More vocal role models needed

Ashley Galina Dudarenok is the Founder of Alarice International & Chozan based in Hong Kong. She believes that a lot has been accomplished over the last decade, but a lot more needs to be done.

What, according to you, are the successes of the gender equality movement which gathered momentum towards the end of the last decade?
1) HeForShe is an impactful movement. It was initiated by UN Women and aims to engage boys and men because gender equality doesn’t discriminate and affects both sexes. Since its launch, over 1.5 million (and counting!) actions advocating for a more gender equal world have been completed.

2) Women in politics – New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern is amazing. Finland also recently elected a female prime minister and in fact all the leaders in her coalition government are women. And not just women, young women. That’s how you change cultures. It’s a norm in some places now and through politics, these ideas will travel the world.

3) Role models – We need to see more role models. Michelle Obama is a great example. She now travels the world talking to men and women about opportunities education, personal empowerment and using your voice.

At the start of this decade, what would be your three priorities for gender equal workplaces?
I run a company and I believe in giving opportunities to women, promoting women, employing and training young women.

I recently launched FIRE, a 4-week self-improvement, empowerment and education program aimed primarily at women to help them redefine their goals, examine their mindset and get them on the road to success. This is not only to empower women within my network, but we also ran the program with women who work at our firm and some people in their networks.

As a thought leader in marketing, I mentor, sponsor, champion and advocate for women. I hire women and promote women to leadership roles. My company is run by women. We have just 3 men on the team, but I hope to balance things more in 2020. I also volunteer my time as a speaker at leadership events for women.

When women are promoted, they can lead by example on gender equality. They can take on leadership roles. They can make use of their seat at the table in the workplace and on boards. They can use their voice, their platform and also network with other women to explore common ground as well as differences and acknowledge them as they push for gender equality.

Of course, women can’t, and shouldn’t, be responsible for solving all the issues surrounding gender inequality alone. The following are some steps men can take to help advance gender equality in the workplace:
– They can listen to women and seek to understand their experiences, keeping in mind that female experiences vary.
– They can empower and enable women by making sure that they have the tools they need to be successful at work.
– They can encourage more transparent business processes in their workplace.
– In meetings, they can pay attention to who is contributing and make sure female colleagues have the space to speak.
– If they see problematic behaviour, they can call it out.

How important is the role of men in this movement and what according to you should organizations do to involve them?
The evidence shows that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress versus 30% when men aren’t engaged. Too many organizations still miss the mark on gender equity efforts by focusing only on changing women. For example, teaching women leadership strategies or networking skills.

Men can be better allies in many ways. For those who are invited to participate in women’s conferences or other initiatives, these are some best practices:

  • First, just listen. Listen in a way that inspires trust and respect. World-class listening requires focus, sincerity, empathy, refusal to interrupt, and a genuine valuing of the speaker’s experience and their willingness to share with you.
  • Remember, it’s not about you. Ask women how you can amplify their equality efforts, not replace them or take them over. Humility helps here. While women often express helpfulness in groups and through relationships, men tend to be more action-oriented. Rein this in and refrain from taking center stage, speaking for others or telling people how they should approach the problem.
  • Engage in supportive partnerships with women. These should be reciprocal and mutually beneficial. Share your influence, knowledge, experience and organizational resources with women’s groups and ask them how you can best support them.

How important is the concept of sisterhood in accelerating change?
Professional women rarely seek help from others and this is one of  their biggest mistakes. Trying to achieve everything by themselves, trying to prove that they can do it all alone and make it all by themselves has a flip side and that inability to ask and receive help is a major drawback.

In order to grow, we need help, we need a community, we need the sisterhood. The more women know about this concept, have access to a supportive community, and go on to create their own sisterhoods, the faster we all rise.

I’m a big believer in communities, masterminds and sisterhood circles. They all work. We need more of them in each community.

Do you think we need a young champion like Greta Thunberg for this cause as well?
Young champions are always welcome, but I think we need to focus on a much wider and more diverse group. We should have a champion in each niche community, leading the way and showing what’s possible

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