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How to Make Women’s Equality Day a Catalyst For Improving Company-Wide Diversity

Think of it as an opportunity to have a conversation about women, diversity, and the role they play in your company.

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BY Heidi Zak - 24 Aug 2018

How to Make Women's Equality Day a Catalyst For Improving Company-Wide Diversity

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Based on past conversations, I'd say many male CEOs have no idea Women's Equality Day is actually a nation-wide anniversary. But as the founder of a female-focused brand, I like to keep all holidays meant to empower women on my radar.

That's not to say I want to exclude men in any way, but I do think it's important for companies to recognize the days that have been purposefully set aside to celebrate women and diversity.

Women's Equality Day--on August 26, 2018--isn't just about another chance to engage your customer base by talking about a historical event. It's about the women (or lack thereof) who are already working at your company. It's about the environment you've created for them as a leader, and whether that environment is welcoming and empowering, or off-putting and indifferent.

It honestly doesn't matter whether you're a startup with a 10-person team or a corporate behemoth. Regardless of where your company is at, it's beneficial to use this upcoming day as an opportunity to kick off (or continue) your diversity efforts.

Here's how to make the most of it:

Start by assessing your company's environment.

I know plenty of companies are asking, and even struggling with questions on diversity. How do we get more women at our company? What are we doing to grow diverse senior leadership?

You can use this anniversary of women's rights as a reason to look around at the environment and culture at your company. One way to gauge your environment is to note how many conversations your company has about women, diversity, and the role they play in your company.

If you can't remember the last time you had one of these discussions, then set aside specific times to have a real dialogue with your senior leaders about what you could be doing better.

Otherwise, you're never going to do anything. People don't get together on a random Tuesday to talk about women's equality.

You can also recognize the female leaders and female team you already have in place. Even take a moment to evaluate what you're doing to grow that team. If the answer is nothing, then it's time to create some real, measurable hiring initiatives to help expand your company's outreach to women.

Choose female leaders from your team to help put programs in place.

Whether or not your company has diversity programs in place, Women's Equality Day is a great way to celebrate the things you've done as a company and highlight areas for improvement.

Your biggest advocates and the people who can help you affect the most change are the people who already work at your company. They are your people, your teammates. And it's up to you to find some of these strong female leaders and empower them.

Once you do, give two or three women a budget and ask them to do something awesome for the rest of the women in the company. But it doesn't have to be overly complicated. Lunches, learning events, panel discussions, and mentorships--they're all options that help women feel really connected with other women on the team and can help recruit more women into your organization.

You don't know the power of these events until you've been to one--or put one on yourself. For example, I spoke at an Ernst & Young Panel on International Women's Day, and the turnout was amazing. Accounting is still a male-dominated industry, and yet 150 women in the San Francisco office turned up for the panel.

Our team at ThirdLove is actually hosting a similar panel in combination with Rocksbox this year. And the goal is really to create a community, give women an opportunity to meet each other, and talk about the challenges and successes that women in leadership roles have experienced over the course of their careers.

These types of programs really don't take as much work as you may think. They just require you to recognize something needs to be done--and then figure out who the people are who can help you lead an initiative.

Truthfully, we're still figuring out the best ways to move the needle and create some real, systemic change. But every effort helps, and it's up to the leadership at each individual company to push for future progress.

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