The theme for International Women’s Day this year is “Embrace Equity.” To honor this day, we turned to our global staff to gauge their views on embracing equity, including via allyship. As is always the case, we are impressed with our staff’s thoughtful responses and enthusiasm for the topic and with their commitment to embracing equity across the board.
Noticing that a lot of people connect the mobility and flexibility of hybrid work with the concept of equity, we also explored the connection between embracing equity and hybrid work, finding responses very mixed with regard to whether hybrid helps or hurts equity.
Enthusiasm for equity at RingCentral
One of the first respondents noted the enthusiasm in the theme, sharing: “Embrace means to ‘accept or support (a belief, theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically.’ I think the enthusiastic part of the definition is really important. Not only are we striving for equity because it’s the right thing for everyone, but we are enthusiastic about it.”
Another respondent shared that they are “excited to be more purposeful” in their approach to embracing equity. Many shared that enthusiasm, with many extrapolating embracing equity beyond women, too.
One respondent summed up the views of many: “Embracing equity for me means to be aware of possible disparities within our organization and to make sure we’re creating a fair environment for people to thrive.” That same respondent emphasized the importance of carrying that awareness to the team level by making sure that choice assignments are distributed fairly and that “caretaking” roles aren’t only the domain of women.
Challenging the status quo
Of course, frustrations remain, with one respondent expressing, “I still do not see allies speaking up for women in the room, bringing women into the more impactful projects to an organization.”
No doubt this is where we all have work to do and can make the same personal commitment, as the respondent who promised to continue “to educate myself on unconscious bias and microaggressions to help eradicate implicit biases that can negatively affect the people around me.”
The need for equity across visible—and invisible—differences
We also are reminded that the need for attention to equity sometimes isn’t obvious. One respondent noted a personal connection, vulnerably sharing, “This is huge for me this year as it requires I stand up for myself and in doing so make my disability known. It’s been hard to be taken seriously as I look ‘normal’; there’s no disfigurement that shows my disability.”
Another respondent highlighted an Audre Lorde quote: “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” This felt like an important reminder that embracing and celebrating equity is important not just on International Women’s Day but on every day of the year.
The importance of allyship in the journey to equity
Allyship and embracing equity are closely tied. One respondent poignantly noted: “Embracing equity means addressing the historical and systemic disadvantages women face by actively seeking justice and fairness for ALL women. Equity is extremely important for all communities of women (including Black, Latina, LGBTQIA+, disability, etc.) as intersectionality should never be forgotten in the topic of equity. Considering who a person is holistically is how I am striving to embrace equity for women across all backgrounds.”
A number of respondents felt as though we must consider “pro-actively engaging with those of different cultures and backgrounds both professionally and personally” as we consider how to embrace equity alongside how to be strong allies. Some sought to be “a mentor, advocate and trusted confidante for women in the workplace” and to be “amplifying marginalized voices, using one’s privilege to drive positive change, and making genuine efforts to challenge systemic biases.”
A few respondents noted that change cannot and will not come about from women alone and saw an important, urgent role for men in allyship, noting “many more men need to be aware of these inequalities and be willing to learn and change their tendencies, whether it be giving women on a team more of a voice in meetings, making sure pay aligns with male colleagues, hiring more women, and considering more women for leadership positions.”
Another shared: “One thing that folks get wrong is only listening and not taking action. Being performative in this manner causes a lack of follow through and makes enacting real change challenging.”
Hybrid work’s role in equity: The jury’s still out
While most respondents replied enthusiastically about embracing equity and improving allyship, thoughts on whether hybrid work helps or hurts equity are all over the map. Many like and want hybrid work, but opinions vary on whether or not an absence of “facetime” is harmful to workplace engagement and career advancement.
Many, but not all, respondents felt that the availability of hybrid work helped more women stay in the workforce, especially during the pandemic. One shared that the benefits outweigh the costs as “hybrid has the opportunity to present more leadership roles of women working in different locations but also presents a challenge with creating impact and boundaries on work-life balance.”
Another shared: “I think hybrid work has increased workplace equity.
- It helps eliminate some of the unconscious bias based on looks/what people wear
- It has helped those who may not speak up in meetings have the ability to use the chat function on video calls
- It has led to flexibility which has made the lives of care takers (usually women) easier.”
Another respondent tied the question of hybrid back to both equity and allyship, writing: “The hybrid model of work can exacerbate existing challenges and introduce new ones, particularly with respect to matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Examining how power dynamics manifest in our new world can aid in preventing typical problems to enhance and foster a positive company culture. Proximity bias and presenteeism involves exhibiting a stronger preference for individuals we frequently interact with. Because of this, people will sometimes have a tendency towards favoring employees who thrive in conventional office environments over those who work remotely, giving face-time workers an unfair edge in promotions and salary hikes.”
Another respondent echoed that sentiment, sharing that hybrid work “can have a disproportionately negative impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, as well as on performance for individuals. Hybrid work also has the potential to create an unequal playing field and to amplify in-group versus out-group dynamics, which can flip those advantages. For workplaces already challenged to diversify and retain employees, adopting ill-conceived hybrid work models could instead speed departures, decrease inclusion, and harm performance.”
International Women’s Day at RingCentral: Only the beginning
These comments and the impact of workplace shifts on all of these factors of equity and allyship are something that any company these days must consider, certainly.
We are grateful to all who took their time to share their thoughts on what it means to “Embrace Equity,” to be an ally, and to work differently these days.
Originally published Mar 08, 2023