Lean In, the book by Sheryl Sandberg, has become a phenomena of its own. Controversial at times, the women led initiative aims to empower women to demand equal rights to work and compensation; to think outside the box to aspire to become their own boss, the masters of their own entrepreneurial destiny. The movement has grown quickly, adding to their plight the goal of calling out discrimination practices to eliminate the social and professional roadblocks that prevent women from rising to executive positions or leadership roles, technical or otherwise.
To accomplish this goal, allies such as the NBA and its players have publicly pledge to champion women’s careers and efforts for equality and recognition. There are always women in your life that will benefit from your sponsorship and support. We become stronger as a society when we all Lean In.
Here are five ways to fuel the fire:
Challenge the gender roles and biases.
My husband has no idea how to operate power tools. He spends his free time in the kitchen, preparing meals for the week while I nail, glue, paint or repair items around the household. Traditional gender norms are blending more and more each day to allow creativity and innovation flow. Whether you are a stay at home dad or a career oriented mother, your choices and decisions to challenge the status quo are instrumental in building a more inclusive and culture rich environment for those along for the ride. Applaud the courageous souls whose uniqueness and strength have made it possible for any person in the Americas to be bold and brave.
Become an ally to women reproductive right movements.
It’s not about being pro-choice, it’s about making sure women get the care they need for gynecological issues; that rape is taken seriously and not brushed aside as a normal risk of being female. Teach your sons to respect women and to cope with romantic rejection. No means no. It’s a complete sentence that doesn’t require more explanation. Women are sexual beings too, they have carnal needs and desires. Condoms, plan B, menstrual supplies, and contraceptives should be part of their arsenal of tools to avoid the consequences of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease. Denying women of these things infringes on their rights implying that they are not allowed to have control over their bodies, turning them into victims of circumstances. Out mothers, daughters, sisters and wives deserve better.
Champion maternity/paternity benefits.
Did you know that to qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) employees must have a year of service on record to be protected? Most expecting parents aren’t eligible for this benefit, which protects their job while out of the office but offers no compensation whatsoever for the time off work; many opt to return days after childbirth. Paid parental leaves are a necessary resource to protect wealth and social standing. No parent should miss out on this wonderful milestone. This is not just a women’s issue, dads should be able participate in all aspects of their life including bonding, daycare and medical emergencies. To support new and existing parents we must promote practices that lead to robust parental benefits and rights that ensure caregivers are not penalized for being responsible for their children. Managers and coworkers, please address and stop behavior that serves as a micro or passive aggression response to those soliciting time off for this endeavor. Fathers and sons are entitled to actively participate in caregiving as well. Spread the word.
Mentor, train, coach, sponsor.
The best mentors, trainers and coaches in life are those who genuinely are interested in their pupil’s success. Go through life embodying the charactersistics of a good leader. Train others to exchange the word bossy for assertive; to encourage others to pursue their dreams regardless of gender norms or social biases. Encourage the daughters just as much as the sons to get an education, a career, a dream outside getting married and raising children. Shape the next generation into responsible and compassionate adults that care about others, their environment, and their communities’ well being. Give those in your immediate circle of influence the tools to surpass their own expectations. Volunteer to teach girls and women the skills they need to further their careers and goals. Sponsor women in your company to promote them into positions of power. The future is female.
Promote gender and wage equality.
Recruit and support women who are interested in traditionally male dominated fields, such as STEM or professional sports. Ensure they are paid the same salary as their counterparts for the same type of work. Don’t assume performance is always a good indicator of compensation. Some of your best workers are overworked and underpaid. Make sure female employees have the same technical or challenging tasks as the rest of the team – don’t delegate administrative or employee engagement tasks only to them because they have the soft skills for the task. Teach/remind the men in your group to treat their peers as equals, with dignity and respect. Recognition of a woman’s perspective and benefit to the organization goes a long way to affecting and embracing this change too.
Many constituents conveniently forget that the gender gap is real and that women are still fighting for their rights daily. The Women Rights Movement is still alive and going strong; we haven’t won yet. The 2019 abortion laws passed in Alabama and Georgia are a few of the examples of this struggle and plight. We are turning into a country that discriminates against its own people by enacting laws that turn sub-groups into second class citizens.
Racism, age discrimination, marriage exclusions, pension raiding, student loan debt; all these symptoms point to a systemic problem brought about by exerting power via social oppression and religious control. Disdain becomes a reason to allow these atrocities to persist, and for the class division that permeates our culture, hindering collaborations and growth.
Becoming an ally is a very powerful tool. Align yourself wisely, with those causes that really make a difference in your life without harming others. Future generations will benefit from the change you helped herald and implement.
The future is uncertain but very hopeful. Rage against the dying of the light…