Struggling to get excited about International Women’s Day 2022?
You’re not alone. Dorothy Dalton shares why she is underwhelmed by International Women’s Day 2022 despite her favourite hashtag #BreakTheBias
The IWD hashtag this year is #BreakTheBias which has been my mission as you know for a number of years. I should be over the moon.. right? Because as Ms. #BreakTheBias this campaign has my name written all over it. But despite receiving the cheerleader memo from just about everywhere, if I am absolutely honest , this year I am struggling to get excited about International Women’s Day 2022.
I would say I am pretty underwhelmed, even a little concerned.
Before you start on me, the reason I can’t get excited about International Women’s Day 2022, is not that I don’t think we should be celebrating women. Of course I do. But we were women on March 7th and all the days before then. We were women during the pandemic. We will be women on March 9th and every subsequent day after that.
Do you think the women who set this up over a century ago believed that we would be further forward than we are now?
But then I tend to be at times blinded by optimism. I honestly thought the equal opportunity legislation of the 1970s and 1980s would have been job done. I was wrong. I also thought if I Mari Condo’d my drawers the pandemic would be over in a month, so I clearly can’t find my way around a crystal ball.
The World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report 2021 shares that things are NOT getting better. They are in fact regressing. They say:
“As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt, closing the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years.”
Regional figures vary. The amount of time it will take to close the gender gap is 52.1 years in Western Europe, 61.5 years in North America, and 68.9 years in Latin America and the Caribbean. So although I will for sure be pushing up the daisies by then, and even possibly my daughter, my granddaughters may just about catch a part of it to benefit.
Now, this is not intended to sound like rain on the global IWD parade, but let that sink in. We have lost ground. So, I think we have to choose wisely what we celebrate and reframe the gushing white noise and the crossed arm selfies.
Where we are
The W.E.F measure the global gender gap in a number of key areas:
- Political empowerment: This gender gap remains the largest of the four gaps tracked. At the current rate of progress, the World Economic Forum estimates that it will take 145.5 years to attain gender parity in politics. Globally women politicians experience huge levels of abuse and harassment.
- Economic Participation and Opportunity: The reports states that slow progress in this area is the result of two opposing trends. The proportion of women among skilled professionals continues to increase, as does progress towards wage equality, albeit at a slower pace. The other one is the lack of women in leadership positions, with women representing just 27% of all manager positions.
Data from LinkedIn shows a marked decline of women’s hiring into leadership roles, creating a reversal of 1 to 2 years of progress across multiple industries. Not only that The 2022 Employee Experience Trends from Qualtrics, confirms that most people, but especially women, are looking for flexibility, remote work, recognition, and autonomy. They predict, “There will be an exodus of leaders – and women will be the first out the door”
This is without factoring in pandemic data when the gap may be wider than reported.
- Educational Attainment: This piece of this equation progress is much better and the gap has been almost closed.
- Health and Survival: 96% of this gender gap has been closed, although with a slight decline due to COVID-19, and the time to close this gap remains undefined.
Gender positive recovery
Women have been hit harder than men by job losses around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the International Labour Organization. They also anticipate that it will be men’s employment that is likely to return to pre-pandemic levels. Women experienced severe job loss and therefore loss of income but they also assumed the lion’s share of household chores and childcare which doubled during the pandemic.
The WEF report suggests that “Through the combined effect of accelerated automation, the growing “double shift”, and other labour market dynamics such as occupational segregation, the pandemic is likely to have a scarring effect on future economic opportunities for women, risking inferior reemployment prospects and a persistent drop in income.”
Now we see the prospect of the impact that the war in Ukraine on the global economy. Economic recovery means we need gender-positive recovery. This requires a huge mindset shift around both the roles of men and women in our societies as well as complete organisational transformations. We can’t let the position of women in our organisations be impacted every time there is an international crisis.
What needs to happen
The balance has to be redressed. This involves:
- Closing the gender pay gap by addressing pay and promotion inequities. Women don’t earn less, they are paid less and in many cases knowingly, despite women dominating the HR function.
- Offering flexible work while the COVID 19 is still amongst us which will require investment in the care sector. Many organisations are backtracking on this.
- Seeking out under-represented groups to diversify our workforces, by managing the bias in our hiring processes. There isn’t a pipeline problem this is a resistance to change problem. This is the hole piece of the donut I wrote about.
- Having clearly stated policies against sexism and sexual harassment. Workplace harassment actually increased during the pandemic.
- Offering re-skilling opportunities to make career pivots, plus “returnships” to allow women to return to their rightful place in the workforce.
- Providing wellness programmes – not just a gym membership or green smoothie vouchers, but psychological support for women who exhibit higher levels of stress and anxiety because of the pandemic.
- Managing remote and hybrid teams more inclusively. It’s more important than ever to understand what is going on for your remote teams. I have worked with hundreds of women managers and they say that although they try to support their teams they do not feel they receive the same level of support from their organisation’s leaders. That needs to change.
- Calling on men to be allies and stage bystander interventions as required, which is frequently. Sexual harassment and violence is rife.
- Women having difficult conversations in their own relationships. The additional responsibilities did not “fall” on them. They accepted and assumed them. If you are not a single parent that is something to reflect on. This is one area where women can #BreakTheBias and renegotiate at home.
So even though I can’t get excited about International Women’s Day 2022 as I should, we can still celebrate. To quote Barry Manilow ” Looks like we made it!” I am not a complete party pooper. Women definitely got lemons during the pandemic, but we can still use the rind for a martini when we raise a glass. We need something stronger than a lemonade.
But we also need to be careful of doing the equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns.
We are here and many are not sadly. Those of us who survived can commit to coming back stronger and more insistent and persistent than ever to make International Women’s Day 2023 a day to get really excited about. There are so many women who work hard to push the needle, too many to mention, but you know who you are.
#BreakTheBias is powered by representation and the impact sheer numbers have on stereotypes and biased beliefs can’t be under estimated. As the #RTO (return to the office) discussion heats up in a semi-post pandemic environment, this is the moment to transform our workplaces. We need to #BreakTheBias and bring more women into the workplace and advance them through our organisations at speed.
More importantly, we need changes that last longer than an ice sculpture to recover lost ground and gain more! Both men and women will benefit from a gender balanced recovery. This is not only about women.
Do you need to #BreakTheBias in your recruitment and promotion processes? Get in touch NOW!