Three weeks ago, a sales executive who we recently hired at PowerToFly, the company I cofounded which is made up of 90 percent women, asked me what we were planning for the #DayWithoutAWoman. I'm a typical, pussyhat-wearing women's movement supporter. And yes, I am going to the rally in New York, and I am encouraging our team members across the country to go to their local events. But my company is not mandating a day off or shutting for the day, despite being an organization with a mission to empower women.
Why? Well, first off, PowerToFly is part of a tiny number of women-led ventures under the gun to perform financially for our investors and equity holders (which includes all our employees). I'm a business owner; strikes aren't good for the bottom line-obviously. Secondly, we focus on matching women with companies that care about paying them equally, providing proper parental leave, and all the other benefits that keep women in the workforce. A day not working means we lose the opportunity to get more women the jobs they deserve. Perhaps completely striking for the day would indeed make more of an impact on our clients, but frankly, I'm not going to take that risk. (I also realize my company is a big exception to most, where only 23 percent of senior business positions are filled by women; striking is a great way to get the attention of their male leadership.)
As it's been written about on this site, women in 2017 are, in many cases, in a different position regarding the labor market than they were in the early 1900s when some of the first women's strikes took place, or the 1970s, when the National Organization for Women led the Women's Strike for Equality. It's part of my company's mission to make sure that the progress that's taken place since 1900 and since 1970 continues to accelerate.
So when my cofounder and I briefly spitballed having the two male developers on our staff run the company, we quickly decided that would be a bad idea. Our reasoning was two-fold: it might have seemed insensitive (and counter to our mission) to make a point of having two men step in and do a slew of jobs women had fought for. And secondly, this would have meant a loss of revenue that goes primarily to women.
As we were thinking this through, it occurred to me that the way we work every day is in line with the goals of the strike. Far beyond forcing men to answer the phones or change the diapers or run the board meeting, it seems that one of the larger purposes of the strike is to encourage women (and allies of any gender), to build and increase their networks of likeminded individuals so that we're better equipped to advocate and organize. We see this, too, as part of our daily work.
So we'll be honoring any request for a day off today, but we'll also be continuing our routine, the things we do to make an impact for women in their workplaces. Even if you can't strike, maybe you can do some of what we do daily to raise awareness around whether your company is set up to make women successful:
- Work remotely for a day. We don't waste our time (and therefore money) commuting into offices that were originally built with men in mind.
- Check your company's diversity and inclusion policy. If it doesn't have a public one, then there are great examples out there to share. Apple has a diversity and inclusion page that's quite inspiring.
- Push for flexibility that allows you to be more productive. We have unlimited PTO because we trust the women on our team to manage their own time. We value the work you do, not time spent in an office chair.
- Check your company's parental leave policy and form a group to improve it if it stinks. We talk openly about having babies at PowertoFly; over ten have been born since the company was founded. We're constantly debating how to balance a parental leave policy that retains people with how much employees need to contribute to our startup. In other words, parental leave is a conversation that has many sides-engage those sides.
- Check your overall health plan-is your company spending money on Viagra but not birth control?
- Support the women protesting today by wearing red, posting on your social feed, or by not spending money at organizations that have a history of discrimination.
- Explain to your kids-boys and girls-why the day is so important and how millions of women have fought for us to get as far as we've come.
This list is far from complete, and I want to continue adding to it over the weeks, months, and years to come, because people should be reminded every day of women's economic power. If you can't get out of work today, remember that you can take many of the above actions on any day. And if you are striking, then I'll see you on the street. I'll be wearing a light fuschia pussy hat.
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