Moving the Needle on Gender Equality: Actionable Steps for Women’s History Month

by | Personal Development, Women's Empowerment

achieving gender equality

 

Did you know that it was only just back in 1974 that women were first granted the right to obtain their own mortgage, credit card or business loan, without the approval of their husbands?

 

It’s clear that we’ve come a very long way since the beginning of the women’s rights movement first started. But let’s not forget that it’s been are hard fought battle to get where we are at today.

 

And the reality is, we still haven’t gotten over the hump and achieved true gender equality yet.

 

According to a recent Pew research study, women still make jut 82 cents for every dollar that men make, and this needle hasn’t moved must in 20 years when it was 80 cents on the dollar.

 

Women are still expected to take on the majority of unpaid household work at home (not to mention non-promotable office chores, unpaid DEI initiatives, office party planning, etc.). We’ve still never had a female President.

 

And I have to wonder, why is this? What’s holding us back from achieving the tipping point on achieving true gender equality?

 

In honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to implore us all to consider the more subtle, often overlooked battleground, which is perhaps the final battleground: the realm of unconscious bias, micro-aggressions, and the perpetuation of outdated norms that, unwittingly, we may all play a part in sustaining.

 

Take for example, at the 2023 Genesis Invitational in Pacific Palisades, California, where on national television, Tiger Woods handed a tampon to fellow golfer Justin Thomas during the first round of play after Woods hit farther than Thomas on the ninth tee. 

 

After there was a public outcry, Tiger Woods said publicly that he didn’t intend any harm by what he did. It was intended to be a joke.

 

When at a BBQ that summer, this news story was recounted by a friend. And I personally heard a couple of men and women in my own friend group jumping to his defense saying that it was only “meant as a joke.”

 

Now it’s exactly these types of moments when we have two options. We can speak up and share the issues with unconscious bias and help create change in the hearts and minds of others, or we can keep quiet, or laugh along, and perpetuate the status quo.

 

You see, the fact that Tiger was joking wasn’t the issue. This issue was what the joke implied.

 

I think it’s easy to surmise that the prank implied that his friend was ‘playing like a girl‘. After all, it’s only women who menstruate.

 

So was he jokingly saying that women are weaker than men? Or that women don’t play as well as men?

 

He may have intended it as a joke, but what kind of message is that perpetuating to his own daughter, and to the greater public?

 

I know these sorts of “jokes” have been the norm in the past, but it’s exactly these types of unconscious biases and micro-aggressions that I think need to be brought to light, so that we can become more conscious of the subtle ways that we undermine women, holding them in unequal positions of potential, accomplishment and worth.

 

When we take opportunities like this to speak up on the issues with unconscious bias (which I did), whether it was done in jest or not, helps create change within our inner circles. And this can have a ripple effect on everyone else that those in our own circles influence, and so on.

 

Something I found super inspiring, is the #likeagirl campaign initiated by the Always brand of menstrual hygiene products, where the brand overtly challenged this very topic of “like a girl”.

 

I admire how this iconic brand stepped outside the status quo, challenging the generally accepted vernacular where hitting “like a girl” or running “like a girl” implied that you were doing something ‘weakly’ or ‘poorly’.

 

The Always brand literally turned the very notion on it’s head! The campaign‘s purpose was to raise the issue of sexism towards women and try to turn that phrase into something positive instead. I highly recommend checking out the campaign – linked here. Brings me to tears every time I see it!

 

Studies uncovered that a girl’s self-esteem drops two times more than a boy going through puberty, and in fact, women never regain this pre-puberty level of confidence.

 

Always worked to create positive social change through their #LikeAGirl campaign by empowering women and girls.

 

Which leads me to wrapping this up with the following thought. What we can each of us as individuals do within our own inner circles, or at work, to move needle on gender equality this Women’s History Month?

 

Here are a few ideas:

 

  • When we hear a joke, or something that seems demeaning to women, speak up and say something.
  • Don’t share content that belittles and marginalizes women.
  • Rather than judging other women, or seeing them as competition, let’s be a support system for each other. Women supporting women is what we need. 
  • Let’s challenge the unconscious social norms and behaviors we carry out just because it’s what we grew up seeing women do, and beliefs that we may carry around that a women “should” behave a certain way, or do certain things. We are in new territory here, carving out a whole new set of possibilities for women.

Maybe we can finally move the needle toward the final tipping point of achieving true gender equality if we all chip in and do our part, as individuals and in our own circles, challenging the old ways, and ‘being the change’, like Gandhi famously said.

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