International Women’s Day is always an important day of reflection for me. How far have we come on the road to gender equality? What can we do to keep moving forward along that long road or even better make sure the road isn’t so long?
This year, I have seen a few different themes for International Women’s Day: from the global IWD theme ‘Choose to Challenge’ to the UN Women Australia’s theme ‘Women in Leadership’. Each year, the theme and #hashtag go off across social channels, but no real change occurs. Does the theme make any difference?
That’s why this year, we all need to decide what the IWD theme means to us.
For me, it starts with choosing to challenge the systems – the lack of women in leadership, politics and boardrooms is not acceptable and so I’m choosing to challenge workplace systems that constrain equality advancement.
We must look at policies and data to ensure we are rewarding and supporting everyone the same. As a first step companies can:
- Build pay gap reviews into your processes. At Salesforce we have spent $15 million (AUD) actively closing the gender pay gap and review multiple times a year.
- Pay super to employees who are on parental leave to help close the lifetime earnings gap particularly felt by women.
Challenging systems also requires us to challenge our behaviours. We have the power as individuals to choose to challenge others about the standards of behaviours. But we also need to challenge ourselves. I have made flippant remarks with no intention to offend, but intent and impact are not always aligned, and we all need to learn about the impact our actions and words have on others.
Part of the way that learning happens is when we speak up for ourselves and for others. This can include not laughing and endorsing comments, banter and behaviour that can be hurtful and belittling to others. I loved reading the recent speech from Asher Learmonth, head prefect at Cranbrook Senior School. Here he called out his own mistakes and the call for change that we can all do and be better.
At Salesforce we can always depend on our incredible Women’s Network to shine a light on why taking action on gender equality matters, and why it remains a priority here at Salesforce every day, not just one day of the year.
Let’s change the systems and behaviours that women have traditionally taken on – including child care. Instead, let’s make it about helping families. Research shows that Australian parents pay the fourth highest rates in the world for daycare. If we could solve this problem it would deliver great returns – a recent Gratten report showed increasing participation by 13% (in hours) with women with young children we would add $11B in GDP and support closing the lifetime earnings gap women face today by $150,000.
Paying it forward – our exciting new partnership with UN Women Australia
This year I’m thrilled to announce that Salesforce partnered with UN Women Australia for their inaugural virtual hub held on Friday, 5 March, to celebrate International Women’s Day and their theme ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’.
As a Pay it Forward partner, Salesforce provided UN Women Australia with the ability to stream their content across all five states in order to provide accessibility to underprivileged and/or underserved communities and schools. I’m extremely proud of this unique partnership as it shows how technology can be used as a powerful platform to drive societal change – and in this instance, to drive gender equality.
“Progressing women’s empowerment and gender equality is as important today as it has ever been,” said Janelle Weissman, Executive Director at UN Women Australia.
“We are pleased that so many students will have exposure to, be inspired and challenged by a diverse range of women’s and allies’ stories, wisdom and calls to action. Gender equality requires all of our participation and engaging young people in these conversations is essential.”
The impressive line up included Australian of the Year, Grace Tame; founders of Taboo, Isobel Marshall and Eloise Hall; Indigenous advocate for gender equality, Michelle Deshong; equality campaigner and author, Jamila Rivzi; and Youth Representative for UN Women’s Global Generation EqualityTask Force, Zahara Al Hilaly. And that’s just to name a few.
As part of our Pay It Forward partnership we were able to extend access to this content to one of our long standing partners Schools Plus. Schools Plus has identified re-engaging students successfully in STEM subjects and looking after student wellbeing and mental health as two critical areas of focus for their efforts in 2021.
“Our partnership with Salesforce has gone a long way to bridging the gap in STEM education opportunities available to students from disadvantaged communities, especially girls,” said Rosemary Conn, CEO at Schools Plus.
“As they say, ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’ – through Salesforce, female students have been exposed to women in STEM leadership roles and lifted their aspirations around STEM careers. So we were delighted to share this opportunity with high schools so more students could hear the words and wisdom of these inspiring women.”
Allies and advocates every day
We also love amplifying the diverse voices of our employees and creating opportunities for them to live out our core value or equality in their everyday lives. As part of our International Women’s Day celebrations, we offer a whole range of talks, workshops and films to our teams and invite them to use their VTO to support whatever organisation speaks to their vision of equality and inclusion.
I know change won’t happen overnight, but it isn’t happening fast enough. However, COVID-19 has taught us that when we have to, when we choose to, we can drive great change at great pace. I don’t want to waste this year’s theme by it being just another hashtag. I want it to be a moment like no other, a moment we need, one that drives swift change.
Let’s not wait 100 years for gender equality – let’s do it now.