing a job code for people to spend on gender equity (and diversity & inclusion) projects. It means hiring the professionals to facilitate discussions so people can productively engage with the issues, learn, and voice their concerns in a safe space. It means providing continuous development opportunities to change their everyday behaviour that aren’t just unconscious bias training (whilst you, as a decision maker, provide bias-free and equitable systems and processes that shape the whole organisation). It’s when we involve everyone that we start to change culture, and see real progress.
And for all of you off to your first coffee & gender chat, before you ask the next woman you see to explain it to you, save her the emotional labour or the expectation of being a gender expert, and check out theb resources (to just name a few) first!