EachforEqual is this year’s theme for International Women’s Day – a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality. I’ve already been to various events to celebrate what the day represents, and some of my clients are also using it to champion inclusive initiatives within their organisations.
As women are half the population, championing equality in gender terms seems a good place to start (!) but having a day reflecting on EachforEqual is also an opportunity to reflect on what equality means for all of us – for everyone. Equality is the state of being equal, a fundamental belief that all people are of equal worth and are entitled to equal respect regardless of their physical, intellectual or cultural differences. As the philosopher, Immanuel Kant put it, human beings should be treated as ends in themselves, not as a means to an end. It underpins the core of much contemporary thinking about human rights, civil rights and citizenship. Days like IWD are part of the journey of getting us there, but equality is more than just a women’s issue.
An equal world is an enabled world
To cite the IWD website “An equal world is an enabled world”. There is increasing evidence that the more diverse the perspectives in the room, the better – for each and every one of us. It is clear from the wealth of psychological research that every human being comes with the capability to solve complex problems and – where such creative behaviour can be harnessed amongst a group of people with differing skills and perspectives – extraordinary things can be achieved. This is particularly true in our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world where problem solving and innovation is increasingly about teamwork, collaboration, co-creation and the combination of perspectives of people from different disciplines, backgrounds, lived experiences and expertise.
An equal world is an enabled world – what might have made us successful in the past – what got us here – won’t necessarily make us successful in the future. Organisations need to develop ‘dynamic capability’ – the ability to adapt and change to the fast changing, VUCA world around us. That’s about people and having a diversity of perspectives – and learning to do this effectively becomes an organisation’s competitive advantage.
The value of diversity is ensuring we value diversity
In previous blog posts I’ve talked about balancing out inclusion in our conversations around diversity and inclusion. Yes, we need diversity but we also need to make our workplaces, our communities, our society, inclusive. The value of diversity is ensuring we value diversity – those differing perspectives, insights and lived experiences – all need to be valued and included.
Some diverse characteristics are more unequal than others
I’m passionate about fighting for gender equality for sure, but I’m also passionate about ensuring equality for all – and, sadly, some diverse characteristics are more unequal than others. In celebrating IWD I am reminded of Reni Eddo-Lodge’s powerful writing (in her book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race) about the need for an intersectional analysis of not just feminism, but also class and race. The further away our difference is from the ‘norm’ – white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied, middle-class – the less we feel included.
There is no justice. There is just us
Each of us has a role to play in creating a more equal world – however big or small. Go for coffee or lunch with someone you don’t usually do this with and get to know them. In the workplace, look at your standard practices and routines and think about how you could make them more inclusive – think differently about your ‘team’ meetings, how you do your budgeting process, who leads projects and programmes of work? Start to build that inclusive muscle, bit by bit.
I’ll leave this post with (a slightly edited version) of IWD’s rallying cry:
“EachforEqual is about ‘collective individualism’ – we are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviours and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society. Collectively, we can make change happen. Collectively, we can each help to create a[n] gender equal world.”
So let’s each do our bit to create an equal world – starting now!