The Shape of Water may have taken home the Best Picture trophy, but the real winner at the 90th Academy Awards ceremony was diversity and inclusion. From statement lapel pins to powerful speeches that championed equality, the conversations that dominated the star-studded evening made it clear that the women – and men – of Hollywood have recognised that personal activism is the best way to #PressForProgress.
As the popular saying goes, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. To that end, here’s how this year’s Oscars can inspire you to take action for gender equality at work:
Time’s Up, so close the confidence gap
Several references were made to the “winds of change” blowing through Hollywood throughout the evening. But actresses Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek coming together to “salute those unstoppable spirits who broke through the biased perceptions against their gender, race and ethnicity to tell their stories” was a clear show of strength. The accompanying video, featuring actors, writers and filmmakers talking about the importance of equality, was a much-needed motivational boost for people in the audience and at home.
What you can do: Women tend to undervalue their strength, doubt themselves more and back themselves less than many men. It’s what behavioural experts call the ‘confidence gap’, which Judd cited as one of main reasons why it has taken so long for the women of Hollywood to “speak their truth”.
Closing this gap will take time, as it involves unlearning years of conditioning. But until you take the first step, it will never be bridged. Start by doing one difficult task every day. Action boosts confidence, which in turn inspires more action, and creates a positive cycle of growth.
Fight for change as equals
The many brave and outspoken supporters of movements like #MeToo, and Time’s Up, weren’t just women. Actors Bradley Whitford, Justin Paul, Benjamin Bratt and The Shape of Water director Guillermo del Toro were all spotted on the Oscars red carpet wearing a signature pin to express solidarity with the Time’s Up movement. Host Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue referenced it first comedically, then seriously, when he said, “We can’t let this behaviour slide anymore”.
What you can do: Women aren’t the only ones who believe that creating a safer, more inclusive and equal work environment is important. According to the Women of India Inc. Survey by Monster.com as high as 40% women expressed that men fear being judged by their male peers and choose to support gender equality only in private. However, the good part is that 44% men confirm that they can be effective advocates for gender initiative programs at workplace.
Men are your allies at work, but in the current scenario, they are unsure about how to engage or even express an opinion. Research by the Lean In organisation reveals that almost half of male managers feel uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman like mentoring, working alone, or socialising together after the #MeToo campaign went viral.
Don’t penalise men for their gender. Talk to them about your experiences and challenges, and enlist their support.
Know that women are good for business
Wonder Woman didn’t receive any Oscar nominations, but it was one of the biggest talking points of the night. The critically-acclaimed film, directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, became the highest-grossing superhero origin film of all time in 2017, and the box-office clout of women filmmakers and film goers was brought up by both presenters and winners.
What you can do: Whether it’s to do with leadership styles, or the diverse viewpoint they bring in, all research points to the fact that women are good for business. Keeping that in mind, if you’re in a leadership position in your organisation, work towards creating a pipeline of female managers to follow your lead.
Lift other women as you climb
While accepting her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, Allison Janney made it a point to thank yesteryear star Joanne Woodward, who had mentored her to pursue acting seriously. Later on in the ceremony, Best Actress winner Frances McDormand’s rousing speech where she called out for an inclusion rider – a legal clause that Hollywood actors can include in their contracts, to request “more diverse representation in background actors and extras” – was one of the biggest reveals of the night.
What you can do: Don’t pull others down to prop yourself up. Instead, women need to start looking out for one another more. Start by listing down a handful of women in your immediate network and think of how you can support them in some way. Make an introduction, volunteer to share a useful resource, share a few words of encouragement over a cup of coffee or praise them in the presence of a decision maker.
Looking for more tips on how women can get ahead at work? Find them here.