This weekend we’ll be celebrating International Women’s Day. On March 8th, to be exact.
This post is just one of many in a content celebration over at Personal Finance by Women.
Why is gender equality important?
You shouldn’t care about gender equality only because you have a mother.
Or a daughter.
Or a wife.
You should care about gender equality at a basic moral level. Because when one group of people’s freedoms are limited, no one is truly free.
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You should care about gender equality because it’s not right that someone can work just as many hours and earn less money.
It’s not right that it will be argued that those hours aren’t worked “as hard” when they’re worked by women.
It’s not right that women feel pressured to reenter the labor force before they’re physically healed from childbirth. Because we’re under some misled notion in this country that the cause of the gender pay gap is somehow maternity leave.
Women lead the small business sector in terms of growth. It’s not right that they have trouble securing funding for those small businesses. Most of the money goes to male-owned startups. Effectively stunting growth.
Actions spurred on by gender inequality are illogical.
Its impacts may be disproportionate, but not pursuing gender equality negatively impacts everyone in a society.
Don’t care just because you have a female relative.
Care because it’s wrong and detrimental to society at large.
How does gender equality help support sustainable development?
Gender equality is the UN’s fifth Sustainable Development Goal.
Why is it so important?
Well, for one thing, the world economy can and has benefited from increased gender equality. Over the past 50 years, 50% of global economic growth can be directly attributed to the increased education of girls.
When women are allowed to work and are then compensated fairly for their work, the entire economy performs better.
It is also important to note that the UN has determined the most dangerous place in the world for a woman is in her own home, and that domestic violence is a primary concern when we talk about sustainable development.
What can I do to run a gender-equal workplace?
Obviously big, institutional changes need to happen if we’re going to squash gender inequality completely, if that’s even an obtainable goal.
But there are things you can do to work towards a more gender-equal world, especially if you own a business or have some type of managerial control over your work environment.
Don’t Demonstrate or Tolerate Inappropriate Workplace Behavior
The only workplaces I’ve operated in where I have not experienced inappropriate behavior have been those dominated by women.
Whether you’re hitting on a woman, telling a gross joke, or comparing her looks to those of her coworkers, none of it is appropriate.
Don’t even get close to that line, and do not tolerate the behavior in any of your business dealings — whether it’s a client you’re assigning to the sales team or that annoying jerk at the water cooler.
If women don’t feel safe in the workplace, they’re less likely to advocate for themselves — with due cause. This can result in anything from less confidence in salary negotiations to her leaving the job altogether — perhaps even without an explanation.
Inappropriate behavior makes women feel unsafe. It doesn’t matter whether you think it ‘should’ make them feel unsafe or not. It does.
And that is more than enough reason to stop.
Flexible Work Hours
In an office environment, you could operate your business so it’s open longer, but employees have more flexible options.
For example, you may be open 7a to 6p. You could then require employees to pick any 8 hours to come in and work. As long as they’re attending necessary meetings and getting their work done, it shouldn’t matter if they need to run home for an hour to get their kids off the bus or drive someone to soccer practice.
This and other larger, institutional measures are suggested by Chatón T. Turner, Esq. in The Feminist Financial Handbook.
Implement Parental Leave Policies
Oh, did you just assume that was mom getting the kids off the bus and driving everyone to soccer practice?
We assume women are primary caretakers. We assume that is their primary role — one they are morally obligated to dedicate more time to than the paid work which feeds their families.
If we want to remove this perception, we need to encourage and recognize that men can be primary caretakers, as well.
Providing parental leave policies, and actively encouraging employees to take advantage of them is a key step.
Allow for Remote Work Opportunities
Where possible, allow for remote work opportunities. While we’re working towards a gender equal world, the burden of childcare still falls largely on women in this moment. Women who are the heads of the overwhelming majority of single-parent homes.
Allowing for remote work acknowledges the extra burden women continue to shoulder as de facto primary caretakers. It permits them to stay home when the kiddos are sick without losing their job. It allows them to add value to your company even in a situation where they’d typically face gender discrimination — and you’d typically have to go through the time and expense of finding a new hire.
And it allows men to do the same, further normalizing the care of children as a responsibility all parents must shoulder regardless of gender.
That’s not to say that remote work eliminates the need for childcare. It definitively does not.
But the flexibility it grants does make it easier to build a schedule around those childcare routines.
Publish Salary Audits
Oof. No fun.
But neither is the gender pay gap.
Or the racial/ethnocentric pay gap.
Or the pay gap gender minorities experience in the workplace.
Publishing salary audits does a few different things. First, it keeps you honest. You know you’re going to be publishing this information. Hopefully that fact encourages you to pay people equitably.
It also builds trust. Your employees are now empowered to ask for what they’re worth if they’re not getting it. If they are, it builds further respect.
I’m not a boss. How can I work towards a more gender equal world?
While the burden is on no individual woman to force the system to respect her, there are things you can do even if you’re not the one in charge of your workplace.
A lot of the changes we need to happen are cultural, and cultural opinions change one person at a time. When you find yourself in a conversation where gender discrimination is at play, challenge it when it’s safe to do so.
The other big thing you can do is vote. Research who is running in your area, where they stand on different issues, and if they support the cause of equality in potential legislation or judicial conscience.
Not just gender equality. Also racial equality. Equality for the Rainbow community. Equality for the disabled, the victims of Islamaphobia, xenophobia and all the prejudices that come up against Americans in the workplace and elsewhere in their day-to-day lives.
Because until we all have equal access to true economic freedom and justice, all the arguments about individual economic actualization are moot.