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5 Ways Businesses Can Drive Gender Equality

Here are five tangible ways you can start driving gender equality in your workplace today.

International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month is not just about celebrating and honoring trailblazing women. It’s also about raising awareness around the gaps in gender equality that still exist today.

The United Nations set up 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which many companies, including Salesforce, have adopted as guiding posts. One of them is gender equality. Currently, there is no nation on track to meet the goal by 2030. The World Economic Forum (WEF) released the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 in which they estimate it will take 99.5 years to close the gender gap

This gap impacts our workplaces as well — in 2018, women only held 27% of managerial positions worldwide. Clearly more work needs to be done to reach gender equality at all levels in the workplace and society at large. We all have a role to play in creating a more equal and inclusive world for all. 

If you’re serious about advocating for gender equality, let’s start with having the necessary and difficult conversations.

Molly Q. Ford, VP, Global Equality Programs

Let’s look at some ways you can drive gender equality in tech today:

1. Commit to creating gender equality programs

A panel on Leading with Authenticity from the Trailblazing Women Summit

The first step in driving gender equality is to pause and have brave, authentic conversations on the issues women face. Only then can you start to mobilize and shift company cultures.

Create town halls and safe spaces to educate allies, share personal experiences, and provide resources. At Salesforce, we host an annual gender equality event: the Trailblazing Women Summit. We bring in speakers to elevate conversations around gender equality in tech, business, media, and all industries. Topics include advocating for yourself in the workplace, leading with authenticity, as well as mentorship and sponsorship. 

“If you’re serious about advocating for gender equality, let’s start with having the necessary and difficult conversations. Are you asking your women leaders about their experience, dedicating resources and making space to bring them along?” asks Molly Q. Ford, VP, Global Equality Programs.

Another way is to create and empower employee resource groups for underrepresented groups at your workplace. 

Watch all the sessions from the Trailblazing Women Summit below:

2. Be mindful of intersectionality when it comes to gender equality

Intersectionality refers to the complex and cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) overlap, or intersect — especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups. The term was first coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a civil rights activist and legal scholar. 

It’s important to understand the unique life experience of a queer Black woman, will be different compared to a heterosexual Caucasian woman, for example. Women in the workforce are typically underrepresented, but the experiences and challenges of intersectional women are very different. 

For example, the pay gap between men and women varies depending on your ethnicity. For example, Black, Latina, and Native American women earn less than their white counterparts, including white men and women.

As a woman of color, you learn to settle into isolation; you learn to settle into microaggressions.

Minda Harts, Author, The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table

As you think about your programs and resources around gender equality, consider ways to highlight specific intersections and how this affects our underrepresented groups. For example, at Salesforce, we have 12 employee resource groups (ERG) or Equality Groups as we call them. We often host intersectional events between groups like Latinoforce (our Latina/o ERG) or BOLDforce (our Black ERG), and Women’s Network to elevate the discussions around the nuances found at this intersection. 

One topic that is often highlighted by our underrepresented communities is the way these employees experience and endure microaggressions. Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, snubs, or insults — whether intentional or unintentional — which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to people, usually members of an underrepresented group. This can include interrupting a woman in a meeting, calling a person of color articulate, or constantly telling someone with a disability they are inspiring. Learn more here.

“As a woman of color, you learn to settle into isolation; you learn to settle into microaggressions. I wish I had said something because what happens is we go back to our desk, and we play it on a loop, over and over again. That does a lot of damage because now I have to manage that and do the best work I can. I don’t think our counterparts understand what it’s like. We need others to realize the onus is on them to change their ways,” said Minda Harts during our Trailblazing Women Summit.

3. Conduct an equal pay audit

Salesforce employees working on a laptop

As seen in the previous chart, we have a long way  to go as a business community before reaching pay parity for men and women. To address this and better understand if there is a gap in your own company, conduct a complete equal pay audit. This helps ensure all employees are being paid equally for equal work, regardless of gender or ethnicity. 

Salesforce conducted the first equal pay audit in 2015 and continued to do so annually. To date, we have invested more than $10 million to address any unexplained differences in pay between men and women. And in the spirit of intersectionality, we also assess based on race and ethnicity in the U.S. Learn more here.

4. Offer inclusive benefits for all employees

As a company, re-evaluate your benefits package to promote gender equality. At Salesforce, we work hard to ensure our benefits are inclusive of all. We offer six months of paid parental leave for all parents, childcare subsidies, surrogacy and fertility benefits, paid family sick time and flexible time off. Salesforce also offers seven days of paid volunteer time where employees can give back to their communities in meaningful ways.

Driving gender equality goes beyond the workplace experience. The US Department said that 75% percent of working mothers have full-time jobs. Family theorist Frances Goldscheider said even though more women than ever are joining the workforce, it’s only the “first half” of reaching gender equality. The “second half” of the gender equality journey requires their partner to pick up an equal share of work at home. On average, women spend about an hour more a day than men on housework, and an hour more on child care, according to a New York Times report. 

Beyond inclusive benefits, encourage work/life sustainability for all parents. When tennis star Serena Williams and husband Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian welcomed their first child together — Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr — he took 16 weeks paternity leave

“Many fathers in this country are not afforded the privilege of parental leave. And even when they are, there is often a stigma that prevents them from doing so. I see taking leave as one of the most fundamental ways to “show up” for your partner and your family,” Ohanian said in an op-ed.

5. Be an ally

An ally is someone who may not identify as part of a community, but supports and advocates for them. At Salesforce, we say that allies ask, listen, show up, and speak up for one another. We also recognize allyship is a journey. Some may be at the very start where they are curious and want to learn more. Others may be further along the journey and are courageous — ready to use their voice or platform to speak up. This can be in small moments like noticing a woman was interrupted in a meeting, or a larger gesture like advocating for a highly-qualified woman employee during the promotion process.  

A real leader persistently and consistently lifts people up. Part of that is mentoring and going beyond that to being an advocate.

Mark HawKins, Chief Financial Officer, Salesforce

If you are a leader – think of ways you can use your platform and your seat at the table to advance a women’s career. As Mark Hawkins, Chief Financial Officer, Salesforce said at the Trailblazing Women Summit:

“A real leader persistently and consistently lifts people up. Part of that is mentoring and going beyond that to being an advocate. An advocate is a mentor in action. This is my chance to pay it forward. Each of us has had people that lifted us up. They helped us think bigger and brought us into the room. Allyship is keeping that at the forefront of your consciousness and not missing the opportunity to help others.”

Mark Hawkins, Chief Financial Officer, Salesforce at the Trailblazing Women Summit

At Salesforce, we are committed to advancing gender equality in the workplace and in society. If you’re interested in a career at Salesforce, visit our careers page.

Isabel Gonçalves Equality Content Manager

Isabel is an Equality Content Manager at Salesforce. With a background in journalism and content marketing, she uses storytelling and her passion for diversity and inclusion to share impactful stories. She leads the Equality content strategy and explores ways to innovate and share Equality content via Trailhead modules, blogs, research reports, social media, podcasts, and events.

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