#EachforEqual is this year’s International Women’s Day theme. This #IWD2020 observance gives us the perfect opportunity to reflect on what we’re doing, as business leaders, to create a gender equal workplace, and to ask ourselves, "am I walking the talk?" To me, Each for Equal means everyone deserves an equal opportunity to be successful, personally and professionally — and we’re all responsible for helping each other along the way. As a mother and CEO, I take this as an imperative to do whatever I can to provide my family and colleagues with the resources and support they need to thrive across all areas of their lives.
So let's ask these important questions:
- Are we doing enough to challenge stereotypes and raise awareness against bias?
- Are we doing enough to ensure that everyone — regardless of their gender identity — can bring their best, whole and authentic selves into work?
- Are we building cultures in which employees support one another, celebrate each other’s achievements, and actively build one another up?
Over half of my leadership team is comprised of women, and our company’s approach to career development, employee benefits, and culture is geared towards inclusivity, flexibility, and balance — in every sense of those words. We offer Work from Home Wednesdays, a generous parental leave policy, and other competitive benefits not simply because we want to be a Silicon Valley employer of choice, but because it’s the right thing to do.
My Personal Stake in #EachforEqual
I’ve been interested in the plight of women in the workforce for as long as I’ve been a woman in the workforce — even earlier, having been raised by a trailblazing mother and grandmother. My journey from law to tech to female founder took an incredible amount of hard work, passion, risk taking, and discipline. I was harder on myself than my male counterparts — that’s simply what was expected. Having climbed the overwhelmingly male dominated ranks through sexual harassment and daily locker room talk well before metoo was a hashtag, I am delighted the workplace seems to be on the precipice of what I hope will be lasting change.
But in order for true equality to take hold, there is another largely ignored and systemic problem that if left unaddressed will undermine all our progress and prevent the workplace change we all seek from becoming a sustained reality.
As the mother of two daughters, taking action to further women’s opportunities in the workplace is deeply personal — but it will take more than equalizing the number of women around the board room table! According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2015, 70% of moms with kids younger than 18 were in the labor force, and mothers were the primary breadwinners in four out of ten U.S. families. Yet women also do 2.6 times the amount of unpaid care and domestic work that men do, so working women are burning the candle at both ends.
Female employees are at a disadvantage from the get-go. They come home after a workday and immediately start their “second shift.” They have to get a meal on the table, take care of their children or aging parents, and go on to manage any number of other household tasks. These obligations tend to take them away from the self-care they need to decompress, re-focus, and feel their best.
I’ve been there. My husband and I both worked demanding full time jobs but I bore the brunt of the household and childcare responsibilities. I am not proud of this fact and it wasn’t until our children were much older that we tried to recalibrate the at-home workload with some success. It’s exhausting and stressful, especially if your employer is doing nothing to help make your life easier.
This imbalance has become a reality for so many women in the modern workforce, and as a result, their health, work performance, and engagement suffer. Not surprisingly, women are more likely to have to leave work early for childcare reasons or handle family emergencies during the workday. In fact, breadwinning mothers are three times more likely than breadwinning fathers to be in charge of their children’s schedules and getting to activities and appointments, and three times more likely to volunteer at school.
Cultivating an #EachforEqual Workforce
Many employers are solely focused on balancing the gender hiring numbers but ignoring the realities of how these working women are struggling to balance 8 hours of work outside the home with, on average, 2.25 hours of housework and 2 more hours caring for kids at home. More forward-thinking employers are asking, “What can we do to better support our doubly burdened female employees?” And top female talent is asking, “What is my employer doing to support me?”
Here’s where #EachforEqual comes into play. If you aren’t even trying to understand your female employees whole life challenges and talking about how your company can help them achieve that elusive “work-life balance” so they can show up to work less stressed, healthier, and happier, how can you expect them to be successful?
So this International Women's Day, let’s go beyond the obvious numbers game, and take a little deeper look into what we can do to ease the unique and disproportionate burden working women shoulder. Maybe this means not having late afternoon meetings that conflict with childcare, or offering work-from-home days or flexible schedules.
From a cultural standpoint, give your employees permission to take care of themselves: keep the pursuit of wellbeing front-and-center, actively encouraging them to take the time they need to reduce stress, boost their energy, and feel their best. And by all means, open the lines of communications and ask them what they need. They’re so used to paying attention to everyone’s needs, they’ll be delighted you asked — and thrilled to share.
Learn more about my work towards gender equality and wellbeing for all employees in How I’m Championing #BalanceforBetter as a Woman, Business Owner, and Mom.