Sunday, March 8 marked International Women’s Day (IWD), “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women—while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality.”
The theme of this year’s IWD was #EachforEqual, which promotes “collective individualism,” encouraging people around the world to collectively make a conscious effort to ensure their actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets have an impact on broader society.
The focus of these campaigns is often on men who have traditionally dominated key fields in industry, government, education and a myriad of other spheres. Changing the attitudes of men is key to promoting gender equality. It may not be surprising to women to hear that roughly 90 percent of men hold some sort of bias against women. That’s according to the United Nations Gender Social Norms Index (GNSI). These biases, whether conscious or unconscious, impact the ability of qualified women to get access to meaningful employment and to be heard and advance their careers when they do find employment.
What may be surprising to women around the world is that it isn’t just men who harbor these biases. According to the GNSI, 90 percent of women—the same proportion as men—also hold some sort of bias against women.
The fact that men and women both hold biases against women in such high proportions might initially seem surprising. However, these numbers simply lends evidence to the fact that gender bias is largely driven by societal beliefs, norms and values, as opposed to being somehow inherently male on a biological level.
While there are certainly exceptions and societies that enforce strict segregation of men and women, by and large and especially in the developed world, women attend the same schools as men, consume the same media and work in the same companies. If men are socially conditioned to see women as inferior leaders, workers or thinkers, it may not be so surprising that women are as well.
The findings of the GNSI report reinforce the need to continuously strive towards policies and practices that emphasize gender equality. It means being constantly vigilant about messages that unintentionally reinforce outdated stereotypes and biases against women and keeping in mind the #EachforEqual theme of the 2020 International Women’s Day: “We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society.”
We believe these organizations, however well-intentioned, are languishing in a stuck state. The key is for businesses to understand that diversity and inclusion are long-term goals that require long-term efforts and cannot be solved through short-term initiatives. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Our recent white paper, Overcoming the Stuck State offers some insights into the steps that need to be taken to get unstuck. Download a free copy here.