Building a gender-balanced world is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day.
Achieving gender balance will not just benefit women, but society as a whole. Studies have found that more gender-equal societies tend to be more peaceful. Furthermore, realizing the economic potential of women is the most fool-proof way for countries to boost their economies.
From a business perspective, study after study has shown that promoting gender equality in the workplace increases productivity: companies with more women in management benefit from more diverse views on how to overcome challenges or connect with customers. Moreover, increased gender diversity has been correlated with higher workplace satisfaction and a more cooperative work culture.
Overcoming internal obstacles
Cultural stereotypes and gender misperceptions often keep women from pursuing their ambitions. Meanwhile, women can be unaware of the fact that this pesky inner voice telling them that they are not good enough or that they are failing as mothers is just repeating cultural falsehoods. In Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis, founder of the lifestyle website TheChicSite.com, offers a series of strategies for women to become the author of their own life story.
Women need role models. In her autobiography, Beyond the Label: Women, Leadership, and Success on Our Own Terms, Maureen Chiquet, former CEO of Chanel, Inc., sets an example for women who want to make it to the top. Reflecting on her career, she advises women to always be themselves:
“I realized that, as a woman, you could be completely feminine and yet completely in charge.”
Helping women succeed
Businesses can do a lot to make their workplace more conducive to women. In Women, Minorities, & Other Extraordinary People: The New Path for Workforce Diversity, psychologist and diversity consultant Barbara Adams offers strategies for making workplaces more equitable – not just on paper, but in practice. Achieving diversity, Adams stresses, is not enough. Rather, businesses need to strive for inclusion by integrating all types of people into the company culture and valuing their differences.
Achieving global gender equality is a long-term project. The World Economic Forum projects that it will take 170 years for the world to get there. Let’s start today.