ISA is Committed to International Women’s Day (IWD) Year-Round.
Sunday, March 8, 2020 was International Women’s Day (IWD). It is a special day to formally recognize and celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The theme for the event this year is “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”. The strong message underscores another key driver behind IWD: a call to action to continue the efforts to achieve true equality between women and men in all facets of life.
The first International Women’s Day (IWD) was actually held on March 19, 1911, when more than one million people attended rallies in several European centres. Through the First World War era, IWD was celebrated on various dates and in additional countries. By 1921, the date of IWD was standardized to March 8. The movement gained significant momentum and global reach in 1975, when the United Nations General Assembly officially recognized March 8 as International Women’s Day. By 2014, IWD was celebrated in over 100 countries around the globe, and had even been made into an official holiday in over two dozen countries. In 2020, as in 1911, it remains an important occasion to recognize and promote women’s issues and rights everywhere.
But despite the growth and worldwide recognition of the day, full women’s rights and equality remain elusive. The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2020 report paints a sobering picture of how much further we need to go. No country on the planet can claim true equality, and parity in human rights, health outcomes, political empowerment, compensation, educational attainment, and tech sector work is decades away at our current pace of progress. While great strides have been made towards balancing the scales, there is much work left to do.
What can you do to help at a grass-roots level? Consider the acronym of CORE: Communication. Opportunity. Recognition. Encouragement.
Communication: IWD raises the profile of gender equality, but it cannot be a once-a-year event. What can you do to ensure that there are open lines of communication in your organization to hear different points of view? Do women have a safe space to voice ideas and concerns? Are policies and procedures written and communicated bias-free? Working groups or company sub-committees can help establish a forum for discussion, and formally give a voice to women in the workplace.
Opportunity: Reflect on your organization’s recruitment processes. Many companies are moving to “blinding” resumes (i.e., removing the applicant’s name) on a first pass review to remove gender or racial bias – has your organization kept pace? Have you set specific goals to ensure that women are given opportunities to interview for jobs, and to seek advancement once on board? Equally importantly, do you measure your corporate performance against these specific targets? Look at your staff complement, your executive team, and your board of directors: are women equally represented at each of these levels? If not – why not? Are workloads, project assignments, and training opportunities allocated fairly? Again, goal-setting and measurement is key in gauging progress.
Respect: Are your performance evaluations based on objective criteria that are free of gender bias? Do you celebrate achievements of your team equally? Do you have programs that guarantee equal pay for equal work, and drive towards true pay equity? Transparency in your compensation plans (including pay, bonuses, and annual increases) help achieve this; some organizations are seeking third party assistance to better understand the issues and help with policy and enforcement. Canada has finally recognized the importance of the issue with the anticipated launch of the Pay Equity Act later in 2020: have you assessed the implications of this long-overdue legislation? And are you on the lookout for any incidents of discrimination or harassment? What is your reporting and investigation process? Disrespectful behaviour cannot be tolerated.
Encouragement: Time and time again, successful people cite a mentor or role model who helped them along the way. At home, at school, at work: have you identified opportunities to reach out and offer assistance as a coach, guide, or sounding board for a woman? One-on-one support can be a tremendous difference maker in a person’s life. Does your company offer internships, co-op positions, or even volunteer placements to help women get a start in your industry? Externally, there are scores of professional women’s support groups (e.g., The WIT Network, Canadian Women’s Foundation or Zonta International) that can provide service, advocacy, and encouragement. Focusing on the cybersecurity world as a specific example, Cybercrime Magazine compiled an excellent list of resources that can provide support and invaluable resources for women in the underserved tech sector.
ISA Cybersecurity supports these “CORE” values. Our executive/senior management team comprises five women and five men, and our overall staff complement has strong women in all departments, including marketing, sales, professional services, HR, the CIOC, and admin. In 2019, we recognized some outstanding achievements by female contributors, such as Olivia Purchase as Employee of the Year, and Khrystyna Manko as our CIOC (Cybersecurity Intelligence and Operations Centre) “MVP”. ISA is proud to have helped launch a new Master of Cybersecurity and Threat Intelligence (MCTI) course at the University of Guelph, backed by offering two entrance scholarships – one for women, and a second for men – to participate in the program.
We hope you will follow International Women’s Day events online and on social media by following #iwd2020, #InternationalWomensDay, #EachforEqual, #BalanceforBetter and #GenerationEquality. But more importantly, we hope you will keep up the momentum throughout the year, as together we work to achieve equality in women’s rights.