Working Towards Gender Equality in the Workplace

By: Taylor Knight

Mindy Kaling, actress, author, comedian and writer, gave a keynote address to over 9,000 women (and a few men!) last week in Philadelphia during the Pennsylvania Conference for Women.

“My relationships with women have been the most sustaining of my life,” Kaling said during her funny and compelling interview-style keynote with media entrepreneur Lesley Jane Seymour.

It was an inspiring event that featured a motivational talk from soccer star Abby Wambach as well as many interesting sessions focused on leadership, career development, health and wellness, and more.

Gender equality in the workplace was a hot-button topic at the conference, and with good reason. Women currently hold only 4.6 percent of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. Here are a few of the top takeaways from this year’s conference.

Help Each Other Out
It’s important to remember that you’re not in competition with the women you work with. It can be hard being a woman in a leadership role surrounded by all male colleagues. Encourage other women with positivity to elevate them in their careers.

When women help out other women, it makes for a more comfortable working environment. This is key — you should always be comfortable with the organization you work for. When something seems off or makes you uncomfortable, you should say something so it’s clear. Then, move on and don’t let the negativity weigh you down.

Male Allies
A male ally is someone who will speak up on the behalf of women when there are no women in the room. Robin Hauser Reynolds, director and producer of the documentary film “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap,” suggests that men with working wives and daughters make great allies because they have empathy. These are the men, according to Reynolds, who want to see women do well and will stand up for women if something goes wrong.

However, there isn’t just one type of male ally. Experts on the panel session “Unconscious Bias: Strategies for Bridging the Gap,” say sometimes the best male allies are the ones who may not have agreed with your points at first. They may doubt you and think differently than you do, but once you help them understand your skill set and what you bring to the table, they’ll fight for you, according to the panel.

Mentorship
Women tend to seek other women as mentors, and same thing goes with men. However, your mentor should be someone you trust and the relationship should be genuine. According to the experts on the panel “Gender Partnership: Engaging Men as Advocates to Pioneer Gender Equality,” the most important quality a mentor can have is the ability to advocate for you. Your mentor can help you get that promotion or raise if he or she can speak up on your behalf.

Be Brave
Take initiative. Be confident. When you want something from your employer (e.g., a raise), be proactive, say something and don’t apologize for it. Women have a greater tendency to say “sorry” when asking for things. Don’t apologize when sharing an idea in a meeting, asking to talk to your boss or politely disagreeing with someone.

We have more coverage of the 2016 Pennsylvania Conference for Women coming your way! Be sure to check out what former U.S. women’s soccer team captain Abby Wambach had to say about mentorship and leadership. Next week, media entrepreneur Lesley Jane Seymour sits down with WIRLC for a one-on-one interview about her new online community Kindred. You won’t want to miss it!

Taylor Knight is associate content editor with the Women in Retail Leadership Circle.  

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