During Women's History Month, I am thinking about my daughter who will be born in a few short weeks, along with the state of women around the world. My overriding wish for her--and for women everywhere--comes down to this: I want you to make history.
How we make history is up to us, and your business doesn't have to be a household name to do it. You just have to do something that hasn't been done before. You have to do something that makes an impact.
The reality is, there are barriers along the way that we all need to work through collectively to impact women's ability to make history. Here are six ways you can do your part as a small business owner.
1. Create opportunities.
By giving women on your team the tools to open doors that have been closed to them, you help eliminate the barriers to entry that for far too long have held them back.
Both Spotify and Google did this by providing comprehensive training programs, and in some instances funding, to aspiring podcasters to increase the number of women and minorities in the space.
You can create opportunities by creating training, internship, or even scholarship programs to give opportunities for more women to grow within your company and industry.
2. Provide a platform.
Change happens when you use your voice. And even though creating a platform is more accessible today than ever, there is still a great need to help more women amplify their voice through established channels.
In 2018, the Inbound marketing conference, which welcomes tens of thousands of attendees each year, did this by achieving gender equity among the speakers they featured on their stages.
If your brand conducts online training or participates in conferences, ensure that you have an adequate representation of women to highlight as experts.
3. Offer support.
Whether its emotional, physical, intellectual, or financial support, we all need help from external sources to help keep us going.
Bea Dixon is founder of The Honey Pot, a brand of plant-based feminine hygiene products. In a recent commercial for Target, she credits the support she received from the retail chain as being the catalyst that improved the trajectory of her company, including help with the product line, all the way down to the packaging.
You can prioritize working with companies that are owned and or operated by women for various needs you may have, and be open to providing mentoring where needed and when possible.
4. Show representation.
Representation matters. When people from underserved communities, including women, see others who look like them making history and doing remarkable things, it ignites something in them that lets them know they can do it, too.
Rihanna's lingerie line Savage X Fenty does that by featuring women of all different shapes, sizes, ethnicities, along with women with disabilities, and even transgender women in their advertising and fashion shows.
You can start by simply altering the types of imagery you showcase on social media and company communications.
5. Strive for equality.
The statistics look grim when we consider the gender pay gap and the number of women in leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies. But when companies put intentional effort behind making sure such gaps are closed, it signals that equality is possible on a larger scale.
Unilever did it by setting the intention to achieve gender balance across its leadership team. Earlier this month the consumer goods company announced it has achieved that goal, a year ahead of schedule, by having the same number of women as men in leadership roles globally. You can start to do the same, albeit on a smaller scale, in your business.
6. Give grace.
I've heard tales from far too many women about how difficult their reentry back to work was after giving birth, and how in some instances it stalled or derailed their career. That shouldn't be happening in 2020.
Last year, Apple introduced policies to ease the transition back to work for new parents. After returning from their paid leave, which is at least 16 weeks for birth parents, the company is now allowing a four-week "grace period" that allows them to work part-time hours while earning full-time pay. In this instance, the employee even gets to set their own hours.
As a small business, you could offer flexibility for any women coming back from maternity leave for a certain amount of time. Perhaps it is the opportunity to work from home, or even to alter work hours as they adjust to life with a new demanding family member.
We all have a role to play when it comes to breaking down barriers that prevent more women from thriving. So instead of just acknowledging and celebrating Women's History Month, let's all commit to doing our part to ensuring every woman and girl has a better chance to make history.