As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I am mindful in many ways of what this day represents – celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
This year’s theme, #BalanceforBetter, raises the bar and calls for personal engagement in building a gender-balanced world from the shop floor to the boardroom
The benefits of a gender equality aren’t just economic. They are far-reaching across social and geographic boundaries— and guide many of us when we face crossroads in our lives and careers. A commitment to better balance increases our chances of successfully addressing mega-challenges facing our organizations and society from improving the environment and increased sustainability to healthy living in smarter cities.
Now more than ever, our words and actions have the power to make a difference by collaborating to balance our working world for everyone. We all win.
The Time for Change Is Now
The need for a more inclusive workforce brings amazing opportunities for those inspired to blaze their own trail. Women are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields in the United States, making up only 24% of those employed in STEM occupations. While women are making gains in some STEM fields, the pipeline of female graduates in computer science and engineering has been dropping, At the same time, the rate at which women leave high-tech jobs is more than twice as high than it is for men.
The future of work creates is a huge opportunity for today's generation of girls who are preparing to enter a workforce that is being transformed by AI and automation. Couple that with a recent study which reports that gender diversity is correlated with both profitability and a competitive advantage through resiliency, validating that better inclusion strategies result in stronger and more competitive organizations.
What does all this mean? It means that increasing opportunities for women isn’t a zero-sum game: Everyone wins when women are better represented.
Having been a part of big, technology-driven change management efforts in multiple industries, particularly around the digital customer experience, it’s clear that digital transformation requires inspirational leadership. Having a coach or a personal board of directors in your corner can help you engage your people and lead through change. In turn, this fuels creative thinking and innovation, which often starts by examining how our everyday experiences create opportunity.
How do we spark girls’ interest in STEM? And, as those girls become women, how do we encourage them to seek out these careers in greater numbers?
One of the most important ways to boost women’s participation in any field is by helping to serve as a mentor. Last November, I blogged about my gratitude for the mentors and role models who have helped me and many other women advance in our careers. These women carved out a secure place in those fields both for themselves and for the women who follow them by giving encouragement or a helping hand.
Female mentors can make a huge difference, in part simply by their presence. Just knowing of the existence of women in important leadership roles is a potent reminder that success is not only possible, but highly probable. Mentors can help break down barriers, stereotypes and gender biases that unfortunately still permeate the working world.
How do you know if you harbor unconscious gender bias? Unconscious gender biases can affect our business judgment and hiring decision, even if we are unaware of them. Asking yourself the question and taking the gender bias test to uncover and understand these hidden biases is your first step. Knowledge is power.
A Model for Better Balance
Organizations can also help increase the number of women pursuing careers in technical fields. For example, the American Association of University Women hosts a STEM camp for girls called Tech Trek and provides other educational opportunities. As the mother of a teenage daughter, I’ve seen firsthand how organizations like Anita B and Girl Up emphasize the importance of grooming young women to be changemakers.
The need and the opportunity is global. The United Nations theme for International Women’s Day is: Think equal, build smart, innovate for change. Included in its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are goals specific to achieving gender equality and a more sustainable future for all. At Hitachi, social innovation is a part of everything we do. We recognize that working together on a global scale for a better tomorrow can and will result in a better future for everyone.
We are all change agents, and the opportunity to have a positive impact is in front of us. Yes, balance is better. Increasing the number of women in leadership roles isn’t a zero-sum game. Greater opportunities for women benefit us all.