Today is International Women’s Day. The truth is I love this occasion for two very different reasons.

I identify as a feminist in the same way I do a father, husband and business leader. 

I take great pride in doing my part to increase opportunities for women and girls. That includes combating outdated stereotypes, the consequences of which women and girls have been subjected for the longest time. 

In fact, standing shoulder to shoulder alongside women like my wife, Jo Burston, Rhonda Brighton-Hall and Julie Bishop (to name a few) and taking daily strides to create an equal footing for women and girls is invigorating. 

Because we are on a mission. Together. 

IWD reminds us of our collective contribution and our conviction towards one day declaring that this day we celebrate is redundant.

IWD also provides a platform to remind people of a choice that is well within their control. 

The choice

When people are reminded of IWD through social media or workplace celebration, they either embrace it or (metaphorically) roll their eyes. 

The metaphorical eye rolling is easy to spot, and I’ve learned a lot from people who do. While our calendars are littered with an increasing number of occasions to celebrate, people in this eye-rolling bucket, for the most part, don’t feel that way because they are sexist. Their reaction is a consequence of not knowing how to engage. 

One explanation that stayed with me compared the inequality of women and girls to climate change. The crux of the argument was that both are big issues. They both live in our consciousness, but it’s difficult to know how to start playing a meaningful role due to the sheer size of the problem. 

You might consider this legitimate or an excuse. 

I subscribe to the idea that a person can act if they invest in understanding the challenge. The higher the understanding, the larger the set of opportunities from which one can act. 

The same choice is made by people wanting to change their life, their context or the world.

Learn or remain anchored in your perceived reality. 

It’s a simple choice. 

Choose learning

Whenever I chose to learn, I am opting into a self-reinforcing cycle. The cycle starts with absorbing multiple perspectives that inform. This is followed by a healthy albeit growing insecurity that I might be missing something. 

I am very aware of the role of that insecurity.

I build companies designed to change the world. On this journey, it becomes apparent that your rate of learning is the secret weapon. And as this increases so does the risk of ‘missing something’. 

In every business I have started insanely capable, curious and good-humoured women and men have not only accelerated the company’s rate of learning, but they also narrowed the risk of missing something. 

Together. Women and men. At the top of their game.

Quotas don’t work, inspired leaders do 

Let’s get practical. Take a moment to think about your target customers. 

Where do women play a role in the purchase decision? They may not be the decision maker, but there is a high likelihood that they influence the purchase. 

Now, look at your team. 

Are there enough women to balance out the male ego and bias laced within your product?

Assuming the answer is NO, and you want to use IWD as the catalyst to make a change, start by thinking about how you hire.

I understand that hiring is one part of the talent equation and that people might jump to the notion of creating a quota system. 

For the record, I don’t believe in quotas for hiring women at any level of an organisation. I strive to be a leader who develops teams which are remembered for their high-quality decision making, high rate of learning and ability to not miss things. 

This mix of results can only come from hiring the most capable women and men you can afford. You might be nodding as you read this at the same time you realise you don’t know where to begin. 

Tried and tested 

Try Textio. This online platform, which you can start using for free, analyses the gender bias and comprehensiveness of your current position descriptions. 

Once you overcome the (unexpected) gender bias implicit in your position descriptions, Textio guides you step by step on how to balance or speak more directly to prospective women candidates.

Kieran Snyder and the team at Textio have done a fantastic job with the product and in doing so lowered the barrier to hiring more gender-balanced teams. The only things missing is a small company pricing tier. But I’m sure they’re thinking about it.

One last thing…

On this, IWD 2019, and every day after think about gender balance as a capability that accelerates learning and decreases the chance of missing what’s essential. This is as important to building companies as it is to all parts of civil society. 

As a husband, father of girls and business leader, I am optimistic about the future. 

And to every person who champions women and girls, thank you. 

The mission continues.