international women's day

How Startup Leaders Can Choose to Challenge the Status Quo, Build an Equitable Future

Today is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge. The official website for International Women’s Day explains the campaign, stating: “A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”

Entrepreneurship is one of the best tools for challenging bias and accelerating parity.

While other environments often tell us to follow the established rules and not ask questions, as entrepreneurs, we get to create the rules that align with the inclusive, equal world we wish to see and live in.

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Here are a few things entrepreneurs in leadership positions must put in place to ensure we are challenging the current structures and accelerating parity:

Create working environments which eliminate gender bias and inequality

Now is a great time to review your internal policies and procedures to ensure they are representative and inclusive of every employee, present and future.

What can you do: Schedule time to meet with your team to go over your handbooks and update all practices perpetuating bias and inequality. If you’re a solopreneur creating these documents for the first time, make sure they’re inclusive from the start.

Eliminate bias from the hiring process

Companies such as Unilever have begun using technology for preliminary screening of candidates to remove human bias in the evaluation process. They use gamified assessments and an artificial intelligence video interview platform to filter through applications before specific identifying information (such as gender) is revealed to the recruiters.

What can you do: Go through your hiring process to identify where potentially bias-inducing information could be removed to ensure more equality in your candidate selection process. If you haven’t reached the stage of hiring your first employee yet, educate yourself now so you’re ready when the time comes.

Related: A Practical Guide to Diversity for Startups and Entrepreneurs

Structure your employee’s pay scales to be equal and transparent

The rate of pay for employees should be duplicatable and based on metrics which do not include race or gender. Starbucks reached racial and gender pay equality in 2018 through the use of a calculator that objectively determines an employee’s pay range based off experience, as well as a tool that analyzes bonuses to ensure all bias is removed from the compensation process.

What can you do: Reassess your pay scales to ensure they eliminate any subjective biases, discrimination and inequality.

Set up promotional structures which don’t factor in gender or race

Promotional structures should be based on duplicatable metrics that can be determined by an equation that removes all bias and subjective reasoning. And again, if you don’t yet have a team, set up your environment, pay scales and promotional structures to reflect equality and parity from the start.

What can you do: Gather your team today to share with them the promotional equation you will be implementing in your business to ensure an unbiased and equal opportunity for all employees moving forward. Or, take an hour today to decide what kind of leader you want to be to your future employees and begin crafting your policies.

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How to build an equitable future, starting with your own business

There is no better way to challenge the world and to create equality for future generations than for entrepreneurs to create and lead businesses with policies reflecting the removal of biases and inequality. As entrepreneurs, we can choose to implement this reality today. The issues of inclusivity and parity are not simply the burden of women- and minority-owned businesses, but rather an opportunity for all businesses and entrepreneurs.

While entrepreneurship gives women the opportunity to create an equal playing field for ourselves, there is still a disparity in the ratio of women-owned businesses to the percentage of income they generate. The percentage of female entrepreneurs has increased by 114% in the last 20 years, yet we’re far from reaching equality in representation. Women-owned businesses account for 39% of all privately held firms, but only account for 4.2% of the national revenues.

Today is not only a day to celebrate the achievements of women, but also to raise awareness against bias and move toward equality. Thus, I encourage each and every one of you to challenge the status quo. It is up to all of us to lead the way in challenging what’s possible for equal pay and representation in the business world, starting with our own companies.

Take a moment to reflect on the potential you hold to challenge the world to do better. How can you use entrepreneurship to usher in a more equal and unbiased world? How will you choose to adopt this challenge for change today and every day in your business?

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