If you’re championing a cause – make sure you can back it up.
On 8 March, the world celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD) to recognise women’s progress and address how far there is still to go in breaking down systemic inequality. It is an opportunity to uplift women, and “break the bias” that still exists in society.
From a day that has its roots in activism, recent years have seen organisations jump into the cause to “prove” they are addressing inequality.
Some used IWD to show how they are tackling structural disadvantages for women in traditionally male-dominated fields, closing the gender pay gap or providing better flexible work options.
However, some organisations appear to have fallen into the tokenism trap by talking about gender inequality, without meaningful action or commitment to change.
In New Zealand, Fonterra came under fire for its IWD panel comprising only men. The company was called out for not being able to find any women to talk to experiences of sexism in the workplace, or the discuss the barriers they had overcome at such a large New Zealand company. The fact it was on International Women’s Day added insult to injury. In 2022, any panel that is stacked with only white men and no other diversity should certainly cause event organisers to take a second look.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Rugby posted on Facebook and Twitter thanking “all the women who allow men to play the game they love”. Wives, mothers, daughters were given credit – but not a mention in sight of the World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Black Ferns.
Relegating women to the sidelines in a supporting capacity is a bad look any day of the year, but it was a complete misfire on a day that is meant to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women or a call to action for accelerating women's equality.
Lip service to progressing gender equality, or any issue, is no longer good enough. Feel-good social media posts are not demonstrating a true commitment to change.
This shouldn’t stop organisations from championing equality or taking steps to address inequity across society. But this must align with their strategy, and they must be able to back it up to prove they are living their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies.
In a world where there are many causes to choose from – having an ESG strategy can make a difference. Picking one or two causes and doing them well is more effective than jumping on social media to mark an international day.
Women around the world have had enough “awareness raising” posts about the issues – it is time for organisations to live their values and show they are making real and meaningful change.