Fight Internalized Bias Against Women in the Workplace

Fight Internalized Bias Against Women in the Workplace
Change in the workplace can start with talking openly about gender parity issues

International Women’s Day (IWD), observed annually on March 8, is an opportunity for the global community to celebrate how far we’ve come for the rights of women — and to recognize how far we have to go. On IWD, we step back and take stock: Are we doing all we can to change the world for women?

IWD’s 2020 theme is #EachforEqual, which represents a powerful message. Each of us can choose to fight for gender equality, but we must start with ourselves.

It’s Time to Act

Many of us expect change to come from the top, as if bettering workplaces for women can only happen at the highest levels of leadership. We expect our CEO to announce that paid leave policies are being expanded. We expect that pay equity will be achieved as if by magic, or that executives will demand an equal presence of men and women at the highest levels of leadership without any work from us. Top-down solutions may come, but they rarely come without hard work. And women can’t afford to wait for those at the top to get with the program.

Acting on the things we can change creates the ripples that bring the flood. We can sometimes feel as if we lack the power to make changes ourselves, but that simply isn’t true. Individual bravery and boldness of action are what push us toward a world where #EachforEqual isn’t a rallying cry, but a fact that’s taken for granted.

Calling attention to someone who ignores or downplays their female co-workers in meetings is powerful – and anyone can do it.

Doing Your Bit

Think about how you can bring change within your role at your organization. Do you work in human resources? Push for equitable hiring practices that strip the potential for employee bias out of the hiring process. Is your role in purchasing? Patronize woman-owned businesses to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs. Members of leadership may be able to enact more sweeping policies, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the team can’t make change.

Change can start with something as small and radical as talking openly about pay equity and workplace bias. Men who speak openly about how they balance work and family are taking action – work-life balance should be, but often isn’t, seen as a gender-neutral issue. Calling attention to someone who ignores or downplays their female co-workers in meetings is powerful – and anyone can do it. Don’t let yourself imagine that change only trickles down from the top. Change starts with you.

How to Take Action

This year, in honor of International Women’s Day, NEW has launched its own campaign for action.

Maybe you’ll support that woman-owned business or join a diversity employee resource group. NEW has laid out 15 ways you can support women and #EachforEqual, all based on our proprietary learning programs. Take a look at our action listand spread the word on social media when you take a positive step for gender equity in your workplace.

Honor International Women’s Day beyond March 8 by taking action in your day-to-day life to champion #EachForEqual. 

About the Author

Sarah Alter

Sarah Alter is president and CEO of the NextUp, a learning and leadership community representing more than 14,000 members representing 900-plus organizations, 21 regions, and more than 300 national and regional corporate partners.

Alter also hosts the “Advancing ALL Women” internet radio show and podcast on VoiceAmerica, with more than 20,000 global listeners. She is a regular speaker at NRF, ShopTalk, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), and EnsembleIQ events such as Top Women in Convenience, Top Women in Grocery and Top Women in Hardware. Alter was recognized by Crain’s Chicago Business as a Notable Woman Executive in 2020. She has also served on a number of non-profit boards and is an accomplished fundraiser. 

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