Article | March 10, 2021

International Women's Day: #ChooseToChallenge The Status Quo

By Gina O’Reilly, COO, Nitro

Women using laptop

As women in the workplace, we have come a long way since the feminist movement of the 1960s. In fact, a recent study showed women held more than half of all management positions in 2019. However, while that number is promising to see, the undeniable impact of women in the workforce has taken a hit because of the pandemic, as many struggle to juggle full-time jobs on both the work and home fronts during these unprecedented times, and it’s taking its toll. It was reported by The National Women’s Law Center that 100% of the jobs lost in December in the U.S. were all positions held by women, which is a shocking stat in and of itself. 

That fact alone makes the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, #ChooseToChallenge, even more relevant and so very important. Companies and leaders collectively need to double down on challenging the status quo and work to create and nurture an environment in which all women — particularly those juggling the demands of a career and family — can thrive, grow, and develop. 

In the tech industry particularly, achieving this environment doesn’t come without its challenges and of course, won’t happen overnight. There are simply not enough women pursuing a career in this space, particularly in the engineering field. Making progress here must start from within. Companies need to invest in programs that promote STEM roles to women (starting in school and at universities) and ensure we have sufficient gender diversity in our talent pipelines, which might require just looking that bit harder. 

The availability of strong mentoring opportunities can be another key way to attract more women candidates -- and this responsibility shouldn’t fall solely on successful women. Diversity in business has proven to benefit everyone, and great things can happen when male leaders are also involved in, and passionate about, the growth and mentorship of female colleagues (and vice versa). If more men aren’t participating in the conversation, are we really accomplishing anything toward progressing equality?

Additionally, there should be a dedicated focus on setting female employees up for success — whether that’s creating an internal women’s group or support network, offering professional development courses, promoting events, and hosting speakers who can share advice and best practices to help guide women along their career journeys. For many women, this also means having the appropriate family leave and flexible support policies as part of their work environment. Shockingly, besides Papua New Guinea, the U.S. is the only country in the entire world that still does not offer federal maternity leave. We must do better.

Finally, if companies are to make meaningful progress with gender equality in terms of hard numbers, they should establish concrete diversity goals in their hiring pipeline and processes so that more women are part of talent acquisition efforts. Again, that might require just looking a little harder and being more thoughtful about candidate reach out, but the benefit of greater diversity is undeniable. The most successful companies are ones that reflect the world around us, and countless studies back that up. Research from ChangeBoard showed that diverse organizations work 12% harder and teams collaborate 57% more effectively. Another report by McKinsey & Company found that companies with diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.

Today, businesses of all shapes and sizes can #ChoosetoChallenge their organizations with this common goal in mind. Women are constantly having to work to break the proverbial glass ceiling and it’s our job as employers to not only make that less challenging but work on eliminating it altogether.”