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Shelley Zalis: 5 ways to make a difference on Women's Equality Day

The CEO of The Female Quotient lays out simple tips for anyone to advance equality.
The Girls' Lounge Founder Shelley Zalis poses for a portrait at The Girls' Lounge, giving visibility to women at Advertising Week 2016, at the New York Times Building on Sept. 28, 2016 in New York City.
The Girls' Lounge Founder Shelley Zalis poses for a portrait at The Girls' Lounge, giving visibility to women at Advertising Week 2016, at the New York Times Building on Sept. 28, 2016 in New York City.JP Yim/Getty Images

Women’s Equality Day on Monday marks the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote on August 26, 1920 — though it’s important to note that many black and minority women were prevented from exercising their right to vote until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. And while 80 percent of Americans believe that women and men are guaranteed equal rights, the only right that the Constitution explicitly grants to both genders is the right to vote. That’s why it’s so important that we pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which would guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens — regardless of sex. The ERA would mandate that states intervene in cases of gender violence, protect women from motherhood discrimination, and guarantee equal pay nationwide.

We’ve made a lot of progress in almost 100 years, however, we still have a way to go. When the University of North Carolina opened residence halls for female students in 1921, the student newspaper headlined, “Women Not Wanted Here.” Today, women earn more college degrees than men. In 1920, women made up 21 percent of all gainfully employed persons — today, nearly half of U.S. workers are women. Just about 10 percent of married women worked outside the home in 1920; working mothers are now the primary or sole breadwinners for 40 percent of households with children.

From where we stand today, gender equality is still 202 years away. We can’t wait that long! It’s time to stop admiring the problem and start creating solutions for change. We can flip the script and flip the balance. As Catalyst says, we have to correct bias. Here are some simple hacks for anyone who wants to advance equality:

FACT #1: Men interrupt women almost three times more often than they interrupt other men.

HACK: Place an interruption bell in every meeting room to ensure that all voices are heard.

FACT #2: Men who offered to stay late to help prepare for a meeting got a 14 percent increase in their performance rating, according to one study. Women who offered received no increase.

HACK: Don’t value an employee based on their hours worked, but on the quality of their work.

FACT #3: In one study, replacing a woman’s name with a man’s name on a résumé increased the likelihood of being hired by more than 60 percent.

HACK: Remove biases from the recruiting process — and hire for passion, train for skill.

FACT #4: According to Harvard University’s Implicit Association Test, 76 percent of people more readily associate men with “career” and women with “family.”

HACK: Realize that caregivers make great leaders, and place equal importance on traditionally feminine leadership qualities like empathy, humility, compassion, and vulnerability.

FACT #5: Female employees are twice as likely as men to be mistaken for someone much more junior.

HACK: Find a sponsee/mentee who is different than you, and create pathways for them to rise up.

Unconscious bias is an excuse. Equality is a choice. Let’s make equality moves today!
 What are your favorite “hacks for equality”? I’d love to hear about them! Send me a message at @ShelleyZalis on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

Shelley Zalis is CEO of The Female Quotient and founder of The Girls' Lounge. She is a champion of equality and has devoted her career to advancing women in the workplace.