Leadership Conversation / 08.03.2021

International Women’s Day 2021: #ChooseToChallenge

By Annie Weckesser, CMO + People, Uniphore

This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) happens during a time of unprecedented challenges in the workplace. Although so much of our world is shaped by Covid-19, we have vast opportunity today to set the tone for how our society functions and will function as we move forward. Promoting equality is a challenge worth taking on for all of us—and this year, we should all be thinking about what positive change can look like in our communities.

For International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating by giving Uniphore employees copies of Melinda Gates’ book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World. We’re reading The Moment of Lift as an organization because we value gender diversity at Uniphore and as a global movement.

When women are empowered, our entire society benefits and is lifted up.

IWD 2021 Theme: #ChooseToChallenge

If we all “choose to challenge” ourselves and what we see in our workplaces, we can all fight back against gender bias and inequality. A more inclusive world is within our reach if we work together.

That’s the theme for 2021—by paying attention to how we can make a difference, we can all have an impact.

What #ChooseToChallenge Means at Work

#ChooseToChallenge means raising awareness, celebrating achievements, and challenging bias. It’s about being intentional and creating an inclusive culture. In The Moment of Lift, Gates talks about the momentous opportunity we have in our world today. Empowering women in societies has a cascading effect on economic growth, business success, and career opportunities for everyone.

Drawing from her extensive philanthropic work and research, Gates identifies these key areas where we can individually and collectively engage with building inclusivity:

1. Giving Everyone a Voice

In many communities around the world, not everyone has a voice in how they live and work. We need to build environments where everyone has a seat at the table and an opportunity to speak up about what they need and what they want to change in our world. Each year, around 12 million girls marry before reaching the age of 18, largely without a choice about their futures.

Gates talks about how tackling this issue is one example of tangible ways our world can see societal improvement. Child brides often drop out of school and can’t contribute to the workforce.

In a work context, giving everyone a voice means paying attention to how we include everyone on our team:

  • Are women heard?
  • Do we welcome ideas from everyone, or just a few?
  • Are we actively listening?

2. Promoting an Inclusive Achievement Culture

Education empowers people and enables them to become leaders, change-makers, and individual contributors. We should all strive to take down the barriers that stand in the way of high-quality education. Everyone should be empowered to use the education, natural gifts, and experiences they have to make an impact and pursue their own definition of success.

Over 130 million girls are not in school. These people may have diminished opportunities later in life. Although girls in the United States attend school just like their male counterparts, many industries still have systemic barriers to women’s achievement that can adversely affect everyone.

As we promote an inclusive culture of achievement, let’s think about these questions:

  • Is opportunity based on merit, or is it exclusive?
  • How can we promote opportunity for everyone?
  • How do we recognize achievement?

3. Ending Bias

Whenever bias influences our decisions, we all miss out on finding the best talent, building the best teams, and taking the most effective approaches to the challenges we face at work. We should all do our part to end bias in the workplace.

In many nations, women can’t get a bank account on their own or conduct simple business transactions. This makes it more challenging to fully participate in society.

Our workplaces are a good place to start if we want to end bias right now. Everyone needs access to the resources, opportunities, and information they need to thrive at work. To end bias, we must all work together to change our workplaces, laws, and cultural attitudes.

Ending bias is a team effort:

  • Where have I seen bias in the workplace?
  • What can I do to #ChooseToChallenge and fight back against bias?
  • How might my community be different without bias?

4. Empower Women

To reach our goals at work, we need the entire team to bring their best. Empowered workers create more effective companies and more positive work cultures. By empowering women at work, we can build the type of culture that empowers everyone.

Instead of fostering an abusive or negative culture that disempowers one group or another, we can create a culture where everyone can thrive. We can expand women’s opportunities in the workplace and promote diversity.

Empowering women means we become cognizant of how to encourage women in the workplace:

  • Do all genders have the same opportunities in my context? Why or why not?
  • How can I empower women where I live and work?
  • What can we do to make our culture compatible with opportunity?

How to Empower and Lift

Gender diversity is for everyone—it’s not just for women. By building up and empowering women in the workplace and in the world, we expand opportunity and create environments that foster achievement and innovation. We build better teams and develop organizations that have the power to change the world.

This International Women’s Day, please join us in celebrating the achievements of women around the world. Help us all #ChooseToChallenge.