In early March we celebrate the contributions of women at work. I’m mentioning this now to give you some time to think about what you want to see from your organization, because I know how lack lustre these celebrations can sometimes be at work (your organization may need a head start). In the past, many organizations felt giving female staff members flowers to recognize the occasion was what was called for – and the “celebration” ended there. That’s not really what this day is about, is it?
If your organizations’ approach to celebrating the achievements of women is outdated (not all are), you may need to start this conversation now. Before an order for an abundance of long-stem roses is put in (do you really want to have to make the “grateful” face again, all the while wondering how this act recognizes women’s contributions at work, rather than their mere presence?).
The intention of an international day to celebrate women is to recognize the many amazing ways women have always contributed to our society and human achievement. And every woman knows one day a year to celebrate these contributions will never balance out the lack of recognition our gender has historically experienced (and continues to experience). But this is what change looks like, you have to start somewhere. The hope is this day will increase the will and ability of all of us to name the impact of women as consistently as we do that of men… and that’s where the whole flower thing (and similar “check-the-box” acts) just doesn't get this done.
I want to celebrate how women made what we do today possible.
I’ve worked for several telecommunication companies in my career, and all the products those companies made were only possible because of Hedy Lamarr. Hedy was an Austrian-American actress and inventor who pioneered the technology that forms the basis for today's WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth capabilities (including their security). You may know her as a hyper-sexualized movie icon from the 1930’s. I love the juxtaposition of a female Hollywood stereo type held up against the woman whose inventiveness has touched the lives of everyone who uses a wireless device. Her contribution has generated an incalculable amount of wealth for tech organizations and the global economy. When I give this some thought, my employment in that industry was made possible because of Hedy’s contributions.
Which women have contributed to making your job possible today?
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to figure out the historical roles’ women have played in making what your organization does possible (seriously, Google it). Learn the long-term impact of female contributors. If you need someplace to start your search, consider landmark legal decisions, patents (inventions), scientific research, medical break-throughs, social activism, journalism, art and exemplary acts of empathy that changed how we think, what we know, what we do and how we do it. All because of a woman (or group of women). Stuck? Here’s a great place to start (the link has lists of amazing women who do more than traditional science): https://500womenscientists.org/related-resources
If you really want to make this something, figure out how the contributions of women who currently work for your company are paving the way for the future success of your enterprise. And not just the highly visible women, but the ones who make the bread-and-butter things happen. The ones whose actions saved your organization’s reputation. Or whose patents/ideas make you money. Recognize your payroll person who faithfully processes accurate pay every 2 weeks, ensuring the basis of trust with your workforce (every employee you have) is held sacred – because of them employees (including you) get paid properly and on time. It’s an important job, one that’s often completely overlooked with respect to what it takes to make an organization successful. Without conscientious people in this position (which is majority held by women), your organization wouldn’t last.
This celebration is about understanding and recognizing women’s impact at work.
We don’t want roses, or a parade, or even organizational-wide recognition. We want to know that what we do makes a meaningful difference at work. We want to see that the women who came before us, facing incredible odds, and making the ultimate sacrifice to pursue their passions to make a difference (like Marie Curie and many others), are getting recognition commensurate with their impact.
We want to know how these women continue to make a difference because they’ve opened doors for ALL of us (not just other women).
So, think about how you’d like to see women recognized this March where you work, and start talking about it. No more roses need to die for this day. Hold your organization accountable for honouring the true spirit and intention of a day to celebrate the incredible impacts of women and how they touch all of us.
International Women of Color Day is March 1st. International Women’s Day is March 8th. To celebrate, I’ll be posting from now until International Women’s Day on the contributions of notable women who’ve made a difference to the way we work today. Follow me on LinkedIn to see who made the list (and why)!
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