A lot has changed since March 8, 1857. That was the day when female garment workers in New York City marched and picketed, demanding decent working conditions. Their ranks were broken up by police. A lot has also changed since March 8, 1908, fifty-one years later, when female workers in the needle trades in New York City marched again, demanding the vote and an end to sweatshops and child labor. The police stopped them then as well. Today, on March 8, 2016, women around the world, can celebrate the distance they have advanced in protecting their rights. And they might wonder whether their work is finished.
It is likely your answer might be no, and indeed, many agree that the work is not done. Consider what happened to major orchestras in the U.S. when they first introduced curtains for auditions in the 1970s. Evaluators were forced to listen to the music coming from behind the curtain, remaining blind to the musician’s gender and appearance. The result was that the percentage of female musicians rose from 5% to 35%, and orchestras were able to recruit the best talent! But have all organizations managed to introduce such blind evaluations? Have they fought off other sources of gender bias?
It has proven hard to achieve true equality because unconscious bias is everywhere. Our minds are just wired that way. We create shortcuts and generalizations that help us navigate the very complicated world that we live in. While sometimes helpful, these shortcuts can lead us down very negative paths. They are the reason we find it intuitively more difficult to trust a male preschool teacher or a female plumber. Our minds tend to equate competency with looking the part because talent is not easily visible to the naked eye. Gender can get in the way of us truly recognizing talent.
On International Women’s Day (IWD), we commemorate the work of those who came before and inspired us by continuing to work towards gender equality. Professor Iris Bohnet’s timely book comes out on this day, marking the 105th Anniversary of IWD, and offering a pathway of where to go from here. In What Works: Gender Equality by Design, she provides tools to keep advancing, in 2016 and moving forward, towards gender equality by working around our biases. These tools are inexpensive and easy to implement, and can be useful to people in all levels of organizations: “Right up to board level, companies should find in What Works not only food for thought, but a guide for effective practical action as well”, avows the Financial Times. Want to learn more? Watch this video and pick up a copy of the book starting today. Want to do more? Check out our step by step guide!