Every March, social media reminds women they matter. And every March 8th, pictures flood LinkedIn, Twitter and ZuckBook speaking about empowerment and equality to the point that, me, an unabashed feminist, screams “Ughhh! Not again.” It feels so performative.
Now, I’m a believer in rituals. It’s nice to receive flowers on Valentine’s Day, even if it’s commercial and predictable. And it’s nice to see companies spotlight female leaders, though they should do it every single day. But what rankles me is the pink-washing. Once a year we talk about gender balance for funsies but not the real issue: good business.
As Mirahi's People/Culture Lead, you would think talking about gender is an important part of my job. Actually, no. At the moment, women make up 33% of the workforce at Mirahi. No balance here, but in speaking with my fellow female colleagues, it’s something we never think about. Why? Because we are equal citizens. We don’t notice we’re in the minority: we’re respected, valued and appreciated. The guys laugh at our jokes and ask us hard questions. They let us speak uninterrupted. As long as we contribute to our collective wellbeing, there's nothing to say. Perfect!
Mutual respect comes in small, subtle details. The guys fill and empty the dishwasher more frequently than the gals (there’s more of them). During the week, Josué waters plants and it’s mostly Maxim who makes sure food arrives. Either Margot or Sam supply the company with treats. (How many times in my long career were women expected to take over the menial chores at the office? Pick up lunch, water plants, wipe the table, buy cookies? I can’t even count).
Women were rarely able to advance because they were tasked with child-care. Here, the dads experience the same work-life pressure as the moms; sick kids are an equal opportunity scramble. And the women? We’re not limited to jobs that involve the kitchen or the reception desk. It’s how I ended up color-coding cables in the server room.
RESPECT FEEDS GROWTH
With a balanced distribution of labor, you create a sense of shared responsibility. If all members equally care about the office and its people, the foundation for a high-performing team takes hold. Be a place people want to be and the revenue will follow. The company atmosphere is directly correlated to company performance. Don't take my word for it, ask Mr. Google or Ms. ChatGPT (here's a short cut: 2018 McKinsey).
The reason supreme for being an equal office: no one has to hear any gender blah blah! It’s not even a topic. Women focus on work and devote zero head space to navigating invisible hurdles and old-fashioned expectations. In an office with equal and genuine respect, men experience zero guilt or awkwardness. No one has to pretend everything is okay. That's one less distraction to keep your eyes glued to the day's very real urgent and important to dos.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF A WORKPLACE IS EQUAL?
Whether you're thinking about a new employer, or reviewing your own, telltale signs of a harmonious business exist. When people don’t have to talk about gender in the workplace, you will see:
— Females with open body language. (Fewer instances of clenched teeth, eye rolls, or crossed arms/legs).
— Females who speak up and laugh in mixed groups
— A team free from hearing (legitimate) complaints about the gender gap
— Fewer instances of awkwardness, discomfort, or a creepy atmosphere in general (for men and women)
— A happier, productive team
— Equal participation in cleaning, tidying, running errands and maintaining a welcoming vibe
— A shared investment in the company’s performance
If you have these features in a workplace, it means you're achieving an environment where both men and women are equally valued (and it should be evident in salaries, too).
TOP TIPS FOR A BETTER BOTTOM LINE
If the only thing you have to show for International Women's Day are some forced social media posts, consider these tips to help you the whole year long:
1) You don’t need to be a leader to lead. Menfolk: if there are nurturing or cleaning tasks that you more easily associate with your mother or grandmother, don’t leave it to the ladies at work. Bring a cake, clean up the sink, listen. If you’re doing these things already… you are the change we need!
2) Don’t interrupt or talk over women during meetings. And by the way, you shouldn’t interrupt or talk over men, either.
3) Ask yourself (leader, manager, or co-worker): are we making room for other voices? Whether you're talking about women or introverts or neurodivergents or Gen X, examine every element of the employee journey from your hiring language to who is represented in company photos to who do we send to speaker conferences to who do we allow to speak at meetings? Make sure it’s not the same ‘ol dudes (or same ‘ol extraverts, for that matter) who hog the spotlight.
GENDER EQUALITY FEELS GOOD
In 2023, no one should need to sell you on the contributions or accomplishments of females. Like Michelle Yeoh, they're Everything, Everywhere All at Once—key to a winning performance. Having a gender-agnostic environment will not only prevent you from feeling like fraud on March 8th, but turbocharge your success because you free your female colleagues to focus on their jobs, eliminate guilt or confusion for guys... and create a pleasant work floor for everyone in the process. A comfortable office, you see, is not pink-washed; it's business gold. 🥳
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