by Megan Montgomery
“Women are responsible for two-thirds of the work done worldwide, yet earn only 10 percent of the total income and own 1 percent of the property. … So are we equals? Until the answer is ‘yes,’ we must never stop asking.” – Daniel Craig
The World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report says that it will take more than 200 years for us to achieve gender parity. However, there is a momentum that is starting to rise up in a new way. We’ve all heard the stories of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, but it’s going to take more than that to drive real change. It will take both women and men working together to drive true gender parity and an environment that is equitable for all.
For years, I was a bit afraid of the term feminist. I have been actively involved in the fight for gender equity for almost 8 years now but only allowed myself to be called a feminist in more recent years. As a Christian, pro-life female, who supports both men and women succeeding in the workplace, I wasn’t sure the term applied to me. However, dictionary.com defines feminism as “advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men,” which I do fully believe in. It turns out I am not the only one who had some confusion as feminism was the #1 looked up term in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary in 2017.
International Women’s Day, taking place on March 8, is a day to celebrate women's social, economic, cultural, and political achievements, and increase the call for gender parity. This year’s theme is “Press for Progress.”
For my other Christian (and non-Christian) feminist friends out there who are looking for ways to press for progress, here are some ideas:
1. Press into God: Whenever I am faced with something that’s much bigger than me, I know that it starts with spending time with God in prayer. Personally, I can attest to the solutions that come, the confidence that comes when He strengthens me to stand up for what is right, and the peace that comes when I start by putting God first. However, many people pray and then just wait for things to happen without partnering with God, but many times God is wanting to partner with us and lets us be part of the solution for the issue that is on our heart.
2. Learn your own biases: First, I encourage everyone to take one of the Harvard Implicit Association Tests to uncover the biases (we all have them) that you may have in areas such as gender, race, age, weight, and other categories. Awareness is one of the first steps in realizing the role bias can play in your decision making.
3. Address conscious and unconscious bias: After you learn about your own biases, start addressing them in your workplace or daily life.
4. Provide diverse role models: For example, if you are putting together a panel of speakers for a conference, meeting, or church event, if your speakers are all the same gender, same race, same background, etc., I would challenge you to think a little deeper or broaden your network to get a diversity of experiences on the panel. There are qualified people of all different backgrounds for many topics. Inviting them to participate in the event leads to richer conversations.
5. Create an “equal opportunity” environment: There are definitely gender disparities, but also a lot of racial inequalities and other areas of inequality. Be one who works to create an environment where all can succeed.
6. Involve men in your efforts: I am grateful to the many men who have helped support some of the work I have done for gender equality and who really “get it,’ realizing that we are not trying to replace them, but looking to partner together. Many studies show that companies with more gender equality on their boards and in their leadership are more successful. Working together will help everyone. While I have encountered some men who mocked my gender equality efforts, the majority of men have been extremely supportive and willing to help. For the ones who are unsure, give them guidance on how best to help.
7. Take risks: Women are more hesitant to post for promotions and take on challenging assignments. One of my mantras at work is that when someone asks you can you do something, that’s not the same as asking if you have done it before. If it’s something that’s in my heart to do, I say yes and then figure out how to do it!
These are just a few suggestions but not an exhaustive list by any means. I encourage you to come up with your own #pressforprogress ideas and share them using the hashtags #pressforprogress and #witandgracemag. Looking forward to hearing from you!