Each year, we dedicate the month of March to celebrating women’s contributions to society and culture. While women have broken many ceilings over time, these gains have not been equal for all women. Take the suffrage movement for example: the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution allowed white women to vote in 1920, but it took another 45 years before black women could vote. A huge gap remains not only between women and men, but also between women of color and their white counterparts.
In a recent gender study in the workplace commissioned by HP, 45% of women of color in the United States expressed a desire to be promoted this year, compared to 26% of white women. However, only 31% of women of color received these promotions, compared to 44% of white women. Data like this suggests that there are barriers for women of color to move into leadership positions.
The ability to remove barriers begins with a vital mindset shift. A shift from simply taking charge of day-to-day work to doing it while embracing the value of diversity. In many ways, we are still in the early stages of this transformational journey. In the workplace, talking about systemic racism and inequality was once the purple elephant in the room, but the brutal murder of George Floyd has opened people’s doors to the injustices people of color face. Now, let’s turn this moment into a movement where we keep intersectionality in mind in everything we do. It’s not just the right thing to do – there’s also a business case for it.
According to a McKinsey Report 2020. Companies that ranked highest in cultural and ethnic diversity had 36% higher profitability than companies that lacked cultural diversity.
That’s why, as we strive to achieve 50/50 gender equality in HP leadership by 2030, we measure and monitor not only gender representation, but also intersectionality data. in heterogeneous markets to ensure women of color have a place at the table. Diverse representation inspires us to create innovations for all demographics, which, in turn, helps us reach more customers. And when this mindset is integrated into the way we work every day, we unlock lasting and meaningful impact for our business and our society.
It is equally important to establish a relationship of mutual trust with women of color. It means getting to know them holistically, or beyond their identity as a worker, to a deeper insight into who they are. The overnight shift to working from home as a result of the pandemic allows us to get to know our colleagues and their families better, and we can be more compassionate and vulnerable towards each other. Building empathy and a strong personal connection must be a priority no matter how we work moving forward. By bringing the humanity of women of color to the fore, white women can build a foundation of trust with them.
To build trust, white women also need to actively listen to women and not be afraid to change when needed to create a more inclusive workplace. He doesn’t expect women of color to act or think like the dominant group. The goal is not to work the same way, but rather to win together in a space where we recognize and celebrate our differences.
We also encourage white women to sponsor all women, not just those who look like them. Sponsorship takes many shapes and forms. You call it address bias and be honest when you see acts of microaggression inflicted on women who are “Double Onlys”, a term invented by Lean In to illustrate women who have intersectional identities and who are more likely to experience microaggressions than others. You can tap women of color on the shoulder when you see opportunities that help them grow. You can keep an eye out for ways to elevate their expertise within the team. You can advocate for them to leaders and other stakeholders and encourage them to strive for leadership positions. Taking these steps will also help you gain the trust of women of color. Much like the number of men who have been allied with white women, white women should extend their influence to women of all walks of life.
For black women, it is ingrained in our culture to respect and honor the shoulders of those who have gone before us while continuing to uplift others. The stories of Harriet Tubman and Fannie Barrier Williams and the community-centered actions demonstrated by our grandmothers, mothers and aunts have inspired us to bring others in. As we wrap up Women’s History Month and reflect on our accomplishments, it’s important not to get too comfortable. Women are progressing in all directions, but until these gains impact the women for whom things are still most unequal, we will never fully realize the benefits of true gender equity.
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