If you work in a large organization, you might feel that actions to confront bias and improve equality need to start at the top. If you’re in a smaller organization you might wonder how you can start. As someone who works with organizations to implement change of all types, I can say with conviction that successful change is both bottom-up and top-down and everyone can have an impact.
Change doesn’t need to be large, sweeping actions to start to take hold. Whether you are a woman or male ally, there are small things that can be done so that norms start to shift. Here are a few ideas:
Speak up in meetings when a woman is being ignored or her ideas are being downplayed. Anyone can do this by saying something like, “I want to reiterate what Lisa just said about that,” or “Let’s hear what Amy thinks.”
Start or join an employee resource group. Many organizations have groups to support various segments of the workforce and they usually welcome everyone to their meetings.
Support women-owned businesses. In 2018, women owned 4 out of every 10 businesses. Find them in your community then shop in their stores, hire them as your business partners, and spread the word about their organization.
Speak up when you hear something inappropriate. I recently had a man tell a tasteless “joke” that I was the punch line for, in front of a group I was facilitating. While I definitely gave him direct feedback, I appreciate that one of the men in the room talked with him to explain it from an ally's point-of-view.
Find or be a mentor. Mentoring, whether formal or informal has huge benefits for everyone, especially for women. It helps them navigate sensitive issues in the workplace, and build visibility. The great thing about mentoring is it doesn’t cost anything more than time, and both the person being mentored and the mentor always get something from the relationship. I wrote about mentoring, coaching and sponsorship last year if you want to learn a bit more. Coach-Mentor-Sponsor
We’ve come a long way, but still have ways to go. In this month where we celebrate International Women’s Day, vow to be a catalyst for change.