Women’s Equality Day on Wednesday commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote on August 26, 1920. But the fight for equality among all women has continued for decades. Many Black and minority women were prevented from exercising their right to vote until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.
Know Your Value spoke with business trailblazer Dia Simms, CEO of Lobos 1707 Tequila & Mezcal and former president of Combs Enterprises, about what the observance means to her as a woman of color in the C-suite.
Know Your Value: What does Women’s Equality Day mean for you as an executive?
Simms: As a woman of color in the c-suite, it is inspiring to see an increase in good intentions and conversation with women receiving equitable representation in home and in the workplace. In a sense, women are still in the process of gaining their full citizenship since the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
This further proves the short period of time that women have been recognized and valued in this country. Voting determines our way of life. No matter your political affiliation, it is important for us to band together to make up for lost time.
Know Your Value: For you, who are the female role models making a difference today for women’s equality?
Simms: My mother and my daughter. They are true examples of the kind of woman I want to be, and they inspire me to strive for the best in myself.
Know Your Value: In the shifting workplace where companies have embraced hybrid, remote and in-person employment, how can women understand and articulate their worth?
Simms: The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women in the workplace and the landscape has significantly changed. According to data from McKinsey, women in the U.S. are more likely to need to change occupations after the pandemic than ever before. Meanwhile, another study by Steelcase found that women are most likely to have sub-optimal conditions for working from home.
While the past 18 months have been a challenge, it has also highlighted the resilience and depth of capability among working women in which they can measure and understand their worth. It’s important for all women to know that they can make an impact no matter their title.
Know Your Value: How can women empower each other to advance in the workplace?
Simms: Women are good for business because of their unique ability to lead. We have shattered glass ceilings in nontraditional institutions, proving that we are just as knowledgeable and effective at employing and executing management tactics as any man.
In my industry, just 4 percent of C-suite positions in wine and spirits are held by women and only 10 percent of women make up C-level roles in the food and beverage manufacturing industry, with less than 3 percent being women of color.
Our key to success comes down to the fact that our leadership is adaptable for many environments.
At all times, I believe it important to place yourself with the right team of people who support and empower you to advance overall. It’s my hope that more women get to see themselves reflected in the leaders of companies they work for and are empowered and encouraged to ascend in those structures.
Know Your Value: What advice would you give your younger self when it comes to building confidence and harnessing your potential?
Simms: Always place yourself in an environment that challenges and cultivates your skills. Pursue to learn and sharpen your craft. Take that risk and step outside of your comfort zone in an effort to reach your full potential and realize your dreams. Lastly, get ready to put in the hard work and to outwork your competitors no matter what industry you’re in.