Women’s Equality Day is August 26. More than 100 years after women gained the right to vote, 57% of Americans still don’t think the country has come far enough on gender equality, according to a Pew Research Center poll. With women comprising nearly half of the modern workforce, Women’s Equality Day is an excellent time for employers to extend recognition and appreciation.
If you’d like to speak to an HR representative about your business, contact us.
This article will explain the history behind Women’s Equality Day, examine three major areas where employers still have more to do to empower women and provide ideas for how your organization might join in the celebration.
The History Behind Women’s Equality Day
Women’s Equality Day honors the historic leaders of the women’s rights movement and those who are still advocating for women today. The world’s first women’s rights convention took place in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. It marked the formal beginning of a decades-long movement to win the right to vote for American women. Memorable leaders and reformers in the U.S. women’s suffrage movement included Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida B. Wells, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Alice Paul, and others.
Many of these brave women were also active in the abolitionist movement against slavery, while women’s activism slowed down during the American Civil War. By the late 19th century, women were organizing large public protests, and by the early 20th century, women were picketing at the White House. Many were arrested, but public awareness grew, and opinions shifted.
The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, giving women the right to vote, went to Congress in 1918, passed in 1919, and was ratified on August 18, 1920.
The 19th Amendment ended the suffrage struggle, but the women’s rights movement had more work to do. Women continued to push for rights to divorce, hold property, earn equal wages to men, and gain access to birth control, to name a few. They also fought for full participation in politics, the courtroom, and the board room.
Equality in the Workplace: 3 Areas for Improvement
According to a recent LinkedIn Gender Insights Report, more than 7 in 10 talent professionals say achieving gender equality is a top priority at their company. Nevertheless, most organizations still have work to do before claiming gender parity. Here are three areas businesses should focus their efforts on:
Career Advancement and Promotions. Women have come a long way in busting through the ‘glass ceiling’ that used to prevent their advancement as executives. In 2021, 41 Fortune 500 companies had a woman at the helm as CEO—up from only two female CEOs in 2000. However, more must be accomplished before women reach equality with men. The Economist’s 2022 “Glass Ceiling Index” ranked the U.S. as the 20th best place for working women among 29 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations. In addition, according to a collaborative study by McKinsey & Company and Lean In, “for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are given the same opportunity.”
The first step to helping women achieve advancement parity with men within your workforce is ensuring that your processes for identifying and considering internal candidates are free of gender bias. Further, HR leaders need to encourage women to apply for internal promotions. Women tend to fear failure more than men. A Hewlett Packard internal study found that “women will not apply for a job unless they think they are a 100% match for job qualifications, while men go for it if they meet 60% of the qualifications.” All in all, this adds up to women applying for 20% fewer jobs than men, according to the LinkedIn Gender Insights report.
Sexual Harassment. Pew Research Center revealed that among women who have received unwanted sexual advances or harassment, 69% said it happened in the workplace. Despite legal protection against harassment afforded by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and mandatory anti-harassment training at corporations, women still endure workplace sexual harassment. Furthermore, sexual harassment still frequently goes unreported; here’s a video explaining how sexual harassment can be prevented in the workplace.
The Gender Pay Gap. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, women earn about 18% less than men annually. At that rate, women must spend an extra 42 days working to earn what men are paid. In 1970, women made only 57 cents to every dollar made by men. Companies are moving toward wage parity, but over 50 years later, the gender pay gap still exists.
Take this step toward eliminating the pay gap—purge gender bias from your performance review process. Every worker should have the right to equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender.
7 Ways to Celebrate Women’s Equality Day at Your Organization
Show employees your company is committed to improving women’s advancement, eliminating sexual harassment, and closing the gender pay gap. In addition, as you’re working toward these significant objectives, take time to say thank you in smaller ways. Here are a few ideas for how to celebrate Women’s Equality Day in the workplace:
Say thank you. Send out a company-wide thank you email to the hard-working women in your organization. Encourage managers to highlight the important contributions made by women on each of their teams. Company-wide emails are a simple (and cost-effective) way to show appreciation.
Encourage women to join professional empowerment groups. Many professional networking groups cater to the career needs of women. There are industry-specific groups, such as the Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, Women 2.0 for women in tech, and Women in Manufacturing. The
re are also private executive networking groups for female leaders including, NextUp, Chief, and Organization of Women Executives.
Help women mentor other women. Your company might already have a mentorship program; if not, here are five tips for developing one. Creating a special mentorship track for women enables the women in your company to help and encourage other women. Mentoring is a great way to move the needle on female engagement, advancement, and retention.
Start an internship for girls. Is there a place in your organization to give high school or college-aged young women an opportunity to learn about business? Opportunities like this can help girls build confidence and experience. Internships are especially powerful for change if your business is in an industry with fewer women, such as STEM or manufacturing. Additionally, internships can be a great resource for finding new talent.
Offer boundaries training. It’s not a secret that women often say ‘yes’ to extra tasks and assignments at work—often to their detriment. Training employees to establish healthy boundaries and say ‘no’ professionally and respectfully helps prevent burnout and decrease employee turnover.
Promote a charity that supports women. If your company makes donations, consider making a gift to a women-focused organization on Women’s Equality Day. You can support feminist activism with local charities or national groups like the National Organization for Women. There are also numerous international charities, such as Malala Fund and Global Fund for Women.
Raise a toast to women’s tenacity. One simple, powerful acknowledgment of your company’s dedication to women could be to take part in VisionForward’s Toast to Tenacity on Women’s Equality Day. The event honors ‘trailblazers of the gender equity movement,’ which goes on all day. Celebrate in the morning with a coffee bar or an after-hours cocktail toast. Take the opportunity to educate through a short presentation on the history behind Women’s Equality Day.
Don’t forget to mark your calendars on August 26th and celebrate Women’s Equality Day. If you’d like to speak to an HR representative about your business, contact us.