By Debbie First, Early P4P Member
This Women’s History Month, I am excited to celebrate the strides society has made on the path to parity and the efforts of Paradigm for Parity® (P4P) to continue progress for all women. I was an early member of P4P, and now, it’s a global coalition of over 140 member companies across 28 industries working to systematically change the narrative around parity to uplift the voices of women who have historically been excluded from leadership roles.
I grew up in Hartford Connecticut in the 1950s, when women had very few work options — we were expected to either stay at home or become a secretary, a nurse, or a teacher. My dad owned a jewelry store and a radio station but encouraged me to take typing, hoping I would become a secretary like my mom or a nurse. This would lead to my first job after college, as a teacher. Today, women hold jobs in various industries and thanks to major gains in the gender equity movement, there are far more opportunities for women today. But there is more we can do, much more.
According to Bloomberg, the global gender parity gap has worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic. Before 2020, the World Economic Forum predicted it would take 100 years to reach full parity — that estimate is now 132 years. Recent studies show a stubborn persistence of the gender pay gap in the United States, even as more women than men are graduating college. This is attributed to a host of factors including parenthood, family caregiving, and a lack of support and mentorship in the workplace.
I was blessed to have a successful career in education, advocacy, government, and communications. I was thrilled to join P4P and am proud of the progress we have seen as a result of our solution-oriented non-profit. With our 5-point plan, Paradigm for Parity encourages companies to commit to creating an environment that supports women in the workplace and beyond. Here are a few ways your company can support women:
● Invest in Development and be Intentional: Last year Paradigm for Parity welcomed our first Profit and Loss: Leadership Acceleration Program cohort. These early career women learned the valuable c-suite skill of evaluating revenue and expenses at their businesses. We also host the annual Women’s Multicultural and Intergenerational Event, bringing together women of all backgrounds to both learn from corporate leaders and share their own experiences.
● Paid Family Leave: Over the long term, family PTO (Paid Time Off) nearly closed the gap in workforce participation between mothers with young children and women without minor children. For women without access to family PTO, nearly 30 percent dropped out of the workforce within a year after giving birth and one in five did not return for over a decade.
● Paid menstrual and menopause leave: According to BBC, women can lose 9 days of productivity yearly due to menstrual issues. Menstrual issues can cause problems with productivity for women at all levels in the workplace. Menstrual leave would provide an inclusive way to support women facing the intensity of cramps or menopause and shows that your workplace values women and the transformations their bodies go through monthly.
● Sponsorship programs: Sponsorship is the number one way that women can propel into the c-suite. It is clearer than ever that mentorship is not enough, and while it does help women become better at their job, it does not help them advance past their position. Sponsorship is a way for women to feel valued by their company.
Keep the conversation going beyond Women’s History Month. Join the Paradigm for Parity Coalition and be a part of discussions on practices to achieve gender parity. For more information visit: Paradigm4parity.org.
About Paradigm for Parity®
As a nonprofit founded by a group of women executives in 2015, the Paradigm for Parity® coalition supports its member companies around the world in achieving gender parity including racial equity in their corporate leadership within 15 years of joining the coalition. In partnership with member company executives and recognized experts, the organization develops and promotes actionable strategies that transform corporate culture, so that women of all races, cultures and backgrounds have equal power and opportunity.