Reaching Equality Through Relatability (and Actionable Steps!)

By Brielle Valle
March 26, 2021

In order for there to be an equitable world, there must first be a shared understanding of what constitutes equality. As a partner of AllVoices, we are on a similar path to drive systemic change that yields equitable environments, leveraging different tools and strategies to get us there. But what we must realize is that it is not the individuals who are aligned on the notion of equality that need the most coaching and direction. Instead, it is those who are fearful of equitability and resist the reality that strays too far from the antiquated and misdirected status quo. Whether intentionally or not. 

In my recent research endeavors for an ethnographic study about the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on women, I learned that the original American Dream was not a dream of individual wealth; instead, it was a dream of equality, justice, and democracy for the nation. Over the years it was repurposed by each generation, that is until the Cold War. At that time, it became the defense for a consumer capitalist variation of democracy. After that, the meaning was not seemingly multivocal -- cash was king. 

That is until about two years ago, in 2019, when a sizable New York Times survey was conducted to capture the present meaning of the American Dream. According to survey results, rather than representing the prized jewel of monetary success, the meaning has shifted: American’s new dream is a freedom of choice in how to live and how to have a good family life. Simply put, choice is the driver in one’s pursuit of happiness.

This struck a chord.

Our nation was in fact meant to be built upon a concept of equality… But then power and monetary gains quickly reworked the terrain to ensure women’s subjugation to men. It had me wondering: If at one point we were wise enough to strive for a respectful and inclusive culture, is it not possible to achieve again? 

Of course it is. 

In fact, the new record of the American Dream is a testament to this. Choice inherently assumes there is optionality. For Americans to choose how to live, options must be a part of that equation. Interestingly enough, if we think about equality -- and the multifaceted elements of what comprises equality, having choice is one of the pieces. While everyone may not understand equality just yet, everyone understands choice. And we need everyone’s participation to reach equality.

I work with organizations not only through implementing programs that yield fair-minded and progressive outcomes, but I often work with women to help them recognize their power, harness their confidence, and employ the freedoms that we do have. A sizable piece of the puzzle is for women to first recognize their many strengths and to redirect what is within their control. 

To see equality at work and in the home, there are many steps that can be taken (read about my solutions here) but there are several tactics you can employ readily: 

1. Get a Mentor / Be a Mentor (seek out women):

  • Research indicates that mentees are promoted more quickly, achieve high job satisfaction, earn higher salaries, and are in the good practice of gathering feedback for self-betterment. 
  • Career advancement and more earnings equates to more choices, and women who continuously climb that ladder will have more leverage to address pay equity.

2. Set Boundaries and Re-evaluate How Your Time is Spent:

  • If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that women are disproportionately affected during crises. This “women can have it all” mindset is missing a clause: Women can have it all in equitable environments. If partners do their share of both child care and domestic work, women will not be forced out of their jobs. Further, additional attention must be paid to women of color who face not only more barriers in organizational advancement than most other employees, but who have witnessed the impact of COVID-19 at new heights; the CDC records death rates of Black individuals to white individuals at almost a multiple of three. 
  • These systemic issues are far more detailed and complex than one bullet point will solve, but a great first step is to create a spreadsheet with your spouse and color-coordinate who is responsible for what. From laundry, to pet care, to getting the kids ready for a bath, writing out all that needs to be done demands transparency, visibility, and at the very least, a discussion about what precedent you are setting for your children. 
  • Changes in how your time is spent is freeing, increases choice, and -- you guessed it -- directly affects equality within the home which permeates into the workplace.

3. Take Risks, Welcome Failure:

  • The best way to build confidence is through building resiliency, and that comes from failing. Just one reason men hold more board seats and c-level titles is due to confidence, not necessarily competence, and it turns out that both are vital to corporate success. Multiple studies show that women are less self-assured than men and do not consider themselves as ready for promotions as their male counterparts. Women generally underestimate their abilities. Women must raise their voice when they have an idea, must take up space when they are feeling small, and must accept that failing is not a reflection of self-worth. Instead, failing establishes an armour that, over time, builds unshakable confidence. 
  • More resilience paves the path for higher confidence. More confidence opens the door to promotions, higher earnings, and personal happiness. 
    The pendulum of change swings as far as we are able and willing to push it. Together, we are a whole lot stronger and with unified efforts and voices, the progress made will be too strongly knit that it cannot be undone. Let us focus on that reality and progress forward with choice as our north star to reach equality.

The pendulum of change swings as far as we are able and willing to push it. Together, we are a whole lot stronger and with unified efforts and voices, the progress made will be too strongly knit that it cannot be undone. Let us focus on that reality and progress forward with choice as our north star to reach equality.

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