March is Women’s History Month, and there are several tangible approaches that allies can take to help boost gender equity in workplace dynamics, leadership roles, board selections, and more. Below are five simple actions that can make a lasting impact far beyond March 31st.
International Women’s Day is upon us, and individuals and brand leaders alike are eager to take actionable, substantial steps to make gender equity the norm in the workplace. Some may approach allyship as simply a desired descriptor or behavior quality to attain. Rather, the most effective allyship is approached as a verb. What can you do right now? The following five actions are some of the practical, immediate steps women and allies at all levels in the workplace can take to help lift each other up with prompt, meaningful results.

If you see a woman trying to get her voice heard in a meeting, ask her opinion.

Listening is a powerful gesture of respect and kindness. Deloitte is consistently recognized as one of the best workplaces for women, and it’s because a culture of inclusion, collaboration, high performance, and opportunity is actively fostered by those at the top. The seed of that enterprise-wide prioritization can start anywhere—even a small team huddle. Something as simple as pausing for a beat to explicitly ask to hear a woman’s opinion in a professional setting sets a tone and expectation for the rest of the participants that they then carry on to other endeavors, empowering women allies throughout the company culture with a ripple effect.

Challenge gender roles at work.

Who plans a team member’s surprise baby shower? Who performs administrative duties for a CMO? Who is the CMO? Who takes the big one-on-one meeting with the all-star client? If specific genders immediately popped into mind’s view when considering the answers to these questions, that could be an indicator of unconscious bias. Every single person has unconscious bias, whether in positive or negative contexts, which can be due to their background, culture, and ingrained social conditioning. To help lift up women and allies in the workplace, it is important make a concerted effort to challenge potentially limiting status quo norms and make inclusivity an active priority, which over time can help to foster an increase in gender equity in leadership roles and beyond.

Prioritize the term “working parents” over “working mothers”.

Even if an organization offers desirable parental leave benefits, small choices in language used by colleagues and leaders every day can have a limiting effect on the level of support some women and allies may feel from their work environment. It’s important to remove secondary labels related to family leave policies in order to recognize all types of families and their caregiving journey, including birth, adoptive, surrogate, foster, same-sex parents, and many other caregiving needs. The term “working mothers” may not only potentially infringe on how a colleague chooses to represent their parenting journey, but it runs the risk of reinforcing bias and reducing an accomplished professional to simply their assumed family status label, when it is in fact not relevant to the quality of work they achieve in their organization.

Gender balance your bookshelves.

How much of what you read or watch was created by women? Whether fiction or non-fiction, diversifying the leisure content one consumes can open up an entirely new understanding of the human experience. We all have much more in common than we might think, and actively inviting the viewpoints of authors and creators outside of one’s demographic can expand empathy, encourage allyship, and inspire positive action towards gender equity. Two recent books by women are great places to start for further insights: Elevating the Human Experienceauthored by Amelia Dunlop, Chief Experience Officer, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and the forthcoming Arrive and Thrive co-authored by Janet Foutty, Executive Chair of the Board of Deloitte US. 

Call grown women “women” instead of “girls”.

Whether a result of conscious or unconscious bias, this common conversational pitfall can curtail perceived respect in the workplace and beyond. Women in all roles at an organization deserve the full, objective recognition of their achievements and professionalism that any other colleague would receive. While this word choice may feel small or casual, tolerating it may unintentionally allow a culture of inequity to propagate inside of an otherwise inclusive work environment. 

by Michelle McGuire Christian, co-chair of Deloitte’s 2022 International Women’s Day and principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and Susan Klink, National Women and Allies Community Leader and partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP