Considering some of the events of recent months both politically and socially, you can bet that International Women’s Day (today, March 8) will be celebrated both here and abroad with even more focus and interest.
On a more global scale, the IWD is promoting the hashtag #BeBold with a survey detailing how women can take action on the many issues vital to women’s growth and success. The broader issues focus on:
- challenging both bias and inequality when we see them
- championing women’s education and higher training
- fostering women’s advancement and promotion in the workplace
- raising awareness of violence and abuse, and
- celebrating women’s achievements in general.
Raising awareness for support of the many serious issues facing women around the world requires a bigger movement than most of us can provide. So what can we can do in our own workplace or communities, in our day-to-day lives, to affect real change?
Change your workplace
We might wish our workplaces offered more comprehensive women- and family-friendly policies like flextime, job sharing, telecommuting, comprehensive maternity benefits, parental leave, and quality child care options.
But instead of secretly hoping someone else will suggest them, now could be the time to speak up about the growing need to start or improve on these policies, says Serrin M. Foster, president of Feminists for Life of America.
Starting and enforcing them requires support from the top-most levels on down, Foster says. We can and should make ourselves active sponsors of ways for our companies to consider developing these policies. She suggests using the FFL’s Workplace Inventory to help you assess whether your workplace has a need for—and would support—starting them.
Then, enlist a group of managers, both at your level and higher, to research where the company stands on implementing such policies. Find out whether the company has given them some thought (but rejected them) or hasn’t seriously considered them.
Ask your HR or benefits coordinator if there’s been interest in employees taking advantage of similar policies, and what outcomes might be for the company.
Change your networking approach
If you’ve let your regular networking activities fall by the wayside, now might be the perfect time to get them up and running. Publicize the activities of networking organizations you’re familiar with, and if you’ve haven’t joined one yet, gather a group of female co-workers to join together.
If you work with younger female employees, invite them to go with you to your next networking meeting or luncheon so they can get to know others in the profession.
Make it a point to encourage other women to join organizations or become more active in ones they’ve joined if they’re not already contributing. For example, local Rotary or Toastmasters clubs are likely seeking more women members all the time—and they can be a boon to anyone’s career.
And if you see the opportunity, make yourself available to become a mentor to another female colleague. Women tend to thrive in new positions when other women have their backs and show support and interest in how their work is going.
Change where your dollars go
Before you buy, whether it be books, fitness tools, home décor or even a new house, do a little research and resolve to try to buy from companies that support women in leadership positions or as valued customers.
Actively support and spread the word on businesses that are started or are run by women. There’s a good list of them here and here. Support women-owned business in your community; even just a social-media shout-out can boost business for women with small start-ups and local goods and services.
If you’re looking for business that self-employed workers can provide, or for investment opportunities, find enterprises owned or run by women in areas such as tax and financial help, freelance writers or editors and even personal services such as beauty salons or pet-sitting. Most likely you drive by them in your neighborhood every day and are unaware there’s a local women owner behind that appealing store-front.
It no doubt takes a global village to promote the worthy causes and efforts International Women’s Day aims to shine a light on. But closer to home, we can all make small differences that, pulled together, can create an avalanche of success for women in all walks of life.