“We cannot all succeed if half of us are held back.”

Malala Yousafzal

How did we get here? It’s a question I ask myself often. Perhaps, it’s because I’m a believer in knowing where you’ve come from to know where you're going, or maybe it’s the philosophical side of me that loves to question all the “so-called” societal norms. Whatever the reason, as I sit here preparing to celebrate International Women’s Day this question keeps swirling inside my head — and it’s followed by a stronger question. How do we solve the issue of gender inequality in the workplace?

International Women's Day is a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and it also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. Fortunately for us in the West, females now enjoy more choice, rights and freedom than many of our female ancestors — but we still have a long way to go. I find it interesting that all of mankind pops into this world as blank slates, and then through the course of life we’re conditioned to accept certain beliefs. These beliefs include a number of unconscious limiting thoughts, but for today’s purpose, let’s focus on the ideas of masculinity and femininity.  

According to a study published in the journal Science, until a few thousand years BC, women and men were seen and treated as equals — but with the advent of agriculture and the rise of the industrial era, a patriarchal society evolved. In this new male-dominated culture, feminine qualities were repressed and seen as weak. What had previously been a dynamic duo between men and women, suddenly became unbalanced. Men were seen as leaders and “masculine” qualities like ambition, assertiveness and physical strength were highlighted over “feminine” qualities like understanding, softness and listening.

Flash forward a few millennia, and the struggle continues. In order to bring balance into the workforce, we must first break the current system that was set-up for the industrial era, where men went to work and women stayed home. This system no longer serves society, nor does it promote equality. This system is out of balance, and it’s been out of balance for far too long.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending Conscious Company Media’s World-Changing Women’s Summit, and during the summit we discussed this topic in depth. The issue was brought to life through lectures, panels and workshops, all led by female entrepreneurs. These world-changing women are making moves, making money and fighting for a better world in the process. Below I’ve outlined a few action items that can be used to create gender equality in the workplace. We need to...

  • Free women and men of their gender roles. We must embrace feminine qualities as strengths, not weaknesses and, in doing so, give power to a new global process that supports inclusivity of all living things.
  • Empower female leadership. Our economy needs more females in leadership positions, and they can continue the movement by educating, supporting and empowering other world-changing women.
  • Provide more global funding to female entrepreneurs. While venture capitalists invested more than $58 billion in startups last year, women only received 2 percent of that money. If we want to see change, we need to invest more consciously.
  • Have difficult conversations. In a world where societal norms uphold that women “should be” pleasing, soft and passive, we need to create a safe space for women to speak their truth and challenge status quo.
  • Change the traditional nine-to-five system. Women and men alike are not looking to work less, they’re looking to work differently. Most households today are dual income where both parties work, so more flexible schedules are needed.

I could write entire blogs on each of the above points, but for today’s purpose — and in honor of the 2018 International Women’s Day — I want to answer the question I posed at the beginning of this essay. How do we solve the issue of gender inequality in the workplace? Let’s start by having open and honest conversations with our work families. If things are out of balance, take action today to change policy, empower more female leaders and break old systems that no longer serve society.

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By: Jessica Carruth, Director of Marketing at Dragon Army, @JessicaCarruth