It was in 1975, during the International Women's Year, that the United Nations began celebrating International Women's Day on March 8. It started as an occasion dedicated to looking back and reflecting on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, to looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women. A terrific vision!
Sadly today, in 2015, the potential of women around the globe mostly remains untapped, and there are not many outstanding opportunities awaiting them either. Don’t get me wrong. I think we have made tremendous progress, but there’s so much more we can do to ensure that women and men have equal opportunities in the workplace.
To expedite matters, I recommend celebrating “International Wake Up, Don’t Lose Your Talent Year”—and continuing the celebration and focus all year long!
In preparation for the celebration, answer the following three questions:
1. Who has helped you get ahead?
2. Who would say the same about you?
3. Do those people look like you?
As part of celebrating, commit to the following three actions:
1. I will be an intentional leader.
Intentionality is a term echoed by CEOs and leaders of successful and inclusive companies to indicate the focus, attention, and courageous acts required by leaders to advance diversity and inclusion. Intentional leaders are those who deliberately choose to be at the forefront of change and inspire others.
2. I will make my team members feel included.
Catalyst research says that when women and men feel included, they are more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty, innovate, and suggest new ideas and ways to get work done. Inclusion happens when people’s needs for individuality (uniqueness) and connection (belongingness) are met. Inclusion happens when you value both the differences and the commonalities of others.
Uniqueness: Standing out from the crowd (coworkers, colleagues, team members, peers) and being and feeling recognized for what’s distinct about you.
Belongingness: Being and feeling accepted as part of the crowd, regardless of your differences or similarities with others.
3. I will strive to demonstrate the four characteristics of inclusive leadership. Catalyst has identified them as:
1. Empowerment: Enabling your direct reports to develop and excel.
2. Accountability: Demonstrating confidence in your direct reports, and holding them responsible for performance and tasks they can control.
3. Courage: Setting personal interests aside to get the job done and taking personal risks, including taking one for the team as a leader.
4. Humility: Admitting mistakes, learning from different points of view, and seeking contributions from others.
When you are an intentional and inclusive leader, you develop a diverse team and foster an inclusive workplace. So disrupt your default, say no to the status quo, and be an intentional and inclusive leader. We all know what happens when you have a talented team in an inclusive workplace—the celebration continues all year long!