Happy International Women’s Day 2019. Does Change Start Here?


Nicki Gilmour

Celebrations and recognition of women and women specific issues are being highlighted today around the world and inside corporate offices. Celebrating and making people aware of amazing women and their accomplishments is excellent. Shedding light on social, economic or cultural issues that do not get enough attention is also great. Better to have it, than not have it for sure.

However, does change happen because of it? No, change requires more than a day of talking and a hashtag (which by the way is officially #balanceforbetter which hints at two things, balance of power, not just more balance for women)

But, when all is said and done, it is just a hashtag that means pretty much zero when it comes to actual behaviorial change or any action for anyone whatsoever. Now that we have named the elephant in the room on the sheer vacancy of going through the motions of pretense, perhaps we can talk real talk about change?

Awareness is the first step. But, only the first step in change.

How do we achieve parity. equality, equity or meritocracy?

I like the #biascorrect idea that Catalyst is motioning this IWD (International Women’s Day). Stereotypes limit us. Anyone who has ever been stereotyped will tell you that. Catalyst provide resources to address that bias and in this instance, convey that words matter.

What is less discussed, are the false positive stereotypes and head starts that many women and many men but not all, give to men as leaders and heads of teams, families, power structures generally. That is the balance of power piece we really need to discuss.

What can you do?

Recognize that you probably implicitly have bias. We all do. I coach people to examine their paradigms regularly, as your mental model is formed via your life experiences and their context. That means, you probably are operating off ideas that your family and society told you was the “way it is” and that way it was, was steeped in notions of one gender’s needs being met before others.

Socialization, not brain differences feed into cognitive process whereby we place evaluative meaning on everything. Men are not from Mars and Women are not from Venus. We are all from Earth. The backlash we are seeing is due to people trying to maintain a historically granted place of power and is not surprising. The protection of the patriarchy by women,  is to do with their socialization under men’s rules and women’s place in the structure of society so far, secure but secondary so fear on an unknown alternative prevents change and fuels racism, nationalism, and is why we see sexism by women against women.

We need to educate everyone on the benefits of equality and equity as the patriarchy is a system not a gender or a person and does not serve very many people other than the bad guys ( their reckoning is here, though) in this modern world.

It is only when we stop our bias cognitively, and make efforts to behaviorally change that we can be freed from false expectations around diversity parties, celebrations and hashtags actually changing anything. Stop asking the women to balance for better and start asking everyone to stop believing everything they think to be true. Test assumptions for best results.

Enjoy this satire piece in The NY Times today. I could not agree more.

Enjoy the day, however you spend it.