3 things we can all do to enable equality

  • Posted on March 31, 2016

This is a guest blog post written by Avanade alum, Els Hol-Ferman.

This blog first published on LinkedIn.

Yesterday my oldest daughter Clara came home and started telling me about her day. She was asked to speak at her school’s assembly about why we need International Women’s Day and why equality in the workplace matters. In summary she told her teachers and peers that:

  • Girls do better than boys in school yet struggle more in the workplace
  • Women are judged as controlling or “BOSSY” yet men are considered as showing leadership potential when exhibiting the same behavior.
  • Women are only 14% of the STEM workforce and yet companies with greater diversity are more likely to do better and experience growth. Ok, so maybe she didn’t state the firm percentage, but she got her point across!

She also told me how she rattled everything off and then RAN off the stage!

Why am I telling you this story? It’s not just because I’m proud of my 13 year old daughter, it’s also because it shows 3 things I believe we can all do to enable equality.

  1. Help girls and women be brave rather than perfect. Let’s lead by example and encourage girls and women to take risks. We have all felt or heard the following: "I'm afraid to ask a question, because I don't want to look like I don't understand.” Let’s all teach girls to be brave and create a supportive network that cheers them on, because together we will build incredible things. I really recommend the Ted Talk by the founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani: “Teach girls bravery, not perfection.”
  1. Find out how inclusive you are.There are lots of tools available to find out what your unconscious biases are, and what behaviors come out of those unconscious biases that do not support diversity. We all have them. Let’s admit it and deal with them.
  1. Evaluate the diversity of your personal and professional network. We all have a network of people that we're comfortable with, but what is your capacity to develop relationships with people that are different? Despite those differences, are people able to connect with you and trust you enough to cooperate with you to achieve shared goals? Inclusive leaders learn from those differences and understand that having a more diverse network is a source of more diverse ideas and higher quality solutions. Check out Roselinde Torres’ Ted Talk on “What it takes to be a great leader”.

I try to implement these 3 tactics regularly in my efforts be an inclusive leader and to do my bit to drive change for women. But I also had the privilege to have great role models who’ve understood me, inspired me, encouraged me, coached me and sponsored me to be the best I can be.

Mahnaz Javid Mahnaz Javid at Grace Hopper Celebration 2015

It seems only appropriate to thank, in particular, one of the most inclusive leaders I have worked with - Mahnaz Javid, SVP Talent Acquisition and Integration at Avanade. She is one of the most astute business people I have ever worked with. Her wisdom, drive, grace and strategic reach is truly inspiring.

But Mahnaz is far more than the great work she does at Avanade, she is a mother of 2 successful young men and also the president and co-founder of The Mona Foundation, a non-profit organization that believes universal education is one of the main ways of alleviating poverty and raising the status of women. Since 1999, The Mona Foundation has awarded more than $7 million to 34 projects in 18 different countries, from Tanzania to Haiti.

I wish every women to find a role model like Mahnaz. She leads the way!

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