Continued Progress Requires Courage, Persistence, and Ongoing LeadershipPosted on 3.21.2022 by Steve Selfridge
I find the greatest reason to celebrate Women’s History Month, is to acknowledge that through extreme sacrifice and determination, tremendous progress has been made to improve equality and inclusion in the world —however, we must continue to courageously carry the torch into the future, fostering further improvements today and for the next generation. This work is not done, and there is great room for opening more opportunities to bring all voices to the table.
The Women’s March on Washington, a major milestone in history that occurred during our lifetime, took place five short years ago. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I have been thinking back to that moment in time, to reflect on where we stand today. The truth is, progress can be tough to measure and is sometimes slow, particularly in areas that are tough to research and calibrate with bias and unconscious bias as a constant influence beneath the surface.
This topic is important to me as a leader, but it is also personal. As a husband and parent. As a proud husband of my wife who has had a long and meaningful career as a licensed Clinical Social Worker, and also a father of an extremely talented software engineer [underrepresented in her field] this topic is also front-and-center in my home. As we look to the next generation, I witness my two brilliant granddaughters trailblazing to achieve great success and wonder what opportunity will look like for them in the future.
With full honesty, this is not always an easy topic to openly discuss without discomfort or vastly varying opinions, because there are many facets relating to society, culture, religions, family history, and most importantly individual views that influence bias, whether unconscious or not.
Unconscious bias is a real and an important underlying issue that needs to be addressed in the world and within all organizations striving for success and inclusion. Operating under the belief that diverse teams deliver innovative and better results, we are focused on diversifying our teams across the board—however true inclusion of our diversified workforce must follow. We know that growth and innovation are fueled through diverse ideas coming from our diverse employees working together.
With this you might ask, how can I actually help? What can I do to make a difference?
I believe there are a few fundamental ways we can all work to become better adversaries and champions for equality every day:
- Awareness. Acknowledging issues with full and open dialogue and transparency, to find solutions. Without examining what exists, we cannot understand how to improve. This means having tough conversations, asking how employees really feel, and working together to create solutions and improvements. The reality is, if you suspect there might be a challenge or roadblock for certain employees, there probably is. And, if there is not (great!), but there is no harm in showing you care by asking.
- Self-reflection. Understand how you might work to improve. There are a number of tests available to measure if you have bias or hidden/unconscious bias, and where it exists, showing you where you can improve. We all have bias and unconscious bias—it is human. The question is, how much, and how can we improve to strive to attain the best version of ourselves. At D&Z, we are working to establish a more open environment where employees are free to bring their whole selves to work. Take this quiz to measure your understanding of unconscious bias.
- Participate and lean-in. We have a number of impactful Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) dedicated to facilitating change through meaningful discussions and initiatives, like our Women’s Resource Group. Find ways to connect with all employees, including the ones who may not be in your circle at work. This has become exceptionally challenging during COVID, in remote settings, but as we return to work slowly, networking is key to reestablishing and building the open and inclusive culture we strive to host at work.
- Persistence. Keep at it. Remember that this is extremely important to us at D&Z under our values of safety, diversity, integrity, and success, and therefore we want all employees and teams to support an open and inclusive environment. Conscious attitudes and beliefs can change and we are working hard to encourage our people to bring diverse thinking and experiences to facilitate a more open, innovative and inclusive workplace.
With more than 120 years in operation, D&Z has always been at the forefront of history, with women leading the charge outside of what was declared stereotypical employment, to support the war effort in our munitions production plants —and today supporting the U.S. National Security Mission.
As we proudly celebrate the many great women who have overcome adversity, also celebrating our own women within Day & Zimmermann today, and through history, we must continue to support diversity, inclusion, and equality— this will enable us to accelerate the next generation of innovation