What are You Doing to Advance Equality?

March 8, 2020
By: Hattie Hill

When you look at the number of big corporations celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, it’s easy to think it’s always been this way. It hasn’t.

For nearly a century, March 8th was for protest and demonstration, a day when women (and men) would take to the streets to bring awareness to injustices like women’s suffrage, equal pay, violence against women and even world peace. But over the past decade, International Women’s Day has become more celebration than protest.

This month, in honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, Apple is hosting a month of events across its retail store, App Store and other platforms, including Apple TV, Apple Books and Apple Podcasts. Meanwhile, Netflix is launching “Because She Watched,” a collection of series, documentaries and films curated by 55 women in entertainment, including Millie Bobby Brown, Lana Condor, Janet Mock, Salma Hayek and Sophia Loren. TIME Magazine has created 89 new covers to spotlight 100 influential women who were often overshadowed in recognition of Women’s History Month.

The evolution of International Woman’s Day and Women’s History Month from fringe holidays to full-on celebrations highlight how far we’ve come. Today, we recognize that women play an indispensable role in every facet of life—from business and politics to the arts, sports and more. When companies celebrate our success, they know it’s what their customers and employees want to see: recognition of our value and contributions to society.

I’m thankful to companies like Apple, Netflix, and TIME for helping the public become more keenly aware of the strides we’ve made and the steps we still need to take to achieve full equality. That’s what makes this year’s International Women’s Day theme–#EachforEqual—so important. To close the wage gap and ensure that women have a clear path to senior leadership roles, we all need to do our part—men and women alike.

Throughout my 32 years in business, I’ve had the benefit of working closely with highly supportive business leaders. One of my earliest role models—a male coworker from my first job—talked me into starting a business that ultimately grew into a multimillion-dollar company. He saw something in me and gave me the confidence to go out and achieve. There is no substitute for having role models and mentors, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle.

When I first started out in business, I was often the only woman in the room and certainly the only woman of color. I’d join a meeting, and everyone would think I was there to clean the table or take notes. Even in 2020, we’re still grappling with overcoming these stereotypes. So, how do we change the culture? It starts with education.

We all must live by the “if you see something, say something” mantra. When you see someone exhibit bias, unconscious or otherwise, pull that person aside and let them know that their words might be perceived negatively. There’s no shame in gently guiding someone to the right path. Throughout my life, I’ve traveled to more than 70 countries, and I’m grateful to the people who have pointed out mistakes I’ve made. We’re all a work in progress.

In 2020, a century after women earned the right to vote, gender equity and inclusion are front and center in the national conversation. Movements like #MeToo have brought greater awareness to issues that women have quietly endured for generations. And while we have a lot to celebrate—more women earning advanced degrees, a record number of women serving in the U.S. House of Representatives—we must all do our part to close the wage gap, welcome women into traditionally male-dominated STEAM industries and support women as they climb the corporate ladder into senior leadership positions.

I’m hopeful today and more determined than ever to move us toward greater progress through my work with the T.D. Jakes Foundation. I’m thankful to have my friend and mentor, Bishop T.D. Jakes, by my side, creating a world where everyone can live up to their full potential. When we build bridges between business and communities, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.

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