#WageWeek: changing the narrative

#WageWeek galvanized our community, encourage individuals to consider their implicit gender biases.

Throughout the week of April 3rd, over 150 people took time out of their days to look at the gender pay gap with a gender lens. Each wondering, How does gender impact financial security, and looking forward to solutions.

Facilitated by 11 community partners, conversations occurred in offices, coffee shops, museums, and libraries around the city.

We heard you.

You told us what being a woman or a man means for your careers, and ultimately, your paychecks.

Girls are taught to be soft, quiet and small.

Boys are taught to be tough, strong and powerful.

Girls are taught to be caregivers.

Boys are taught to provide.

Data from our recent Pervasive Power of Gender Norms report confirms this: “Gendered expectations resulting in disparate educational opportunities, in turn drive diverging career paths for many women versus men. Today women earn more college degrees than men, and yet they are not equally represented across all fields, especially STEM fields.”

Leading to one of many examples of how gender norms impact economic opportunity–we push girls toward higher-education, but lower-paying fields.

As one shared, “Our group determined ways that gender norms limit potential at a systemic level, as well as how that shapes our personal narratives and creates additional barriers.” Another stated, “It made me think about how bias continues to be perpetuated. It also made me be more aware of our natural biases.”

These shifts in awareness and attitude, matter because it’s the first step to actionable change. It’s the first step to disrupting the belief that “this is just the way things are.”

Using the Gender By Us™ conversation toolkit as a guide, discussions revealed many deep-rooted issues that impact women and girls on a daily basis.

The Women’s Fund operates with a model of abundance. This means: we find what’s working and make more happen.

So, I find myself asking: what’s next?

How can we continue the momentum created in one week of dialogue and infiltrate it into daily awareness?

Of course there are systemic changes, like supporting legislation to ensure equal pay, building awareness about Ohio’s wage discrimination, and implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives.

To create meaningful and lasting change, however, we need to change our mindsets, too.

Many #WageWeek participants shared action steps they can take on a daily basis. Today, I want to echo a few of these powerful commitments.

On Gaining Confidence

“After attending the conversation, I’ve learned that I should be more confident with myself and to not let other people walk all over me.”

Certainly, many factors contribute to the gender wage gap, but much of what we accomplish begins with our understanding of, and belief in, ourselves.

Start where you’re at.

How do you show up at work? How are you showing up within your family, friends, and neighbors?

Build your professional and personal leadership style so difficult conversations, like negotiations, become more manageable.

On Advocating for Change

“I will speak up when I see injustice occurring in front of me and I will educate more individuals about the wage gap and how we need to fix things.”

I strongly believe as human beings we exist fully when we are engaged and connected to each other. We thrive when we know there are others who have our back.

As we know, the approach to service isn’t about you.

And yet… it has everything to do with you.

“Speak your mind even if your voice shakes.” This quote is one I am mindful of when I find myself in a conversation or meeting and I don’t have what I think are the “right words.”

Most often, these are the moments when I am speaking from my values and my heart more so than what’s in my head. With enough experiences, these are the times that lead to change, to connection with others, and can take the conversation in a new direction.

On Creating a Pipeline

“I think my biggest takeaway was how can I mentor a young woman to feel empowered to negotiate for fair compensation. The issue is so big that we each need to do our part.”

If we want our community as a whole to thrive, then we need to set our girls up for success and increase the number of women leveraging their influence at every decision-making table.

Because here’s the deal: our One Girl research shows that a girl’s confidence peaks at age 8.

You think you can conquer the world until you’re 8 years old, and then your confidence vanishes.

We need to build our girls up.

If we don’t change this number, how will we create a pipeline of strong, empowered future women leaders?

It has always been my practice and commitment while looking and moving forward. In order to ensure economic self-sufficiency for women, we need to share skills, instill knowledge and open doors for girls and young women.

Use your voice to advocate and create a pipeline of women’s leadership.

On Leading Change

“I am now looking at many different aspects of my life to see if I am adhering to gender norms or letting implicit bias skew my view of something.”

Being a catalyst for creating change, one who honors their sense of responsibility or being a person of influence, is a clear demonstration of leadership.

We have to redefine what our own norms are going to be. We have to decide where we show up. And then lead from an authentic place.

You don’t need to be a CEO to influence change. Regardless of your title or rank, today, or in the future, how do you lead?

For me, I start with the first exercise to get a sense of self (yes, I do these too). Then, I personally apply the practice through monthly team sessions within The Women’s Fund and with women I meet.

Changing the narrative comes from repetition and frequency. The more one says something, questions it, or interacts differently, the more others around you will begin to pick up on your message.

It’s like a new song on the radio. At first it sounds new and not many people know it. Soon, with enough air time, people become familiar with it, might even know the words (even if they don’t like the tune). From here, the goal is to get enough people to know the words to sing along together.

We’ve all heard the Gandhi quote, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” When there is a tipping point, or a significant body of energy in motion–a movement if you will–a shift can occur that redefines a norm.

Keep having the conversations that matter. Look at what’s working well, and intentionally repeat, repeat, repeat.

Written by Nichole E. Dunn, President & CEO