Jan 21, 2017 was no ordinary Saturday. This was the day when more than a million women marched for women’s rights in solidarity and peaceful protest across 7 continents. A coalition built around a multitude of issues, without a singular leader, had somehow come together to protest in unison.
Regardless of your politics, there is no denying that something extraordinary had taken place. In a world where women are socialized to put themselves second and to accommodate others, this was an incredible demonstration of what’s possible when women are determined to drive change.
The Women’s March symbolizes a movement that is also growing rapidly in the workplace. While women make up more than half the population of the world, they still lack equal pay and equal representation in the workplace. But there is a rising tide of women uniting to change the status quo and determined to break through barriers. And business should embrace that.
Research has shown that when there is greater gender parity, businesses experience measurable returns; orgs with 30% female leadership add 6% points to net margin while companies with more women at the top routinely outperform the competition. Yet according to the World Economic Forum, it will take until 2133 to reach gender parity. Can we truly afford to wait that long when the positive impact that women create is plainly evident?
Women Leaders: It’s Up To You!
If you want a better future, you must be the change you wish to see. Transformation happens when initial enthusiasm is followed by unrelenting sustained and ongoing effort. So, take inspiration from the collective movement and make a commitment to be the change agent within your organization.
A change agent is someone who possesses a bold vision and is unafraid of risks. They build enduring relationships centered around mutually beneficial outcomes. They have an innate desire to create immediate impact. They seek holistic solutions that benefit the collective, not just the interests of a single group. They are willing to march forward for their purpose, regardless of the consequences. They are resilient through setbacks and never give up.
Women leaders must be visible role models within their organization. Visibility creates awareness. Awareness creates acceptance. And widespread acceptance leads to greater parity. You can’t change hearts, minds and attitudes if you are invisible.
Here are 5 steps you can take:
Every movement begins with a dream for a better future. And while you’re dreaming of a better future, why not seek an extraordinary one? Don’t just accept your circumstance or be defined by your current role. Aim for opportunities that seem beyond your reach. The size of your dreams determines the scale of the outcomes you can create within your organization. Organizations need bold visionaries that are willing to take risks. So instead of negotiating against yourself, dream big, aim high and commit to shaping the narrative of your future.
Spread The Word
You must own your message just like a presidential candidate. Turn your ideas into the perfect pitch and then share it boldly. Even if it meets with opposition or invites criticism, take a stance and don’t be afraid to express what you believe in. The fear of conflict keeps people from sharing their true point of view. But a contrarian stance over a herd mentality can often lead to better outcomes. Promote your slogan and be known for it. Your personal brand will be associated with your beliefs and help you gain the support necessary to drive change.
There is no such thing as the perfect time. Instead of waiting until you feel you’ve checked every box of qualification, leap forward knowing that you might face obstacles or fail along the way. Taking a step forward today is better than waiting until tomorrow. As scary as it may seem, trust your ability to solve problems as they appear. After all, women do this effortlessly every single day as expert multitaskers who juggle a million responsibilities. Being agile and adaptable helps you tap into emerging opportunities and overcome unexpected challenges.
Rally Your Team
Invite others to shape your ideas. Build alliances to create win-win outcomes. Seek mentors and coaches who can guide you in your journey. Connect with other leaders who can support your vision and align with your message. Engage your team in the process of shaping the solution. Be transparent about your goals and vulnerable about your gaps. There is no shame in admitting that you don’t have it all figured out.
Sustain Daily Momentum
No amount of enthusiasm can continue to get long term support in the absence of real results. Momentum is built when there is evidence of success. Develop a 90-day plan that delivers immediate impact. Focus on enabling everyday innovation. The impact of cumulative results will yield something greater than a one-time result. Empower your team to be agile, take risks, test ideas and learn quickly. Regardless of the consequence, keep moving forward.
You are a critical link between today’s reality and tomorrow’s possibilities. The choices you make today will define the opportunities that women will have tomorrow. Women leaders have the opportunity and the obligation to be the beacon of light that inspires others and unlocks their potential. So, start where you are. The power is in your hands.