“Women make up more than 2/3 of the world’s 796 million illiterate people.” Source: United Nations Women
First, let’s digest that almost 800 million, about 26%, of the world’s population over the age of 15 cannot read. This is an appalling statistic with negative ripples, as less education equals higher risk of negative life consequences including reduced employability, higher infant and child mortality, risk of violence, and poor nutrition.
It is consistently proven that when women are leaders and owners, positive results ensue. When women have the same amount of land as men, there is a 10% increase in crop yields. Growth in percentage of educated women contributes to increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
There are two reasons I advocate for policies and practices, both in government and companies, that benefit women.
- Right thing to do. All humans should be able to participate to their full potential and desire in society, which means safe and sustainable food, water, shelter, healthcare and education. Period.
- Benefits everyone. Whether growing crops, writing code, raising children or being CXOs, the ripple affect on families, communities and countries is proven. It’s notable that education and employment opportunities are needed for women to succeed.
March 8th is International Women’s Day. I’m proud that I work with women and men that support and value each other. I’m also fully aware that each of us, women and men, could and should do better. Doing better does not have to be a huge event. Following are simple, daily practices that can benefit women – and everyone.
- Support education in your community by asking schools what they need and offering to provide it. This can be anything from packs of pencils to computers. The important thing is to ask what they need, don’t assume you know.
- Support inclusive behavior in the workplace. Meetings where important conversations and decisions take place should be open to all. While cliché to mention the ubiquitous golf course or men’s room, it is important for leaders to recognize that a decision made or discussion had with only a portion of the group, is a decision and discussion that is likely only a portion complete or correct.
- Support inclusive language in the workplace. Language like “straw man” and “you guys” should be avoided, and certainly off-color jokes or gestures should never happen. Conversational topics should be ones in which everyone can participate. Leaders should check that even casual conversations can include everyone and skew to work-related topics. Ask questions to get people on the fringes involved, like “Maria, how is your project going?” or “Ann, how was the trip to Boston last week?”
- Actively listen to everyone. We’re human, so it is inevitable that we will feel more comfortable with certain co-workers. Leaders know that company success is better enabled by everyone’s individual success. It’s important that leaders at all levels strive to give equal listening time to everyone – the more input and information leaders have, the better. Don’t always ask the same person for advice or input – you aren’t paying people to be unheard.
- Intolerance for inappropriate behavior and language. Leaders need to shut down any behavior that is harmful to an inclusive, supportive workplace quickly and completely. Not only for sensible legal reasons, but for the good of the company – what a leader does or doesn’t do will dictate the behaviors of the group.
Commit yourself to a small step each day to be more inclusive – positive, thoughtful words and actions will bring positive progress.
“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” Malala Yousafzai
According to the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT), 1.1 million computing-related jobs will be open in 2024, but higher education is forecast to only produce 45% of the graduates (men or women) needed.
Meanwhile, about 30% of the women in science, engineering or technology jobs in the US and China plan to leave their jobs due to poor work experience. Source: Catalyst