I recently published an article in the Harvard Business Review that lays out a vision for expanding women’s power and influence in the United States over the next decade.
I believe our country is at a tipping point. And I know I’m not alone. On my book tour last spring, the most common question people asked was, “What can I do to help seize this moment?”
My answer was always: No matter who you are, you have a voice in shaping our society.
You’re a family member, a consumer, possibly an employee, maybe a manager. Hopefully, you’re a voter. You may even be an entrepreneur, a shareholder, or a board member. In one capacity or another, you are definitely a leader.
Every single one of these roles affords you—affords us—an opportunity to recognize the failures of the system, name them, and drive progress toward a better, more equal future for women in this country.
Take action: How you can support gender equality in the U.S.
Photo by Patrícia Monteiro | Getty Images
Here are nine ways you can leverage these roles to accelerate progress:
- Whether you are a voter or a policymaker, support the passage of a national paid family and medical leave policy. The United States is the only developed nation without one, and the consequences disproportionately affect women.
- Businesses don’t have to wait for the federal government to start implementing family friendly policies today. Encourage your company or organization to make paid leave available to all employees. And equally important, foster a workplace culture in which employees feel empowered to take advantage of these policies. One way managers can do that is by taking leave themselves. (This is especially important if you’re a man. Evidence shows that men are more likely to take leave if they see their male bosses doing it.)
- Harvard Kennedy School behavioral economist Iris Bohnet is leading important research to design bias out of the workplace. Familiarize yourself with the evidence-based recommendations she and her team have compiled and start putting them into practice in your organization. When the Nobel Prize committees took her advice about making “bundle decisions,” two science prizes went to women in the same year—a first for the Nobel.
- Be mindful of how narrow the pipeline into your sector is and be imaginative about creating new pathways through which women and people of color can enter. Create internship programs designed to help “nontraditional” candidates get the experience they need to gain a foothold in your industry. Make sure these internships are paid, so they are open to talented young people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
- The data tells us that across the country’s most powerful and influential industries, women have less access to the mentors, networks, and resources they need to advance in their careers. Seek out a woman to mentor and consider starting a mentorship program to encourage your colleagues to do the same.
- Many of us have been through office-mandated sexual harassment and diversity trainings, but there's very little evidence about what actually works when it comes to preventing harassment and discrimination in the workplace. If you want to signal that your company is serious about stopping this misconduct, fund research to help identify best practices.
- If we’re going to make gender equality a priority, we have to invest in it. These efforts have been chronically underfunded in the United States. If you're in a position to direct philanthropic giving, help close this funding gap.
- Research the companies you buy from and the businesses you patronize. Reward those that are working toward gender equality and hold accountable those that aren’t. Apps like Gender Fair can help you use your purchasing power to drive change.
- If you are a storyteller, a curator, an educator, a journalist, or a member of the entertainment industry: think critically about the stories you tell about women. Do they challenge stereotypes or reinforce them? Help girls imagine themselves in positions of power and influence in our society. Encourage the rest of us to look at these girls as the leaders of tomorrow.